Xi’an, Epilogue: "I’m —-ing tired"

“I’m —-ing tired.” That’s how the normally polite & well mannered, to say nothing of educated & well spoken, Lady of tdaxp suggests to begin this post.

I agree. I’m —-ing tired.

The picture you see above is not particularly amazing. Indeed, it looks just like the first-class rail cabin that it is. But the story of this rail cabin, and how we came to occupy it is — as one might say, —-ing amazing.

Lady of tdaxp and I were sitting in King Coffee (a/k/a Kentucky Fried Chicken Cafe) when I said I would explore. A short trip revealed the most amazing and romantic — inexplicably so — route to a lavatory in coffee shop / fast food history. King Coffee is Old City Xi’an sends user up a stairwell — which opens to a balcony above a rain-soaked boulevard — before you re-enter the KFC building.

Jump ahead three minutes. Lady of tdaxp is frantically — and fantastically — searching for me. “I misread the train tickets! It’s not 9:30! They’re for 8:15!”


Time: 7:40 We spring down the would-be-romantic-if-you-weren’t-in-a-hurry stairs to our King Coffee table. Lady of tdaxp picked up the bamboo mattress for her grandfather , I picked up our groceries, and we ran outside. The first road was for bicyclists and buses (a dangerous combination) and we ran past it. We flagged down the very first taxi (a miracle in a city where Government-regulated taxi fair is low, and so taxi drivers tend not to like to pick up customers), and hopped in.

When you hear the love of your love’s frantic, desperate voice, you know it’s not a good thing. And it wasn’t. “How long will it take us to get to the train station?” I asked. We were in old town, the station was in oldtown, I was hoping five or ten minutes. “Twenty,” she said, “He says, maybe, twenty.”

I don’t know what Lady of tdaxp did next. The driver drove. I prayed Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers until they were no longer real.* About ten minutes later I opened my eyes and adjusted to the surroundings. We were behind a slow car, hogging the road. My heart sank but I concentrated on our surroundings. Finally we got out of the Old City — which was only good in the academic sense, as it meant we needed to leave the Old City to get back in it.

Time: 8:00 At the train station. Her: “You can’t get out yet. We need to wait until we’re in the taxi stalls.” Me: “Don’t wait for change. Just give him a 20.” We jump out as soon as we’re theoretically in the taxi stall. I would say we were nearly hit by a taxi on the way out, but this is China, so we passed comfortably through the remaining traffic. We ran to the checked luggage stand to grab our bags, which we had deposited ours before. Then to the long line of passengers. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Coming through, We’re late for our train” Lady of tdaxp shouted in Chinese as we pushed through the Xianese.

(A word should be said here. Xi’an is considered to be in the Middle-West of China, and Xianese are pretty comparable to Americans of my country’s middle-west. They are friendly and helpful, and I felt bad to push through them. In spite of this insult, when I dropped one of the grociers, three immediately pointed to it to help me out. Xianers are great people, and I will miss them.)

To the front door. Crowded line, x-ray security. Lady of tdaxp’s head of me. I throw my backpack in the machine, and keep holding the rest. The guard doesn’t stop me. No cutting through the deluge. I come out, get my bag — and Lady of tdaxp’s gone.

Lady of tdaxp interlude: I was worried about if the waiting room was in the second floor which we would have to go up the stairs — running again. So I looked back and saw you were behind me, so I went to a police man and asked for directions. They say we were in a hurry so they pointed us the corrected way. Then I went back for you.

Then, I followed Lady of tdaxp to the waiting room. The staff checked our tickets and pointed us in the right direction. Out of the waiting room now, and two ways to go — up the stairs with a crowd of people, or to the right with nobody. The ayi pointed us to the right. We ran.

The train, now. Try to board — a few people milling about, and staff by the train cars. We’re at — what? car twenty. “Our tickets are for car 1.” We run down the end.”

Finally, in the room. My stomach and throat are killing me from running– Xi’an’s in the rust-belt, and smog was particularly bad today. Collapse on the bed. Collapse.

“That what an Amazing Race finish,” I say. We’re in our second class cabin.

The rest of the adventure is not quite as amaizng, but more enjoyable. A few minutes to rest. A conversation with the railway staff. A first class upgrade (for a reasonable price!) Our second-class companions no longer get a panting (perhaps contangious?) laowai as a cabin-mate, and we get the little compartment in the picture above.

Wow! What an adventure!

[* God, while seeming to reject the truly important prayers in my life, is astonishing generous with crises-of-the-moment. There’s no good way to write this without seeming both foolish and blasphemous, but it’s true. God’s sent me signs for major events and helps me when I ask, but as far as the biggest prayers go, he has his own plans. ]

Iraq’s Ancien Regime

The original discussion on Mountainrunner has spawned a reply post by me, two posts by Nykrindc (both at his blog and at TPM Cafe), a response by Castle Argghhh, and now a new post at MR.

The topic?

The destruction of Iraq’s education system

The best comments are on TPM Cafe and is… someone critical of the tdaxperspective:

Well, you know Dan and have more experience with him than I do. So as to whether he’s a psychotic madman or not, I cannot say with certainty.

..

To me, Dan’s view, in the very limited and restricted window I have of it, seems psychopathic, just my opinion. I also have the sense that you are all too ready to give credence to psychopathic views… at least as long as they fall short of nuking major cities of our own allies.

Nykrindc is also active there, and does an amazing job summing up my beliefs. He sums up my beliefs much better than I could — an all-the-more incredible feat since he disagrees with them:

The Sunni minority in Iraq has ruled the country since independence, crushing and repressing the aspirations of Iraq’s Shiite and Kurdish populations.

The Iraqi state, because it was an imperialist imposition has no legitimacy with the Shiite or Kurdish populations (from his point of view, neither do most other states in the region, except Iran). As such, the conflict that is happening now, would have to have eventually taken place to either divide the Iraqi state among the three major groups, or to have one or another win absolutely and impose their desired system on the others.

Once we decided to invade Iraq, and these fissures became apparent, we had to choose a side: Either Shiite/Kurd (80% of the population) or Sunni (former Baathists, Hussein loyalists and 15% of the population). In order to move decisively, and given that those who attacked us on 9/11 were Sunni and not Shiite, the US needed to side with the Shiites to overturn the regimes in the region. Why? Because it is these regimes who have kept the region repressed and stagnant for so long, that they allowed for the birth and growth of al Qaeda. This is part of his reasoning behind our needing to humiliate Sunnis, to show them that their systems (dictatorships, autocracies, fundamentalists theocracies, etc.) have failed and that its time to either change or die…

Dan is a good blogger, not because of some of his most controversial views, but rather because in that controversy he challenges conventional wisdom and forces one to not only defend one’s position but to modify it if any part of it is wrong. That’s important because it’s one of the reasons this administration committed all of the mistakes it committed, because it refused to listen or entertain views that were not already their own. That disease is not solely a disease of the right, republican party or the Bush family, it is a disease we all fall prey to from time to time. Debating those who disagree with you is one way to cure it, because it is only in having to defend your argument that you can see where the weak points are, the wrong and the good. This allows you to learn and adapt and makes your theories or world view more complete.

Join the discussion through the links above, or comment below!

EUchristendom?

Razib over at Gene Expression pens an encyclopedic review of Philip Jenkins’ God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis. Razib is a scienceophile atheist and rightist — an admirer equally of Nicholas Wade and John Derbyshire. The review is in some ways a repudiation of his earlier, alarmist writings on the rise of Islam in Europe. After pointing out interesting facts, such as the cycle of reconversions in European history…

The Mizo peoples of northeast India were originally converted to Christianity by Welsh Protestant nonconformists, but with the decline of fidelity to organized Christianity in Britain they have now sent missionaries back to Wales (in some ways one might contend this is an expanded recapitulation of the evangelization of Anglo-Saxon Britain from Ireland during the late 6th and early 7th century, as the Irish themselves were converted to Christianity by the Romano-British).

He spends most of the post on two highly visible minorities: Europe’s secular elite and Europe’s Islamist underclass. Much has been written about the microstates before, so a word on the elite and their governments:

Though American elites are often accused of being “out of touch,” Jenkins argues that European elites exhibit a far greater distance from their “hinterlands” in terms of outlook and world-view (he suggests that the small size and low number of cultural capitals results in a far greater centralization in terms of elite socialization). Dutch elites in the immigrant filled cities no doubt find it easy to forget that their nation is host to a “Bible Belt” of Calvinist believers. Nations as disparate as Norway, France and Scotland have regions of elevated Christianity commitment. But these concentrations of organized Christianity highlight the second trend: the reemergence of the ancient classical pattern where Christianity is simply a major cult within a religiously diverse landscape.

A reminder of Europe’s anti-Christian past is also useful, for putting the most recent Dawkins atheist-tirade into perspective:

in 1798 the Pope was held captive as anti-Christian revolution swept Europe. Many savants of the age predicted the death of Christianity and the ancien regime. Despite the restoration after the fall of Napoleon, the ancien regime did fall and transform into the modern era of nation-states, but Christianity did not die. It is also important to remember the power of anti-clericalism throughout much of the 19th and early 20th century, and the allure and appeal of radical politics for the European working classes. In 1881 Italian nationalists attempted to seize the body of Pius IX and throw it into the Tiber river. In France the Catholicism and laicism have been at tension for two centuries.

Read the whole review.