Monday, September 10, 2007

Stranded

With cold weather sure to arrive in the near future, I've been trying to get out on my bike as much as possible. This year I've been exploring "the land beyond"--turning right out of the school. It's been a lot of fun to be riding out in the cornfields and farm land (and no, not because it reminds me of my home state of Indiana...). It is also nice to be on less populated streets where a moment of absent-minded disregard won't land me in a hospital. I enjoy getting out and seeing a very different China than the academia that surrounds me at the university. There are many different faces of China, and I know this is one face that many of my students are coming from. Consequently, I've been enjoying being an observer of life beyond the city. There's the group that gathers every evening to play mahjong by the roadside. The man selling fruits and vegetables out of a cart. The boys herding sheep. However, recently I got to interact with this face of China in a much more personal way than I expected. I took my bike out on a cool and cloudy afternoon, heading straight for the country roads through the corn fields. I had gotten quite far when it started to feel like I was working way too hard to pedal the bike. I looked back and realized my back tire was getting quite low. I immediately turned around, knowing I was in the middle of nowhere and wanting to get as close to returning to the school as possible. However, the air quickly diminished in my tire and before I knew it I was walking the bike along the road. Suddenly, my energizing afternoon ride turned into a long stroll in the country. I walked for a ways before finding an elderly gentleman squatting by the side of the road. I asked him if he had an air pump--ok, I take that back, I don't know the word for pump in Chinese. I asked him for air. :) Seeing my deflated tire, he got the point and told me to follow him. We walked down a small dirt avenue to his house and he told me to wait outside while he went to find the pump. He returned a few moments later with the pump, his wife, daughter and grandchild. Pretty soon we were also joined by a neighbor. He attempted to pump the tire while I tried to communicate with his family. However, we eventually realized that the tire wasn't going to hold any air. We examined the tire and found a long staple stuck in it. I was sure it had punctured quite a hole in the tire. I asked the family if there was anyone who could fix the bike nearby, to which they replied, no, nowhere near. A heated discussion then ensued as the family tried to decide what to do with the poor foreigner with poor Chinese stranded in the countryside. Eventually, they decided the best course of action was to hail a taxi on the road and put my bike in the trunk. I obligingly followed them back to the road (was I really going to fight their advice?). We waited for quite some time, and not surprisingly, no taxis came. Another neighbor joined us and she suggested I call for a friend to come. I pulled out my cell phone and gave Wu a call; however, a little bit into describing my predicament, I realized he was no longer on the line. My cell phone had died and I had no idea how much he had heard and if he knew where I was. As it was growing later in the day and I had a several mile walk ahead of me, I thanked the family profusely and set out on my country stroll once again. About 20 minutes later Seth and Sarah did arrive in a taxi to rescue me from the rest of the walk...and I headed to my bike repairman who patched the large tear in my inner tire. Ever since I've headed out on my rides with a fully charged cell phone...

12 comments:

Eric & Heather said...

Oh Katherine,

I sit here totally enthralled as I read your post. I love your sense of adventure as I'm living vicariously through your experiences.

I've been looking at the Canon Rebel EOS Digital XTI. Please remind me of which camera you use. I have a Rebel SLR--died making the trip back from China :)

You all are in our thoughts and hearts here in the US.

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