Monday, September 13, 2004

Zen and the Art of Bicycle Riding

I would love to report that biking is a favorite active pasttime for people in China. Unfortunately after twelve hours of riding a rented bike across Beijing, I tend to think of this harmless sport as a mixture of Dodgeball, the direct heir of the rich samurai tradition, and the Celtic Beltane rites. Having proven myself in wheel-to-wheel combat, this evening I fully expected someone to cry out "Sure, she's a foreign devil, but she has ridden with us and will remain one of us forever!" (Of course they would have been crying out in Mandarin, and I likely would have interpreted it as an invective to pedal faster lest I be swept up by the TAXI MERGING INTO THE BIKE LANE ... OH DEAR LORD ... WHAT DOES HE THINK HE'S DOING?!!!)

Today, I've seen cars parallel park on the sidewalk, pedestrians jump onto a bike's non-existent back-seat while it was moving at full speed, throngs of cars blithely ignoring both lane-markings and red lights ... in short, I was moving a maximum speed because I would have been a minor red streak on the pavement were it not for the protective cover of the herd. (I feel that I have received special insight into Ecclesiastes' saying regarding two being better than one and a three-stranded rope not being easily broken -- the author was beyond the shimmer of a doubt talking about the rules of Beijing bike-riding.)

Speaking of the Old Testament, I have furthermore come to special insight regarding Esau's selling his birthright for a serving of stew. I believe that the excrutiating absence of diet coke in Asia presents a direct analogy: If someone offered to buy my dry, un-potable birthright (assuming I had one in the first place) for a large, frothing mug of diet coke, I would be sorely tempted.

... and that's it for now, folks. Updates on the Forbidden City, Mao & Me, and the weirdness that is "Friendship Stores" tomorrow.


At September 13, 2004 at 6:22 PM, Blogger Ella Quint said...

Oh yeah, shoulda warned you about traffic. Sorry. Be extra careful when crossing the street on foot. Try to avoid it, but if absolutely necessary, DON'T EVER make eye contact with the nearby drivers. Better to look ahead.

This page is from Zhengzhou, but the same rules (or lack thereof) apply in Beijing.

The page also includes helpful hints on water and ice cream. Unlike Wade's, my trip in 99 didn't include bottled water issues. Check the seal on the cap. Its a good sign if its intact. :) And yes, friendship stores are indeed interesting!!!


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