It was hard to sell all of our bikes before
we left Palo Alto. Like most suburban kids, the girls used their bikes
a lot. Giving them up was a very tangible, and unwelcome, part of our
As compensation, we agreed that they could
get new bikes in China. After all, that's where most bikes are made today.
We figured we could buy much nicer ones, and spend less than it would
cost to ship theirs to China. Ever the deal-maker, Sami immediately asked
if she could buy a scooter instead. She had been trying them out lately,
and liked them a lot.
We learned two things about all this after
we got here.
- Bikes are, indeed, much cheaper in China:
about 75% less.
- Kids under 12 are not allowed to ride
bikes on city streets. This is a smart rule, since riding a bike in
Beijing takes equal parts nerve and skill. Helmets are not required
(and therefore no one wears them), but the many near-misses one sees
everyday would surely result in more accidents if there were kids involved.
Sami bought a scooter right away -- a cool
model that folds up when not in use. Miranda graciously accepted her inability
to ride a bike, and got downright excited about scootering after Sami
let her try. Miranda got her own scooter, a nifty petite aluminum model
with folding hand-rests.
And then they were off!
the girls scooter in the neighborhood, but today we decided to venture
out to the nearby stadium parking lot, which was really smooth and
First stop, the guard at the gate.
Our apartment complex has three gates, each manned around the clock
by young, friendly men. They love the girls, and seem alternately
bemused and fascinated by the goings-on within our complex.
Then it's through the gate! We live
right behind the "city hall" for our section of Beijing
(Beijing has boroughs, like New York City. We live in the Manhattan
of Beijing, in an area that is equivalent to Midtown, in terms of
rents and convenient location).
Next door is a Russian boarding house
(the red sign in the distance of this picture is completely in Russian).
Most of the customers are men who spend their days buying things
at the nearby markets, and their evenings supervising the loading
of massive lorries headed back to Russia. Some of the boarders are
women, whose synthetic hair and body parts are prerequisites for
A line of pedi-cabs is always waiting
for customers right in front of the boarding house. These guys are
from out of town, looking to make some easy money hauling foreigners
around the neighborhood (you almost never see a native Beijinger
in a pedi-cab).
Since the traffic is so bad, taking
a pedi-cab actually makes a lot of sense. They cost about the same
as a taxi, and usually get there more quickly.
Best of all, they're very romantic!
Our favorite pedi-cab driver is Mr.
He. He's been driving for more than 6 years, is married to a hair
dresser, and has a young son. His younger brother also drives. We
like him because he's honest, and drives very carefully.
The same cannot be said of the other
drivers, which is why we now give all of our business only to the
After taking the previous shot, I
clambered in with the girls (it was a tight fit!). Mr. He then started
on the 7-minute trip to the stadium. I kept trying to get a shot
of the traffric jams (or imminent accidents) through which we were
weaving, but ended up with only this benign photo.
Trust me that pedi-cabbing is not for
the faint of heart!
|Along the way we passed several nearby
construction sites, one of which is part of the 2008 Olympics preparation.
We're not sure what venue will go there, but we're excited that it
is practically next door!
After a short ride, we got to the stadium,
unloaded ourselves and the scooters, and proceeded to have a great time
exploring the whole area. We found a cool indoor archery range, a place
to rent car-campers, one of Beijing's two youth hostels, and an underground
store filled with gorgeous silks from Soochow. No rhyme nor reason to
this assortment of venues!
But we were having fun enjoying the weather
and the freedom of zooming around on scooters. So much fun, in fact, that
we forgot to take more pictures!