Shiny New Bicycle

Ginny and I decided that we were going to go on a bicycle buying expedition in the afternoon, after spending some time watching ridiculous Chinese soap operas and sort of translating/ad libbing their lines. There’s a moped and bike store at the corner across from us, so we started there. We stood around looking at a motley collection of “new” bikes that looked flimsy, at best. I haven’t owned a bike in ages, or bought one since maybe fourth grade, so I wasn’t sure how to tell what makes a good bike. Ginny kind of kicked the tires a little bit, which made me laugh, and then we asked how much the bikes were, and they told us 400 kuai. I laughed more and walked away. A decent new bike at Carrefour will cost 300 RMB and a used bike should be anywhere between 90-170, depending on quality. Box, one of the boys from the Frisbee team, had given me some helpful hints and directed me to Beixinqiao. South of the station are a couple used and new bike shops. The first one we went into was more of a pawn shop that seemed to specialize in bikes, since the walls were lined with accordions and guitars and wheelchairs and other odds and ends for sale. They had a line of used bike priced between 90 – 290 RMB, which I think was a little ridiculous, since most of them were falling apart, missing pieces and really dirty. Ginny found the one decent one in the lot. I looked at some of the new ones, priced at 260, and was not pleased, it was incredibly flimsy. Walking out of the store, a man on the sidewalk approached the two of us. “Bikes? 你要买自行车吗?you want bike?” He pushed a new blue bike towards Ginny and tried to get me interested in a used lady bike. Bitch, please. Ginny had already decided on getting the decent used bike he had found inside, so I tried the new regular bike. It worked, was stable and in good condition, it was cheaper than a new bike I could purchase at Carrefour and even cheaper than some of the used bikes we saw. Also, it says “Gold Admiral” and “BATTLE” on it, which is just icing on the cake. I even have my basket, which comes in handy. We immediately purchased locks as well and slowly pedaled our way home (being extra careful with no helmets).

My Battle Bike.

For the time being I have appropriated Bambi’s helmet (making me the only person in Beijing to wear one on a bike. I’m ok with that, and the strange looks, like, why is that crazy foreigner on a bike wearing such a weird hat?) and biked all over to get to work and go out to dinner. That makes more biking than I’ve done all together since 5 years ago when a friend and I rented bikes on Green Island off the coast of Taiwan. I got to work much faster and I feel like I’m actually sort of being healthier and I’m being very careful not to get hit by anyone.

My student came late, so I wasn’t able to make it to Frisbee at all, I couldn’t leave work until 8. I met up with a friend for a kaoya dinner. So much duck. Duck for days. Absolutely delicious. The only downside is my friend is a smoker so we sat in the smoking section. I ate a lot of pancakes stuffed with cucumber and crispy, fatty, succulent meat, and then they brought us the basket of deep fried duck carcass, I ate almost 2/3 of it. So much tasty fatty awesomeness. Most people think that the sauce served with duck is Hoisin sauce, which is common in America, but it’s actually a sweet fermented wheat flour.

The beginning of a delicious duck pancake, leeks, cucumber, and fermented wheat sauce

Friday was a long day of biking back and forth, teaching, finding one of my student’s houses in a sketchy back hutong, and working at the Kitchen, and the highlight of my day might have been getting paid to watch Disney movies with the kids to teach them English. Biking is making it so easy to get around, I am excited, although I am tired and sore. After a long evening of standing and smiling and serving food, I pedaled slowly home, and opened the door to the family setting up a makeshift card table and pouring whiskey. Why, hello, family, happy to see you too.

My lessons in the morning were made possible by the greasy deep fried deliciousness that is 公发饼, my new unhealthy snack addiction. In Taiwan, it was jipai, a flattened half chicken battered and deep fried, and sprinkled liberally with MSG and hot chili powder. gong fa bing is basically a thick, large scallion pancake with a spicy meat sauce brushed onto the middle. There’s a stand that sells them right next to work, and they’re only fifty cents each.

Work was followed up with a struggle bus attempt at Frisbee. It was beautiful out, probably 50 degrees, so we decided to play outside on the field. Playing outside was a nice change, learning to adjust for wind and father distances, and a little easier on my shins, although I took a bit of a dive playing defense and bloodied up my knee. I felt mostly ill running around and like my brain was crashing about in my skull, but by the end was feeling pretty good about life. Plus, Baby M, the cutest most adorable infant I have ever seen, was there and I got to play with her and try very hard not to steal her. I’m trying to convince Ginny and Bambi that we need to adopt a kitten to inject more cute into our lives, so I’ll stop having the urge to kidnap strange babies.

We had a team party at a bar near the Kitchen. Box had a slideshow of the previous year in Frisbee that made me really excited to keep trying to get better. I gave into the pressure to learn the silly dice game, mostly because I was wearing my pirate boots and pirates play dice. Highlight of the evening? Seeing Chairman ride by outside on a little bike. She is the most adorable, cheerful old 奶奶。

Ayi came to clean this morning, and left, but then five minutes later returned. I thought she had maybe forgot a purse or something, but she had ran into a man on the street who was taking bottles, and brought him up to our apartment to take away our fifty some odd empties. First of all, living with boys is…an adjustment. Secondly, there was a lot of judging on the bottle guy’s part. Well, at least the fake mountain basin isn’t full of beer bottles anymore.


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