Trans Mongolian Express: Day 3

Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Russia  ,
Thursday, July 27, 2006

"Another glorious day on the train. A day on the train is like a day on the farm. Every meal a banquet, every mile a pleasure. I love the train!"

By day three, I had started to forget how much time we'd spent on the train. We didn't have things like watches or alarm clocks, so quickly adopted a sleep when it's dark, eat when hungry approach to living. Well, apart from the eating, as we had very little money.

When the train stopped at stations many locals would be out selling bottled water and food. The staple meal of choice was little pot noodle type things, as the train had a supply of free hot water. We bought a couple of these today, delighted to notice that they were a year and a half past their sell by date. Still. Food's food.

The landscape thus far had been rather dull. Cutting through the middle of Russia, we were met with a variation on the theme of trees and fields. Flat, characterless, and completely devoid of charm. This, of course, came as no surprise.

It was also rather frustrating that after three full days we were still in Russia. We wanted out. We wanted to hand over our visa that we had been forced to authorise twice, get an exit stamp and rip our letters of invitation into little tiny pieces, carefully sellotape them back together again in no particular order and then use them as tapers to light big cigars, and then throw the burning cigar into an orphanage.

Night fell, and I was sitting in the cabin minding my own business when the inevitable happened.

"Have you heard of the Jehovah's Witnesses?"

Game on.

I explained, as politely and as delicately as I could, that I had heard of the JWs. Asked to elaborate, I said what most would say in such a situation - that they were an organisation that went door to door trying to convert people to their religion, and they had a rather sweet knack of predicting the end of the world and getting it wrong.

This, it was conceded by the JWs, was fair. Although they had only set a date for the apocalypse once - in 1974 - so I was being a little too hard on them.

I was then asked about my own religious beliefs. Making it clear that I respected anybody's right to believe in whatever they wanted, I pointed out my atheism.

It was great. They didn't know whether to be shocked at my heresy or wide eyed with opportunistic excitement.

So began our first religious debate. It was very polite, all of us extremely aware that we would be sharing this small room for several more days and we didn't want to get into a fight.

Their arguments were based around how great the bible was, how it has accurately predicted everything that's ever happened, how great God is, how soon the world is going to end and why it's such a good idea to spend your life planning for the end.

Mine were centred around the Bill Hicks quote about people following the bible spending their days fearing the deadly wrath from the all forgiving God, God being a bit of a shit to Job, Revelations being a metaphor for Roman Occupation and Evoloution being 'great'. And that the end of the world would be 'no great shakes'.

A Taiwanese chap decided to wander into our room and get involved, on my side, so I stopped it before it got out of hand.

The JWs were left thinking about how they could convert me in the next two days.

I was left wondering if I could maybe convert one of them.

You know, just for the achievement.
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