The Day I Cycled from Niagara to China: A Wine Tour Tale

From Pigs to Pinot

We’ve decided to do a wine tour in Niagara-on-the-Lake and I’m about to get on a bike for the first time in years.

Memories of being on a bicycle in China come to mind.

Our friends have their hearts set on cycling from winery to winery so with a hint of reluctance, we’ve agreed to it.

Like a child first learning to ride, I wobble and sway and then with an unstoppable smile and a genuine concern for my own safety… I’m off!

Off like the wind, not off in a ditch.

The sun is shining and I’m feeling wild and free because I don’t have to worry about the kids. They’re happy at home, doing crafts and having fun with my parents. And also because, riding a bike feels foreign, refreshing and so does the peacefulness of the nature around us.

Our laughter fills the air.

To the wineries we’ll go…

Jiangmen City, China (2002)

Employed by a Canadian high school, I spend my days teaching English and Drama to Chinese teenagers.

There are others, like me, but not too many of us. Jiangmen isn’t really a destination for tourists and nor would most 20-somethings line up to live there.

There aren’t really any night clubs or nice restaurants to go to. There certainly isn’t much of a dating scene, unless your content sharing a bike with your date and a cage of live chickens. Hardly anyone speaks English and most attempts at speaking Mandarin are met with confused faces that can’t even begin to comprehend what you’re trying to say.

Foreigners stand out in Jiangmen City.

People gawk overtly.

Children point and traffic slows in our presence.

But, other than the stir that’s caused while out and about, life there is pretty simple…

One afternoon, I decide to walk from the school over to a nearby village to buy some bananas and have a look around.

The last time I’d ventured home from the village, I’d come across a slathering, wild pig. He’d blocked the dirt path, not with any evil intent but with his enormous, filthy body. I’d been startled at the time and for a brief moment I’d envisioned him eating me with his giant teeth.

He’d sauntered off, instead…

On this humid afternoon, bananas in hand, I don’t come across any dirty pigs but I am confronted by two sweaty men.

They stand there, in my way, and their intentions are unclear…

They stare.

I force an uncertain grin.

And then, without warning, a woman on a bike rolls up, as if she’s sensed my unspoken need to get the hell out of there.

She looks about my age, hair pulled back in a messy ponytail.

Her knowing eyes meet mine and, in an instant, she moves forward, off of her seat and I hop on.

With my bananas in one hand, I grip the seat tightly with the other.
We wobble and sway and then with an unstoppable smile and little concern for my own safety… we’re off!

Over pot holes and bumps she peddles.

The air is heavy and she’s struggling but this woman is determined to take me home.

Our laughter fills the air.

We arrive at the gates of the school, a dominant structure amidst the smog. Neither of us can understand the other’s words but we speak anyway, knowing what’s being said.

*****************

The wine is going to our heads now as we ride back to the B & B.

It’s been a full day.

Still smiling.

Legs burning.

We’ll get changed and meet our friends at a farm to table restaurant.

I don’t think I’ll order the pork tonight.

I am feeling grateful for the freedom of today, though. Even knowing that the more wine I sip the more likely tomorrow will be an all day sunglasses day.

But hey, everyone deserves to feel wild and free every once in a while and for the memories that have been stirred and made, it’ll be worth it.

This post originally appeared on BLUNTmoms

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