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Tuesday, July 10:  Now that FrizzText, who used to challenge us with the A-Z archive photo challenge, has gone through the entire alphabet, he is now challenging us to come up with a story or brief reflection about something from each letter of the alphabet.  Last week, for the letter “A,” I linked up to his challenge a story about Andong, South Korea, from my catbird in korea blog: andong and the hotel california.  To join in, see FrizzText’s Story Challenge: Letter B.

This week, I have just a few things to say about bicycles.

I like the old-fashioned kind, the kind with shiny metal fenders, a kickstand and a basket attached to the front handlebars. I have a memory of riding my bicycle with no hands and my eyes closed, trying to be a daredevil, and falling down, of course.  A rock lodged in my knee and, scraped and bloodied, I sat in the bathroom crying as my mother pried the rock out. I still have that scar.

shiny, old-fashioned bicycles at rest in Kyoto

As a child, I loved the feel of the wind in my hair, the recklessness of speeding downhill on my bicycle.

bicycling down the street in Varanasi, India

I rode an old-fashioned bicycle in Kyoto, Japan with a Korean girl baker. These are sturdy old-fashioned bicycles with baskets and no adjustable gears, the kind I rode when I was a girl.  Everyone seems to ride these kinds of bikes in Kyoto. Compact and well-dressed Japanese people pedal around on them, looking unhurried and day-dreamy, creating a simple Japanese-style Norman Rockwell-like ambiance that makes me feel a nostalgic fondness for the days when life was full of straightforward and uncomplicated pleasures.

Me with JiYoung, the Korean bakery girl, getting ready to ride our bicycles in Kyoto

Whenever I see a bicycle parked anywhere, I hesitate, struck by its utility and its romance. In China, there were bicycles aplenty, and I loved them all, as much as you can love something that can’t love you back.

bicycles at Houhai Lake, Beijing, China

And in Oman, I see the lone bicycle, parked alongside a struggling business, the sole means of transport for some poor Pakistani or Indian.

a lone bicycle brings this businessman to work near Nizwa souq

bicycles at Nizwa souq

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