The weather service predicts storms and rain for this afternoon, but I'm betting that, if I saddle up quickly I can make it to Walmart and back before the deluge.
It is a strange feeling to be up so early in the morning for no official reason. I had to wake up at 7AM today. In the last entry I told you I had forgotten to return the access card to the classroom's media center that my student checked out on my behalf yesterday. I can't be totally to blame for the oversight because I did not use the sytem yesterday, nor had I asked her to bring the card. Also, I had ridden my bike to class. I would have had to ride to a different building's security desk to return the card. Amidst the joyful reunions with my students and the excitement of having something official to do, to say nothing of the joy of riding past throngs of students instead of getting chatted up every few feet, that key card simply wasn't on my mind.
So: after 2 days of waking up insanely early to teach, I felt compelled to wake up early again today to return that card, so that the teacher using that classroom would have access to the computer cabinet, if desired.
That task took all of 5 minutes, and then I had the rest of the day to fill. My usual morning routine took the usual hour and a half and after that, I had a yawning gulf of time. I didn't want to just sit around the house yet again. These past few days have been so humid that pursuing any outdoor activity would be torture but today seemed cool, with a nice breeze and the portent of rain. I needed a few things anyway and the Walmart I would ride to was not terribly far. I left the house at the time I would normally sit down to breakfast, having already enjoyed that meal.
This getting up early gets my schedule all out of whack!
In spite of a strong headwind the ride was pleasant and, marveling anew over my increasing stamina while riding, I soon made it to the road I would turn off to get to the store. Ever wary of traffic and especially so on narrow roads with no lane markings and no stoplights, I navigated through the dangerous intersection to the street I would ride to get to the avenue the store is on. The already thin ribbon of road was halfway blocked for construction. Fortunately there were no buses trundling by so, along with several other scooters I cleared that barrier safely.
And then I got lost. The road that was blocked off was the road I needed to lead me to my destination. I didn't realize that until I had ridden so far past it that I did not recognize anything, so I doubled back and tried the alley paralleling the blocked road, which led me into a housing area. And then I decided to take a different road, relying on my sense of direction and other visual clues – street signs and buildings I might have seen before. I failed miserably.
In the meantime storm clouds are piling up and the gentle breeze had turned into a chilly wind. I figured I should abandon my plan to shop and just go home, but that was the question: where was home?
As I rode slowly, weighing whether to abandon my quest or forge on, a man riding an electric scooter hailed me. For a while we rode side by side, chatting. A while later, at another intersection he pressed on while I paused, again pondering the wisdom of continuing this adventure gone awry. A few minutes after he turned off, he doubled back to ask me where I was headed. I saw this as a golden opportunity to find my way back to familiar terrain, so I told him the name of the main boulevard in front of my school.
“No problem” he says, “follow me!”
He speeds up a bit, I kick it in gear and soon we are tearing down dirt roads, bogged out, water logged lanes and through a tunnel so low I had to hunch over my handlebars to get through, lest I scrape my helmet. A few hills, a few curves, a few splashes of mud. My guide was oblivious to what my shiny, well maintained bike means: that I generally do not treat her like the dirt bike she really is. Nor would I ride with such abandon in traffic, but those lanes only had the occasional pedestrian. I felt it was OK to cut loose. He led me down paths I wouldn't have ventured on my own but I have to say it was quite fun: taking turns at high speed, jumping off hills, flying through mud puddles. I felt like quite the daredevil!And my Bikey-bike performed beautifully.
Now back on pavement and recognizing that I'm not too far from home, I try to thank him for his guidance, telling him my school/home is just up the road. He enjoins that his office is also just up the road. Might he treat me to lunch before we part company?
I think China might just be the only country where one can go from total stranger to lunch in less time it would take to shower. Knowing that it would be churlish to refuse – but not really wanting to eat right then, let alone with company in a nice restaurant, I accepted and soon we parked our conveyances side by side and entered a newly opened restaurant.
Per tradition, the guest – me, in this case, is to select from the menu. I chose 3 not particularly extravagant dishes. He ordered yoghurt to drink and asked me if I wanted to eat fish. That kind of capped it.
Because of my fickle stomach I'm very careful of what I eat. Veggies and fruit I can tolerate if I keep them to a minimum, and yoghurt upsets my stomach for days. Ingesting all of them in one sitting is guaranteed to make me miserable for a week. The problem is: how to tell a total stranger who invites you to eat that your stomach is fickle? The suggestion of fish gave me an out. I apologized for being allergic to fish, even though I'm not. I figured I'd suffer plenty from the spinach, the watermelon and the yoghurt. I should be absolved of pretending I love fish.
Yes, I am in abdominal agony as I write this.
I should lay down, you say? Perhaps I will after committing these events to paper. Today was just too remarkable to not write about.
Over lunch we discovered that I am 20 days older than he is, and that he is former military, now retired. He has a son who works in a factory, making cellphones. His wife generally does the cooking when they eat at home. He learned about my multi-country heritage, and the fact that I sometimes help Gary with his international trade business, that last because we were eating when Gary called. Toward the end of the meal we exchanged contact information and he disclosed that he wished to learn English. I suggested that, if he had another 3 or 4 friends who also wanted to learn I might conduct class.
Before parting company he suggested he should follow me to my house. I told him we could not visit at my home today. I do intend on inviting him, but out of caution I will have Sam or Gary here when he comes. A girl can't be too safe, you know...
And then I came home. Marveling at the turn of events, I sat down to write after I called Gary back. We have a date to shop on Monday, but I'll probably ride to Walmart before then. Just for fun.