John arrived home promptly at 530pm, as promised. Dark had already fallen over the city and the neon lights had begun twinkling on. I say twinkling. I mean booming. With the flip of the clock from “daylight” to “nighttime”, Nantong transforms from a respectably gray-and-brown-built city to its truly inspiring red-and-orange-and-purple-and-yellow technicolor glow.
With that transformation comes a certain adventure in transportation.
There’s usually a certain adventure in transportation.
But, this time, I was braving it.
First, a ride down an elevator. Twenty-one floors is a ear-popping elevator ride, I have discovered.
Then, a walk across the parking lot to the corner of the aforementioned highly scary intersection.
Third, braving the route across the aforementioned highly scary intersection. Walking down the sidewalk comes next, me walking and John walking his bike.
Fifth, we stop at the bike store. Exchange a few well-meaning English words (namely: “Hello!” and “English?” and “No.”), followed by an abundance of hand gestures and calculator-punching price-relaying, then a wad of cash exchanges hands, a few minutes tuning up the bike, and I walk out with my very own folding bike. It’s mint green, by the way. Only the cutest color for me.
Riding down the bike lane now, I feel like a confident mix of Audrey Hepburn (I wear cropped pants and ballet flats) and Anne Shirley (it’s a bike. I always feel like Anne Shirley on a bike) until the first moped toots its horn inches from my ear (read: inches from my bike, inches from ENDING MY LIFE). Then that Audrey-Anne mix melted into a feeble-minded, spineless shadow of myself. So much for having confidence.
Sixth step involved supper at “The Western Restaurant,” aptly named because its void of Chinese food, Chinese patrons, or Chinese language. Apparently John has made a name for himself as pizza boy – the waitress remembered him as the one who ate one pizza for supper and took another pizza home. Smart move, that one.
Finally, we biked back across town to the apartment, wedged our bicycles onto the mirrored elevator, and rode up those twenty-one stories back to our little oasis of English-speaking, Il Divo-playing, book-reading, living.