The Perils of a 200RMB Bicycle and Generic Updates

So last week was the final week of rehearsals for the IFC before we performed on Saturday. The last week of rehearsals is always at the Children’s Palace (ShaoNianGong), right behind JingShan Park, less than 3km away from my apartment. Unfortunately, rehearsals are at 6:30PM, right when rush hour hits this wonderful city that I live in, and it is IMPOSSIBLE to get there. At worst, the last day of rehearsals that Friday, I spent 1 hour and 45 minutes sitting in the cab, 1 hour of which was below the minimum speed at which the cab is considered “stopped” and I get charged a different rate. I could have walked there and back in less time. This just sort of reinforces what I’ve always known to be true: there is absolutely no reason not to either walk, take the subway, or bike to where you need to go in this city. Obviously walking has its pitfalls; some places are just too far, and the subway doesn’t reach everywhere. So lo and behold, the perfect solution: bicycling.

Apparently bicycle theft is rampant in this city. I’ve heard stories of gangs of thieves who specialize in stealing one particular type of bicycle. Due to this, I decided to go the cheap route when purchasing my bicycle in case it ever got stolen. So I had one of my staff help me and we walked to one of the nearby bicycle shops and there it was, the most beautiful bike I’ve ever seen in my life, for just 170RMB (not really, but it was that cheap). Add a basket and a lock and I evened out at just about 30USD. Very excited to finally own a bicycle and the new possibilities it opens up for me, I decided to bike to my father’s home and visit him and my grandmother who’s out of the hospital now. It’s just about 5 miles each way, and I made it in just over half an hour each way. It was great! So much fun actually, sort of reminiscent of the times I spent biking in New York City.

But then the honeymoon ended, one 10 mile bike ride later: the seat was starting to break, to the point where it was being bent in a very “awkward” way if you know what I mean, with the front pushing precariously upwards…And I’d also noticed that the pedals weren’t spinning very smoothly either; they kind of had a jerky sort of feel to them. But I ignored these problems, since I only paid 30USD for the bike, and put it away for the night in the little courtyard in front of my apartment. I was actually a little bit paranoid, but then once again reminded myself that I only paid 30USD for it.

The next day, today that is, I decided to bike out to the Western Academy of Beijing, which is about 18km away, just over 11 miles. I wanted to see if it was doable and in how long because there’s at least a chance I might be working there doing IT work for them. I make it half way there, the long way incidentally because I got pretty lost on the way, and one of the pedals breaks! Thankfully there’s a bicycle repair guy just at the street corner where I broke down and he fixes it for me but the whole incident kind of spooked me and I decided to just bike home and forget trying to make it out to the school. I still got about 10 miles of biking in, which is good, but the bike quite properly breaking down at just over 15 miles of total riding is a little…pathetic. I talked to the bike repair guy and he said that if I’m doing long distances, the bike I had will not be adequate; it was only meant for short distances.

Well, you live and learn I guess! But that means I’m going to need to buy a new bike later! Next time I get that cheap, somebody slap me.

As far as other updates, as I mentioned I was in a concert this past weekend, one in Beijing and the other in Tianjin. This is the first time I’ve been to Tianjin also; pretty neat city, it’s only like an hour away by car and half an hour by high speed train. It’s also a port city, which Beijing unfortunately isn’t, and on the way out I could smell the sea breeze and that was very refreshing. Being a port city though means that there’s actually a lot of Western influences in the city, maybe even more so than Beijing, especially in the architecture. For instance the concert hall we sang in reminded me very much of a European opera house. All in all the concerts were good, despite how weird the music was, and Maria and her friends like it as well.

Speaking of whom, Maria left this past Monday for the States. She’s going to visit her family and friends and run her first marathon in Cincinnati! I’m really excited for her and wish I could be there, but I’ll be seeing her relatively soon on May 10th when I also go to the States and we both go to attend Miguel’s wedding in San Francisco. It’s pretty convenient because this also allows us to get on the next entry of our Visa, though this is hopefully the last time we have to do this whole Visa renewal thing because our work Visas will be ready by then, fingers crossed. I also hope I have a job waiting for me when I get back…

I’m also going to try out the Chinese Medical System this Sunday! Woot! Not? I don’t know what to expect really, but it’s been over two years since my last physical and I figure it’s time to get one again. I had called some US doctors about taking care of it when I was in the States, but they wanted to charge me 1000USD to do it! I guess I had no idea how expensive these things were because I’ve never done them without insurance before but that’s what happens if you pay out of pocket apparently. So I discussed it with my cousin Michael in China and he suggested this chain of clinics in Beijing called CiMing that specialize in nothing but physical examinations. The prices are great, beyond great. For less than half the price of the US exam I can get so many more procedures done, not that I’d want to. I’m hoping to not have to spend more than 100USD actually to get everything I would’ve gotten in the States and more and thus satisfy my own paranoia about not having had a physical in a while.

Aside from missing Maria quite a bit and not having all too much to do these days, well, since I’ve not that much to do, that’s about all I have to write about for now. I have more I should write down but I’m feeling really lazy and probably a bit depressed, but that’s alright. Things will be better when they’re better.


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