Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Jewish Cemetery 

Jack and I took a cab out to the old Jewish cemetery this morning. Reminds me of an old churchyard cemetery in the American Midwest.

Jack is standing near the grave of Ehud Olmert's grandfather, who is buried in the cemetery. Yosef Olmert came to Harbin from Russia with his wife and his son Mordechai. Although Mordechai had been born in Russia, he really spent most of his childhood here in Harbin. He was independent minded. He didn't want to go to the Russian schools, preferring to go to Chinese schools with his friends. He became quite fluent in Mandarin, and he eventually graduated from Harbin Institute of Technology. A passionate Zionist, he left Harbin with his wife in 1930. He eventually settled in Israel, where he helped to found Irgun, the paramilitary movement which was a more assertive offshoot of the more defense oriented Haganah, which was originally established to protect Jewish settlements from attack in the days before Israel became a state.

After we finished at the cemetery, we had to deal with the problem of getting back to town. I wasn't worried, because it was such a beautiful day, and I figured it wouldn't hurt us to do a little walking. There are no taxis that far out in the country, so we decided to hitchhike. I have done quite a bit of hitchhiking in the US, and Jack had seen a few movies. But American style hitchhiking doesn't really work in China. The problem is that just isn't part of the culture. So nobody is quite sure what you are doing, and even if they did stop, there is not the understanding inherent in American hitchhiking that the ride is free.

We stuck flagged a few cars, but ended up walking until we came to a gas station. There was a black taxi sitting there. I hate doing business with those guys in the worst way, but they do take advantage of situations just like the one we were in. I found myself wishing the black taxi hadn't been there, because I figured we could probably bum a ride pretty easily from someone else who came in. But since he was there, it would have been kinda awkward to bother someone else. We managed to bargain him down to 40 kuai for a trip to Hallelujah Church, which isn't too bad. I'm pretty sure it would have cost us at least 30 with a regular taxi, since we paid 41 going out there, albeit from a different part of town.

This evening, I stopped by the Japanese restaurant, for some sushi and an omelet. That would be a Japanese omelet, which is basically a bunch of rice wrapped in egg. The ever inquisitive Miss Special (she likes to wear a shirt that says "special" in big letters) wanted to know how many jin I weighed (a jin is 500 grams). I told her 200, but she wouldn't believe me. She was convinced that I must weigh 300, but I told her that was not the case. Her husband came up with a way to resolve the controversy. He is not a big man; he's a rather small, wiry fellow. But he must have had some weight training somewhere along the way, because he wrapped his arms around my mid-section and picked me up off the floor.

"Yeah, he's about two hundred."

"At least," she said.

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