Nanning bicycle ride pt.1
It was warm out in spite of everything being wet from the earlier rain. It was misty in fact, the air felt and smelled for that matter, like the exhaust from a dryer. It was thick, heavy, and warm, typical for this part of China. Oh well, he thought getting on his bicycle, I need the exercise and it is better than it has been lately. Slowly riding between the buildings toward the entrance of the apartment complex where he lived with his wife Yirun and her daughter, he decided it felt good to be out again. Nodding hello to the old man, who sits at the entrance guarding against some unseen menace, he merges into the human river of pedestrians, scooters, and bicycles known as WanZhou Lu BeiErLi, which is just another side street in Nanning, a city that has miles and miles of winding, twisting streets.
Never understanding why the old men sit there but sit there they do. A group of five or six, a different one every day and night, twenty-four hours a day they sit there watching people come and go. Sometimes alone, sometimes with friends and family, most of them friendly or appear to be, considering he does not speak Chinese and only one or two of the “guards” could or would say “Hello” in English. Even though he has lived here for over a year, most people still stare at him, some smile, some don’t, such is life. Maybe they are as impatient as Yirun wanting him to learn speak Chinese but are too polite to say anything, not that he would understand if they did say something. Although, they have never been shy about mentioning to Yirun his strange foreign ways. Like not wearing a coat when the temperature dropped to 65 or going bike riding at 5:00 am, which they think is too early to be safe. Just to keep peace in the world he had stopped the early rides but still refuses to wear a coat.
Turning South on WanZhou Lu, weaving in and out of the flow of traffic he decides to cut through the market thinking that with the damp weather there should not be too many people. Turning onto Beihu LuDong he quickly grabs the hand brakes, avoiding the old woman standing in the road, and the truck coming from the other direction that cuts across the lane to make a left turn. Swerving around and in between, thinking that he really should get the brakes adjusted; he continues not thinking twice about the near disaster. After all, it is just another day of bike riding here in Nanning.
Turning into the market that is nothing more than an alley lined with poultry, fish, vegetable and fruit vendors, he realizes right away that there is more people than expected. Again gripping the brakes frantically he avoids ramming into several shoppers, a couple of scooters and a car, that are blocking the entrance to the market. Thinking to himself that he needs to find a different route someday, half riding half walking his bicycle he negotiates his way into the mass of people filling the alley/market.
Where the roads are river of people, the market is a flood. The alley that makes up the market is barely wide enough for a car yet some people still insist on driving down it regardless of the masses that occupy it. There are dozens of people on foot, bicycles, scooters etc. in various stages of motion going in various directions, most seemingly oblivious to the chaos around them. As always, he is amazed nobody gets ran over, even more amazed that he does not run over someone or get ran over himself. Regardless of the seemingly chaos going on everyone is going about their business buying or selling or just making their way through to get somewhere else.