Adaptation & Motorcycles

Though I won’t deny that I have been thoroughly out of my comfort zone since getting off the plane on June 13th, 7 weeks here in China have flown by and I have adapted to my Beijing life. I’m no longer phased by stares, language barrier frustrations, strange food, or even people lackadaisically hacking spit. Of everyone in this group, I predicted that this trip, for me, may be the most difficult. This is due to the obvious fact that I’ve done very little traveling throughout my life, and I’ve certainly never had any international experiences. I was unsure ¬†and even frightened of what to expect; I prepared myself by sticking to the “don’t expect anything, because it won’t be anything you would be expecting” advice my best friend’s dad gave me a couple nights before my departure. All of this said, however, something happened yesterday that was a perfect example of how I realized I have adapted more so than I give myself credit for.

This was the day our culture class was postponed, and as I never check my phone, I was lucky to be given the news on my bike ride to C-lo for the class. Since I had all my things already with me, I made a B line for the Northeast gate, parked my bike, and waited for 731 so I could go to my favorite Wudaokou cafe and study. After a solid afternoon and evening of studying, I packed up my things and walked back out to the streets to once again wait on 731. All of this has because routine for me.. I like to get off campus a little and Zoo Coffee’s drinks are thoroughly delicious. It’s a good studying atmosphere for me too, so I find myself there a couple times a week.

As I waited for the bus with my music in I’m sure I was thinking about something, but I was a little startled when a guy in what appeared to be his early twenties swerved up next to the curb and asked me if I knew where Tsinghua was. This is not the first time this has happened, so that in itself didn’t surprised me. What surprised me was both his appearance and just how good his English was. He appeared to be mixed, Chinese and something Western, though I couldn’t pinpoint it. He was about six feet and much more muscular and darker than your average Chinese guy. He was also dressed exactly as an American college male student would. After I got over the little surprise I had, I told him I did know, to which he quickly responded that he actually needed to get to the entrance near the international student dorms. Without thinking twice, I said “Yeah, that’s actually where I live..” and pointed and explained for him to take a left at this intersection and then Tsinghua’s Northeast gate was on the left of the second stop light.

These directions seemed pretty simple to me– one left turn and probably less than a mile of total travel. Yet he quickly cut me off and said he was already lost. “Why don’t you just hop on, I’ll take you there.” For what seemed to be a flash of my brain, I weighed the pros and cons of this decision. No, I didn’t want to wait on the hot, packed bus. Yes, I had always wanted to ride on a motorcycle. If this guy did happen to be crazy, traffic was so heavy, I could just hop off and run, couldn’t I?

So, I got on the motorcycle. On the short trip from the Wudaokou bus stop to Tsinghua’s Northeast gate, I learned that Ricardo was temporarily living in Wudaokou before he left to work in business in Shanghai the week after next. He was Panamanian, though his mother was from Hong Kong. He asked where I was from, and when I answered I was American, he said” No, where in America? Your accent is so strong; I love it.”

When we got to Dongbeimen, I got off the motorcycle, chatted with him, and he explained he was waiting to meet a friend. When I turned to leave, stopped me and asked if I would have time to grab dinner or explore Wudaokou or somewhere nearby with him on “his Ferrari” as he called it. Despite the temptation of the motorcycle or his suaveness, I declined, explaining I had no time to spare before I had to leave.

Would I have done this 7 weeks ago? Absolutely not. Three weeks ago? probably not. But after 7 weeks of Beijing, and a long, hot, tiring day off class, studying, and research, a friendly face and a speedy motorcycle were too tempting to turn down. Still, I walked off wondering if he was really waiting on a friend.

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And we all know how much fun this is. Who wouldn’t prefer to swerve around on a motorcycle?