Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, January 30, 2009


Reading again from Walter Lippmann:

We take, it seems to me, a naively self-righteous view when we argue as if the right of our opponents to speak were something that we protect because we are magnanimous, noble, and unselfish. The compelling reason why, if liberty of opinion did not exist, we should have to invent it, why it will eventually have to be restored in all civilized countries where it is now suppressed, is that we must protect the right of our opponents to speak because we must hear what they have to say.

Not sure that I share Lippmann's optimism, but I would certainly echo his sentiment with enthusiasm. It is precisely this that is missing from so many discussions about freedom of speech. Sometimes various groups in America will support freedom of speech for someone with whom they disagree, because they feel that is the only way to preserve it for themselves. But few understand the importance of allowing contrasting ideas because they sharpen our own thinking (Proverbs 27:17).

As I have written about many times, tickets in China can be pretty hard to come by. I did get a ticket from Beijing to Nancha by waiting until right after New Year's Day. But getting a ticket from Nancha to Harbin would have been much harder. Fortunately, Sunshine's mother knows someone who works at the train station, so they were able to get a ticket for me. We all went to the train station yesterday morning, and the family friend brought the ticket over to us. Then Sunshine's mother was a little concerned about me getting on the train, so she talked to someone at the station about taking me out a different door. Somehow, they were able to get permission to accompany me to the platform, and we all went to wait for the train. I knew it was going to be crowded, but I wasn't too worried, because I did have a seat ticket, and because the ride was a little over five hours, not twenty hours like the trip I took a couple years ago from Suzhou to Beijing.

Jack met me at the station here in Harbin. I have planned to come to Harbin ever since I first came to China, but there were no youth hostels at that time. Recently, I have discovered that there is a new youth hostel in Harbin, and since I had been invited by my student to her hometown north of here, I decided to stop here on my way back to Beijing. However, everyone I talked to, including Jack, told me that the youth hostel was very, very far from the city center. So when I got here last night, Jack told me that he had found a room for me in the home of an elderly lady in the neighborhood where he grew up, which was just a five minute walk from the city center. I decided to give it a try, and I'm glad I did. Thirty kuai a night. No shower, but Jack told me there are several shower houses in the neighborhood. We went to one right across the street that used to be a shower house when Jack was a kid, but they wanted 180 RMB. Obviously, they were selling more than just a shower. We found one around the corner for five kuai. So 35 kuai per night for a place to stay. That's what I need. Helps to know someone.

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