China Research

Bicycles and Elevators… Who knew?

Bicycles, the main mode of transportation in Xiamen, and I can officially say that I have experienced it. It was relatively nice evening when we decided to go for a bike ride along the beach. The trail, if it can even be called a trail, was known as “HuanDaoLu” which literally translates to “Road Around Island”. Getting started was one of the easier parts of this adventure. My lab mates called a few friends; we got keys to their bikes and then picked the bikes we were comfortable riding. All the bikes can be described as “falling apart” but still functional. One bike’s wheel was bent making it feel like you were riding a horse instead of a bike. The chain of another was constantly falling off and one didn’t have functional brakes. I think I was the luckiest one out of all the people who went as my bike was only rusty and had loose handle bars which creaked with every turn.

Once we got on the road, things got a little bit trickier. We biked through the campus, and watched a group of guys turn the outside of an auditorium into a skate park. How they manage to have fun while not crashing into people walking to and from class or getting hit by delivery trucks, I will not ever understand. But they made it work and had a lot of fun showing off to the girls watching. To get out of campus, we took a tunnel that led to the male dormitories (female dormitories are on campus, while males are off campus). Most of the tunnel wall was covered in graffiti and filled with memories from graduated previous graduating classes. The culture that the walls illustrated was one of a globalization. There were French words, traditional Chinese poems and even renditions of famous western paintings. Everywhere you look there would be something you failed to notice before. However, most of my lab mates are afraid of walking through the tunnel at night. This could be due to the graffiti as well because you would never know where there would suddenly be a painting staring at you while you walked home at night.

The next interesting event was when we hit the road by the beach. If you had to draw a comparison, biking along that road would be similar to trying to thread a needle with yarn. There were so many cars, bikes and people all trying to get to where they needed to go in a lane that could barely fit two cars. Over the entire trip, I personally almost hit 3 children and 2 adults and nearly got hit by 2 cars. Being one of the most convenient and popular modes of transportation, my personally experience with bicycles here would say that it is also one of the most dangerous.

Elevators are also used frequently here instead of stairs. Thus, the question of the day was, “If you were stuck in an elevator, what would you do?” Today I got stuck in an elevator and I have to say it was the most fun I’ve had all week. We weren’t stuck in the elevator for very long but it was dark and it got stuffy relatively quickly. I now understand why people are claustrophobic and afraid of the dark. But, the story should not be of us in the elevator but rather of us getting out of the elevator. We somehow managed to get in contact with the security guard but not in contact with the emergency numbers in the elevator. Furthermore, we were stuck on the 5th floor and for some reason, the guy with us decided to push the doors a little. This prompted the doors to open and we walked out of the elevator without help from anyone on the outside within 10 minutes of getting stuck. What an interesting turn of events.