(Ed. note – be sure to scroll right to the very bottom of the post for a treat for your eyes.)
Geoffy is not well today, seems to have caught the flu that’s going around, so I set off on my own this lovely morning. First stop, the bicycle rentals across from the mall. I laid my citizen card against the machine as required but it would not release the bike. Fortunately, there was an attendant near-by so I called her over and asked her to try my card–all in English, mind you, a word of which she didn’t speak. When she couldn’t get it to work, she took the card over to a kiosk and put it in the machine which would tell her what the problem was. It took longer than I thought it should so walked over to see if I could figure it out. No problem–the screen was all in Chinese except for the number Y444, which was the amount I now owed for NOT returning my bike the previous and only time we rented one. “I did return it!” I told her, then mimed sliding the bike into the slot and applying the card to the surface. She called someone on her cell phone and began a conversation which effectively left me out, so I called Daisy and explained the situation. Yes, she said, that is what happens if you don’t return the bike. But I did return the bike! Why would I be here wanting to rent another one if I didn’t return it? She calmed me down and, after talking to the attendant, told me to wait while she phoned the bike transit people to see if they had found “my” bike. In about 10 minutes, she called back with instructions on how to get clearance on the card–somehow she had my fine waived! I don’t know if they have the bike back in the system or she told them I couldn’t be held responsible because I couldn’t understand the Chinese voice giving instructions, but I don’t care! My card was cleared and I rented a bike.
I went south for 3 blocks and got on the Jiaxing Greenway along the canal, then headed east. First stop was at a little park with people selling and flying kites.
This was my first check point to see if I could correctly lock and unlock the bike. I could, so continued on my route, coming out at Mei Wan Street, then crossed the bridge to Nanhu–South Lake. Somehow I remembered how to go behind the museum there and followed the path along the lake to the point you can take a junk out to an island and see where the Communist Manifesto was signed (Jiaxing, Very Famous City!). People were out in full force; I witnessed 3 wedding photography sessions and a multitude of kite flyers and families walking. It is not like Vancouver where you can expect to see exercise hounds out in droves. Exercise in itself is not a concept that really seems to have a lot of merit in the minds of the people here. They build those nice parks with outdoor equipment but they don’t seem to get a lot of use. And don’t start with me about the PE program at school.
I knew that if I followed the lake all along the opposite side, I would come out close to downtown. I turned in to a path that had barricades and a sign with a no-cars logo. After about 30 feet, I realized that the guard yelling “Wei! Wei!” was yelling at me: Hello! Hello! I stopped and turned to listen to him talk to me in Chinese, then said in English,”I don’t know what you’re saying but I get it.” He understood also and thanked me. Who says Chinese is complicated?
So, I wend my way around the lake and am looking up at the skyline to get my bearing when I realize there are train tracks between me and my destination, so begin to scan for a way over or under. No problem–there is the turn for the underpass up ahead and I’m good to go again. Actually, I’m better than good because I realize that this underpass is the very one we use every time we come back from Auchon, our grocery store, and I navigate it on bike! You have to realize what an accomplishment this is! The traffic is so crazy and you never can be sure where cars, scooters, Tuk-Tuks or trucks might be coming from and here I was on a bike! It was great! I took the left turn and there I was on Zhongshan Road, right where I wanted to be. Immediately scanning the sky-line again, I spotted the wee McDonald’s arches on the top of a billboard on top of a building at the Diamond Mall. Yes, the Golden Arches are prevalent here in Jiaxing. Sad, isn’t it?
I successfully parked my bike for the second time, crossed the street and went in to Sephora–yes, they have Sephora in little Jiaxing. I bought Daisy a gift for saving my sorry hide from the transit police, then headed off for my first experience in the SECOND Starbuck’s in Jiaxing. Woohoo! Finally, after two months of delays, it was open and was the joint was jumping! It might have been a good experience but for 3 things: first, far too many over-indulged screaming kids; second, tinny Chinese music set as background noise; and third, a pineapple bun which turned out to have pork and pineapple inside, which might have been okay if I knew that but I couldn’t make the adjustment. In spite of all that, I sat down and stared back at all the folks who were staring at me, admired the latest fashion and marveled at the short skirts, the high heels. and the guys’ big hair. The weekends are days for girlfriends and couples to go out to see and be seen, and I imagine, do a little shopping also. One fellow garnered a lot of attention also but not because he was white but because he was at least 6’6″ and black. Dude! I also saw the model for the Laughing Men sculptures at the foot of Denman and Davie but with hair. I was desperate to take his picture but I didn’t want to give him or the rest of the crowd the satisfaction. What a great day!
Again crossed the street and successfully parked the rental bike, jumped on a road all the way back to Hongbo Lu and walked home. Sadly Geoffy is still sick and pathetic but it is almost happy hour! Life is good.
(Ed. note: For those who may have missed it, these are one of the two pairs of new sunglasses Terry has purchased – like people didn’t look at her enough before!)