Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Biking in Colombo

So first, I'd just like to mention that the temperature has been in the mid-80's lately. I know this doesn't sound very hot, but for some reason it is. I realize you guys have 99% humidity, and much higher temperatures, but it feels hotter here. And thus, I drip sweat while I bike. I've taken to tying a handkerchief to my wrist to try and sop it up.

Anyway, I love my bike. Everything is wonderful except I do have to get use to the seat. I spent all day Sunday and about 2.5 hours last night riding and my butt hurts. I'm sure I'll develop calluses soon and this will not continue to be a problem.

Biking here, in my opinion, is much easier than in the States. See, because everyone is a bad driver, all the cars are on super alert, which means they are looking out for everyone, including cyclists. Plus, I'm a white woman on a bike (now that I write it I realize I've never seen a woman on a bike here), so people tend to slow down to stare as they drive by. Particularly tuk drivers; I think they realize I've found a way to not pay them. Ha. The only problem is when you come to an intersection as people do not look they just drive out into traffic. The theory is that if you look the other cars know you saw them and expect you to wait, but if you just pull out on them, they will stop and let you in. This actually works, but I'm not used to this system, so I don't really want to let these cars in. And of course, they make the mistake of looking at me, so I usually get by without being cut off.

The other problem is at night when the men on the street seem to think all Western woman are interested in them. This is rather irritating. Most of it is just verbal and since I'm on a bike and they are standing on the side of the road, I'm safe. But once last night coming home from bowling (going away party for Felicity) a motorcycle with two boys on it tried to run me off the road. I think I scared them as I yelled some rather not nice things and they turned off at the next intersection.

I will say, despite my experience Saturday, the cops have been very nice. During rush hour they pretend to be directing traffic at the busier intersection (much like in DC) and generally they try to stop traffic so I can get through.

Oh, and as they drive on the left here, all the intersections are circles. I'm going to be a master at circle biking by the time I leave.

In case you are wondering I do have lights on my bike (bought them Sunday), but I cannot find a helmet. I think that if I had one drivers wouldn't be as careful, so I'm happy to not use one. Besides, I always denied this was the case in the U.S., but it is much cooler biking without one. I biked my whole childhood without one, I'm sure a couple of years in Sri Lanka will be o.k.

Sunday we were supposed to go to what I'm now calling "expat jazz," but I didn't go in the end. I sat with Felicity and Amitha at the Commons (coffee shop) for about four hours reading old celebrity rags. It was pretty funny considering I don't read these things in the States and they were all from Australia. Then when we finally motivated to go to jazz, it was too late for me. Even though I had bought lights for my bike, I didn't have batteries and I didn't really want to ride home in the dark without them. I am the only bike on the road with lights, but it makes me feel safer. Especially since I live so far out and there are some spots where there are no street lights.

So tonight I am going to the British Council for a lecture on climate change. I'm taking bets: who thinks I'll be the only person to bike there?

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