bicycle tales & a ride to the nanning zoo

Friday, September 12:  It all starts when my Chinese student assistant, Angela, brings me my university-issue bicycle.  The color of an old camouflaged mini-tank, it looks like a relic of World War II.  The seat is too low and so rusted that it’s impossible to raise.  Because of the low seat, my legs pedal in a circumference about the size of a gerbil wheel. It veers to the right while in motion.  The brakes squeal with painful effort, but they don’t stop the bike.

my university-issue bike

my university-issue bike

rear view

rear view

Angela, who is eager to please, volunteers to go to a place called Doghole to buy a lock for it.  I graciously take the lock and pay her back, thinking I’ll use the bike if I’m desperate and unable to get anything better.  Luckily, a better offer comes along.

Friday, September 19:  During the week, a colleague named Nancy told me that back in the day, she lent one of her bicycles to a teacher who has now departed China.  The bicycle is locked in a residence building across the street from ours.  She told me I could borrow it if I could get someone to open the locked door to that building so that she and I could go in together to identify it.  This would take coordinating three people, no easy feat.

Today, I ask a teacher who lives in the said residence building to open the door.  Nancy has what she believes to be the key to the lock.  Inside the lobby area, Nancy picks her bike from the lineup. Alas, the bicycle has two big locks on it, one on each wheel.  Nancy’s key doesn’t work in either.  What to do?

Normal people might give up.  But Nancy is friends with the bike repair lady at Doghole.  She believes the lady will cut the locks off based on their long-time acquaintance.  There is no way she will suspect Nancy of stealing the bike.  It’s quite a walk to Doghole, and we don’t know how we can get the bike there.  Finally, we figure out a way to wedge the bike across Nancy’s large scooter (it has a large but lopsided back seat).  Nancy can drive her scooter to Doghole with me walking alongside holding the bicycle steady.

Nancy's bike (mine until I leave!)

Nancy’s bike (mine until I leave!)

We manage to do this.  The students milling around campus seem to find the sight of two ladies carrying the bike on the scooter quite humorous.  But we plug along, determined to reach our goal.  At Doghole,  the bike lady doesn’t question Nancy at all.  She takes her metal-cutting saw and, sparks flying, slices right through those two locks.  She raises the seat as high as it will go, not quite high enough for me, but higher than the other bike.  The brakes work, it has a basket, and it doesn’t look like a WWII tank.  I’m in business.

My bike... it's a very very very fine bike....

My bike… it’s a very very very fine bike….

I know what you’re thinking: It doesn’t look that much different from the first bike.  And you’d be right that in some respects these bikes LOOK similar. But believe me, this bike is better than the other in every imaginable way.  I wouldn’t tell a lie. 🙂

In the evening, I take a long bike ride all around the East Campus.  I already walked around the East Campus, and I thought it was huge.  Little did I know.  The campus sprawls north, east and west through farmland, lakes, bridges and tall apartment buildings.  After an hour of biking around, afraid of getting hopelessly lost, I retrace my bicycle tracks and make it safely back to the West Campus and my apartment.

Sunday, September 21: This afternoon, I take my “new” bicycle for a ride down the busy Daxue Road, a major road made more congested by the new railway construction, to visit the Nanning Zoo.  It takes me about 40 minutes.  I have to ride over brick walkways, dodging pedestrians, motorbikes and loose bricks.  When I get to the major intersection of Daxue Road and Luban Road, it takes me quite some time to figure out how to cross.  When I do, I walk my bicycle around construction barriers, and then ride on the main road for a short distance along with the motor scooters.  By the way, no one wears helmets in China, neither motorbikers nor bicyclists.  When I do this, it’s with full knowledge that I’m putting my life on the line.

At the next intersection, I pull out my map of Nanning, because I believe the zoo should be nearby.  A young man on a motorbike, with his little boy clinging to his waist, looks at me quizzically, and I point out the zoo on the map.  Just then his wife materializes magically from a nearby shop and speaks a few words of English.  She tells me to follow them as they’re taking their son to the zoo.  They take off at a good clip.  I pedal furiously to keep up.

We finally make it to the zoo, which is quite obvious because of the two giraffes at the entrance.  It costs a shocking 50 yuan (~$8) to get in.  I’m a little surprised at this as it cost us only 10 yuan (~$1.63) to get onto QingXiu Shan, which is MUCH nicer!

the Giraffe entrance to the Nanning Zoo

the Giraffe entrance to the Nanning Zoo

a creature just inside the zoo entrance

a creature just inside the zoo entrance

The young couple and their little boy want to pose for pictures with me next to the statue of a strange creature just inside the entrance.  After we take photos in various combinations, I take one of the little family.  I so appreciate their kindness in taking me under their wing.  The young man takes my phone number and his wife tells me he wants me to teach him English.  I don’t want to do this, as my time outside of the classroom is valuable to me, and I’m not desperate for money. I hope he doesn’t call because I really don’t want the extra work.

the nice couple who led me to the zoo

the nice couple who led me to the zoo

Me, Chen's wife and their little boy

Me, Chen’s wife and their little boy

Me with Chen and his little boy

Me with Chen and his little boy

I walk around the zoo, which is tropical but a tad bit shabby.

a koi pond

a koi pond

I first walk through a dreamlike walkway with strands of vines hanging down.  This is the entrance to the monkey area.

walkway with threadlike vines

walkway with threadlike vines

I love the striped tail of this “lemur catta.”

Lemur catta

Lemur catta

monkey

pensive monkey

a monkey playground

a monkey playground

These little fellows are industriously dismantling logs, one piece of bark at a time.  They’re intent on getting the job done.

industrious little fellows

industrious little fellows

At one cage, a huge orangutan is standing up against the bars of the cage, and a big guy is feeding the orangutan crackers and some water from a plastic water bottle.  People are standing around taking pictures of him.  I keep looking around for a zookeeper to come and tell him to stop, but no one appears.  He obviously is quite amused with himself.

a visitor feeding junk food to the orangutan

a visitor feeding junk food to the orangutan

Angry gorillas

Angry gorillas

Across from the monkey area is a pond swimming with crocodiles.  Many of them are sunning themselves on the concrete “beach” with their mouths hanging open.

Click on any of the pictures for a full-sized slide show.

It’s quite warm and some of the animals are acting frustrated and hungry, pacing back and forth, looking like they want to escape.  The panthers and tigers are held in small spaces.  One of the panthers paces circles in his cage.

Panthera Pardus

Panthera Pardus

Panthera Pardus

Panthera Pardus

Some of the big cats are having a lazy Sunday afternoon.

White Tiger

White Tiger

White Tigers

White Tigers

The animals don’t seem to be neglected.  However, the Chinese visitors are feeding the animals junk food: crackers, bread, cookies.  This really upsets me because I know people shouldn’t feed animals at a zoo.  However, I don’t know what the rules are in a Chinese zoo and I can’t speak any Chinese to tell them not to do it.  It’s not my business, but it does annoy me to no end.

Bear exhibit

Bear exhibit

Bear exhibit

Bear exhibit

In the bear enclosure, the bears are pacing and looking up at the visitors on the bridge above, waiting for them to toss some food down.  They obligingly do.  It’s obvious the bears are used to getting food from visitors because they seem frustrated when they’re not getting any.

Bear waiting for food

Bear waiting for food

Frustrated bear

Frustrated bear

I’m not sure what these cute little animals are, but people are throwing all kinds of food into their enclosure, and the animals are scrounging around to get in on the action.

going after scraps

going after scraps

When I come to an enclosure with a camel, some young adults have put some greenery on its nose and are feeding it various things.  One of the boys picks up a rock and tosses it to the camel, who tries to grab it out of the air to eat.  I can’t speak Chinese, but I do what I do best: glare at him.  He sees me glaring but chooses to ignore me and picks up another rock.  He tosses it at the camel and I’m so irritated by this that I have to leave.

camel

camel

harassed camel

harassed camel

At the petting zoo, people are encouraged to feed and pet the animals.

I do find some happy raccoons and some interesting statues on the rest of my walk through the zoo.

raccoons

raccoons

statues in the zoo

statues in the zoo

dancing bears?

dancing characters?

Along the perimeter of the zoo is some kind of water park, with some interesting sights.

Water park adjacent to the zoo

Water park adjacent to the zoo

fairy tale tree house

fairy tale tree house

cock-a-doodle-doo!

cock-a-doodle-doo!

I don’t normally like zoos at all, but I wanted to get out and about to explore Nanning.  This gives me something to do on a Sunday afternoon.  I don’t like seeing animals cooped up in small stone or barred enclosures and not in their natural habitats.  Some zoos are nicer than others at making the animal habitats as close to their natural environments as possible.  What makes this experience unpalatable are the actions of the visitors.  I don’t think I could return to Nanning Zoo because this kind of human behavior angers me too much.

Thingamajigs for sale

Thingamajigs for sale

When I pick up my bicycle from the motorbike parking area for a 1 yuan fee, the kind lady attendant, who doesn’t speak a word of English, pats the seat, indicating that it is hot.  She then runs and gets some water and pours it over the seat to cool it off.  She wipes it dry with a cloth, and I’m on my merry way.

The best thing about my trip is my bicycle ride.  Even with all the people, motorbikes and traffic, I love the feel of the wind on my face as I pedal through time and space. Though harrowing, it’s an adventure.  I feel a sense of accomplishment when I push myself out of my comfort zone.  After all, that’s what I’m here for. 🙂

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Categories: Asia, China, Daxue Road, Expat life, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Nanning Zoo | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “bicycle tales & a ride to the nanning zoo

  1. I smiled when you pointed out that we might think the new bike looks just like the old one! That is exactly what I thought. 🙂 Apart from the basket it looks very similar. If everyone is issued with a similar bike, how does everyone know which one is which??
    I agree about how the people are treating the animals in the zoo – I don’t think I would want to go there – we have been so well educated over the years about how to treat animals, that it would be very hard to see this happening.

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    • Haha, that’s so funny, Elaine. Even I had the same thought when I first saw it! But once I rode it and saw how much newer it is and that the brakes work, etc. I knew it was better. Also the seat wasn’t so rusted that it couldn’t be raised. People are actually issued all kinds of bikes; however, many of them do look alike. There are thousands of bikes at parking areas, so you have to remember where you park the bike, and I also remember my lock. It’s very new so I can recognize it. If I ever do forget where I park it, though, I’ll be lost!

      Yes, I wonder if the people just are not educated about how to treat animals in captivity. It’s a mystery to me. But as I don’t care for zoos in general, I probably won’t go back. I think I took my kids when they were little to the Washington Zoo, which is very nice, and I never go back!

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  2. Now you can explore your new world using Catbird power with your new wheels! You’ll be able to cover so much more territory than you could on foot. Go girl!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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    • You’re so right Carol. The bicycle opens up new worlds of possibility. However, I really can’t take it far into the city because it would be too dangerous. If I have to go further afield, I’ll use public transportation (they have a comprehensive bus system) or a taxi. 🙂

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      • I remember in Beijing thinking those people riding bicycles in the heavy city traffic were either incredibly courageous or incredibly foolhardy. I suspect reality was they had no choice. Like you, I would veer toward safety.

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      • I think you’re right, Carol; they have no choice. I have no choice either, unless I want to invest in an e-bike (and that would be too scary) or a car, which I wouldn’t do since I plan to only be here a year. I think I’ll stick close to home with the bike and take the bus or a taxi to go further afield. 🙂

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  3. It’s a strange world you’ve wound up in, Cathy, isn’t it? Zoos are a bit strange anywhere but we’re more used to the ‘nurturing’ kind in the west.
    I loved the bike saga! 🙂 And I might find a use for a thingamyjig?
    Happy days!

    Like

    • It is a very strange world, Jo, but I have to say it’s no stranger than Korea, Nepal, Egypt. Ethiopia or Hanoi. Luckily I’ve traveled enough that I’m not so surprised by things anymore. Of course every culture is different, and Asian cultures are vastly different than our Western culture. This part of China reminds me so often of Hanoi because of the tropical weather and all the motorbikes. And the sheer number of people out and about at all times of day really floors me. I can be sitting in my nice quiet apartment and forget there’s a whole world bustling about right outside my door!

      I’m glad you liked my bike saga. I wish I had some pictures of us taking that bike to Doghole! I’ll send a thingamajig your way! 🙂

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  4. Mmm.. I think I’d be pretty angry visiting that zoo too. I’d be tempted to throw a rock at those kids teasing the camel to see how they like it! And the space those big cats have is dreadful. Your little cuties btw are red pandas. How’s the teaching? This must be your first week – hope it is going well. Not the sort of place I’d want to be in, but I am enjoying reading about it through your eyes, though I suspect it’s not quite what you expected?

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    • Haha, Jude, I might have caused some trouble had I started throwing rocks at the locals. I don’t think they’d take too kindly to a foreigner interfering in their fun. Oh, I didn’t know those were red pandas. They are so cute!!

      The teaching is going well. I’m actually glad to be working finally, and my students are sweet and wonderful. I hope they stay that way. It is certainly an experience, Jude, and one I’m sure I’ll relish, especially when it’s all said and done. I’m taking it one day at a time and trying to keep an open mind. 🙂

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  5. I had to laugh when you explained how you got the bike to where you were getting the bike lock off! I can imagine it was a funny site! 🙂 I would not like going to a zoo where the animals were in small cages, which is why they were pacing! I agree that they should not be fed junk food! Have fun with your adventures on your bike! 🙂

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    • Theresa, I think you would have laughed even harder had you actually seen us taking that bike! I was laughing myself at how ridiculous we looked. I wish I had taken some pictures, but alas, I didn’t think about it and now it’s too late.

      I don’t think I’ll visit the zoo again. It’s great for little children, I guess, as long as they’re not learning these bad habits of feeding the animals, but as an adult, I think my zoo days are over. 🙂

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  6. I could not handle the live food markets in China which is why I ended my trip there after only one day (I fled back to Hong Kong which was not much better). The zoos are not much better than the houses of horrors at the markets in my view, and it is so deeply upsetting to see these great cats in these tiny concrete cages, and the bears look malnourished, which is not surprising as maybe the zoo encourages feeding to save on their own costs to do this.

    This treatment of animals is the sole reason I refuse to consider working there. How they treat animals everywhere is pretty shocking, but my tolerance to not kill stupid ignorant people who throw rocks at them wherever I go is virtually non-existent now. I can only imagine how upsetting this was for you as well to see this.

    My dear friend, I so cherish your blogs but will have a hard time with a few things when you get the markets and start to share those photos especially. I am so excited though to read how you are forging your way there alone, you so are brave and courageous! I am especially interested to know what you will think of the wine that you will eventually try!

    P.S. I think of you every time I take red wine out of the fridge! Such blasphemy normally, but how we coped in the Middle East. Sounds like the same thing will happen in China. Perhaps you will find a store which stocks foreign foods for expats. x

    Like

    • I’m sure you wouldn’t survive long here, Mona Lisa, with all the animals at the markets and the zoo. Of course, you know I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m practically becoming one here, mainly because the meat has all the bones, gristle and fat still in it. That’s why I rarely ate meat in Korea too. I do like the dumplings though, and the vegetables and fruits are good. That being said, my stomach has not really adjusted, and I’m having a lot of problems with general stomach upset.

      As far as wine, I’ve only tried one kind so far, and I can’t remember what it was; it was from Chile. There are some Great Wall wines here which I’ve heard mixed reviews about; I’ll have to try them soon. Mostly I’ve been drinking beer and fruit juices.

      It was fun to drink wine in Oman; it did help us get through, didn’t it? I have so many great memories of Oman, and sometimes think of going back there. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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