A bicycle

 

Oh, man. I just bought me a sweet, sweet ride!

It took several hours and two attempts, and — because we’re in China — a Byzantine process. But now I’m ready to tear up the streets of Nanjing. I can’t believe how fun and liberating my ride home was!

I thought cycling in that wild river of e-bikes and motorcycles and mopeds would be terrifying. Indeed, I swore I wouldn’t do it. But it actually feels safer than walking — perhaps because I’m travelling closer to the same speed as the rest of the river.  Like a little fish in a school of other fish.

And it felt so rock’n’roll! Foreign women don’t cycle here; so when my Slovenian Sociology colleague and I biked home together, everyone turned and stared, and I felt like a star!

Riding a Dutch bike (more or less) makes me feel even more European than I already do here. I’m ambivalent about this. I feel a bit like Lawrence of Arabia or Paul Bowles. I feel exotic and brave. But, I feel guilty about this too. I’m so aware of all of the gendered, ethnocentric, imperialist baggage to those romantic conceptions of the foreigner abroad.

Some of my colleagues (other than the sociologist) are skeptical about the whole bike thing. They describe me as having “gone native.” I don’t mind that one bit. I want to experience a China as close to the one the Chinese experience as possible. A bike alone won’t do the trick, but for now it’s a start. (And it sure gets me around faster than I ever could when I was a pedestrian ducking to avoid the ubiquitous oncoming bikes!)

 

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