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Saturday, October 17, 2015

A change of pace . . .

Before I moved to Beijing, in June 2013, a friend asked if I was going to get a bicycle and I laughed at him. Other friends, whom I have ridden motorcycles with in the United States and elsewhere, asked if I would get a motorcycle and, without laughing, I thought that highly unlikely. I'd briefly looked at the possibility, only to find I would need to first get a car driver's license in China and hold that for a year before I could even apply for a motorcycle license.

As someone who finds it hard to commit to a two-hour movie, that didn't seem worthy of even considering.

Fast forward 2-plus years and I've been having a ball on a borrowed bicycle that was then gifted to me (many thanks, John Butcher). It has expanded my Beijing horizons in ways I never expected and made me feel more a part of where I live.

Then, while attending a photography exhibition by a friend and colleague, I got talking to a young French guy with a motorcycle who said it had changed his life in China. He also informed me that the law had changed (shortly after I arrived, I have discovered). Now, if you already hold a license in your home country, whether car, motorcycle or both (that's all I have), all you need do is pass the written test to get a Chinese license.

He also had a friend with a motorcycle to sell . . .

Anyone who knows me, knows what happened next.

I picked up my new baby last Sunday and rode her home a little timidly, being accustomed to being on a bicycle in Beijing traffic. I took her out again on Tuesday after work and felt a little more comfortable. Today (Saturday), I rode her to find a gear shop and buy a good jacket and great gloves (both achieved) and just had fun. It's been a year or two since I've ridden but it all come back quickly. A need to brake suddenly, and a resulting rear slide, reminded me of the need to use both brakes in an emergency and I played with her weight, power and agility to see what she can do.

I also had to get used to her girth. I'm accustomed to bikes that are able to fit where the handlebars fit but this girl has side boxes attached, giving her some junk in her trunk. Rather than being a cat that can fit where my whiskers fit, I'm a cat with a seriously wide rear end.

But, I'm in love with her, and look forward to learning all her quirks, qualities and faults. I assume she will be forgiving of mine . . .

Baby needed a wash - I was going to buy cleaning gear then realized I can have it done on the side of the road, and support the local economy. Win-Win!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Once more into the breach . . .

It is only as I went to write this that I realized how long it is since I posted here. There was no specific reason for my silence, though many secondary causes. Primarily though, I've been really busy living life and let this slip by the way. I'll try to do better . . .

For those who don't know, I'm still in China and still liking being here more often than I dislike it. Work is going well and I love the people I work with, and I've been traveling a lot more lately, mainly for work but also on my own. In the past few months, I've visited Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, and in China, Xi'an (home of the Terracotta Warriors, which I skipped in favor of outdoor adventure and will blog soon), Zhanjiang in Guangdong province and a number of cities in Shanxi province. The latter two were for work so involved long days, many banquets and much article writing to follow.

I've also restarted studying Chinese as, although I can get by without it, now I'm traveling more I want to have more communication with locals. I'm also buying a motorcycle this month so will travel more around Beijing and will need better language skills when visiting nearby villages. Studying for the license in Chinglish is a story in itself!

This week, from Oct 1 through 8, is Golden Week, when much of China has a week off after National Day and many people travel to their hometowns, but I decided to have a staycation in Beijing. Not totally tho, as I've been asked to do a couple of stories in Tianjin, which is less than an hour away by high-speed rail, so I'll head there Monday to stay in a luxurious hotel and pretend I'm accustomed to such a life.

For tonight, I'm off to a fabulous Peruvian pop-up restaurant run by friends to enjoy excellent ceviche and Pisco sours with other friends before they close for the cooler months.

To prove I have actually been working, I leave you with a profile I did on a fabulous Italian chef-slash-nuclear engineer. Beijing is full of such interesting people.