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Published: August 6th 2007
isn't she a beaut!
We did it! We are no longer merely "pedestrians" We are Motorists. We are movin up on the transportation
ladder. In Suzho the bigger your mode of transportation the more power. Example. E-bike trumps
pedastrian. Car trumps e-bike. Bus trumps them all. If you see a bus coming...get out of it's way.
After months of pleading and smooth talking I (Ely) finally convinced Aaron to buy an E-bike. At first I tried the "it'll be fun, we'll be more independent, won't have to rely on the bus" approach, but that was getting nowhere. I knew that if I was going to crack him I had to go at it from a financial approach "think of it as an investment, it'll pay itself off with all the money we save from the bus, plus when we leave we can sell it" I knew it wouldn't be long before he caved. And so, he set off to buy our dream bike...or so I thought.
When we were told by a friend that we could get a "second hand" (and by "second hand" he meant it may or may not have been stolen)bike for half the price of a new one, we
were hooked. Let me introduce, Susan. She stands about 3 feet tall: a slender 50 pounds, metallic blue, two sleek wheels, a short 2.5 hr battery...and....the key to our freedom...She is an electric bike. They are a very popular mode of transportation in our city. Our Chinese friend at the local burger shop, Sam, helped us get it. Sam told us that he could get us a cheap bike. New bikes cost $200-$300. He told us we could get a fairly new bike from his friend for $90. It sounded too good to be true, but we decided to take him up on the offer.
Sam took me (Aaron) on a bus ride 20 minutes out of town. We then walked around in a slum-like area for
another 15 minutes in an attempt to find his friend. I didn't really know what to expect. Sam's friend had a
small bike repair shop / living quarters. His friend personified the situation, sketchy. He was a man in
his 30's wearing a scruffy suit (everyone seems to wear suits here, from cotton pickers to cardiologists). Of course, he had a bad limp and a nastily quarter-turned and out of place ankle/foot.
First day ride
wind in our hair...woo hoo
Furthermore, he had a cigarette constantly dangling and bai-jio within arms reach. He only had 2 bikes outside, so it was slim pickings. I decided on the light blue, later to be knon as Susan. His friend quickly pried off the locks, changed them for me, and handed me the keys. Surprisingly, he gave me a legit looking receipt. He wrote up the model number, cost, date, etc. I guess it was sort of a don't ask / don't tell situation. I made the purchase and was off.
Susan isn't exactly equipped for comfortably accommodating two people. We really have to squish on
her. She goes max speed 23 MPH. Her quality is lacking, and her battery--not withstanding--is shabby,
but hopefully she will be a more convenient mode of transportation.
The thought of the packed bus in the middle of the dead-heat, 104 degree, humid summer prompted us to
make the decision. Under our investigation, there is no such thing as Chinese deodorant. The only stuff you
can find is Adidas and Axe, imported from Germany and the US respectively. Cost--$6, pretty pricy when
compared to normal goods here. Sharing body sweat with undeodorized strangers wasn't an experience
this is way better than the bus
we were particularly looking forward to.
After crusing around a little bit with Susan, we realized that after 2.5 months, we have memorized very
few street names. I guess maybe we have yet to respect the fact that we are living in a community equivalent to Chicago, and the complexities of the infrastructure do pose serious problems. We have decided to memorize a couple street names, but mostly rely on landmarks--the clock tower, Auchan, Starbucks, Samsung, the building with the bright led screen. We also wake up at dawn, prepare a meal at dusk, and sacrifice a small animal on every waxing crescent moon (joke...but seriously,our sense of direction and way of getting around is cave-man-like). Every once in a while, we veer off and struggle to find our bearings. I guess it will help us to understand the place we live a little bit better. But...it is an e-bike run by
a short-lived battery, so a horribly wrong turn could turn into a several hour mistake.
One serendipitous discovery---due to Susan---was the late night food vendors. On our way home from work (or the pub) we came across a busy intersection with 30+ food vendors, quite the
commotion. The vendors set up shop on the right turning lane of the street. Behind their stands, they even have set up picnic-like
seating arrangements. They sell everything--hot pots, stir fry, chop suey, grilled meats, veggies, ready to
eat fruit, and our favorite--grilled fish. We stumbled upon this round-bellied smiler one night after a visit
to the pub. He was bragging (in Chinese, at least we think) about how delicious his foods were. One looked
peculiarly interesting. We ordered the fish. We expected him to fillet or take the bones out--this was
nonsense. He threw the fish right on the grill. The first time, we apprehensively ate the skins and cooked
bones, a little nervous that this might do harm. After realizing the deliciousness of this delicacy, we eat
the skin and bones without a flinch. Someone once told me the fish skin is the healthiest part. I never had
the guts to try it in the US. I guess China liberated us in more ways than one.
So we frequent the food vendors area. They heckle us a little. We say any Chinese words we know, and they say any English words they know. They speak to us
in Chinese a lot, not sure why, but it is all in good
fun. They could be disgracing our mothers and grandmothers for all we know--we just laugh when they
laugh, throwing in frequent nods and smiles.
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