Something had felt very good the previous day. The feeling had begun in my feet and worked its way up my legs to the rest of my body. I wanted to feel it again, so today I was out once more. Today’s purpose: to find a local bicycle shop, which could supply me with the necessities: pump, helmet, puncture repair, speedo, and so on.
Baidu maps told me there was one a couple of kilometres to the west. Even though this neighbourhood was a few minutes from my apartment, I had never been here. The street along which I walked was Wanquanzhuang, literally ‘Ten thousand springs village’. I was enthralled, for I had happened upon a local area in the western parts of Beijing. Here people were buying fresh vegetables, children were attending a brand new school, dentists advertised their wares, especially ‘St. Pearl Dental Club’ (a valiant effort to translate untranslatable Chinese), and English language teachers plied their trade.
Seeking a toilet, I had entered a building and was directed to the fifth floor. Relieved, I emerged and was surrounded by half a dozen people. Had I done something wrong? ‘May I ask you a few questions?’ said one. Puzzled, I agreed. ‘Where are you from?’ he said. ‘Australia! Would you like to teach English?’ I smiled and said I was busy enough. They had their own curriculum, which I would simply need to follow. I could even work part-time, if that suited me best. Ah no, I had other things to do in my life.
Such as find the bicycle shop. Find one I did, but it was a foreign brand shop that sold a limited range of items. A good helmet I did find, as well as a somewhat pricey speedometer, but I would need more. Head home? Another shop was some four kilometres away. Why not? My feet were enjoying the quiet massage of being in motion, the ache in my right leg from sitting too long had well and truly passed.
Back alleys, local neighbourhoods, small shopping strips were my fare for most of the walk, which wound its way southward to a massive intersection on the third ring road. On one of the long curving exit roads, the second shop appeared. Now this was my kind of bicycle shop! Pumps and mirrors and puncture kits and spare parts galore. I found all I wanted, coughed up the ‘money’ (via Alipay) and planned my return route. Up Suzhou street from far further south than I had ever been on foot.
By the time I returned home, I had walked about 12 kilometres. Tired and hungry I might have been, but over a beer I finally realised I had a major purpose for the walks: I would explore Beijing on foot, mapping the city into my bodily memory.