The time has come that I need to extend my ability to use other means of transportation, that being the metro or my legs (and taxi but that is unavoidable most of the time). I know can put two other methods on the list of getting around GZ: bike and bus. Those probably sound so insignificant to most people living in Australia and America, but, and this is a big but, transportation works differently here.
The hierarchy is not the same as Melbourne or Seattle, and while those avid cyclists in Melbourne do have their fair share of run-ins with taxis or cars, here things runs differently. Here is how it goes: Truck, Van, bus (anything LARGE) has right-of-way, then a car, and a motorised bike (so many and they all have pedals and I don’t know why) and then a normal bicycle then people. As a pedestrian here, you have no right-of-way, no rights in fact, to be be using any street, pathway or footbridge it seems if there is something with wheels travelling on it as well. Always get out of the way. Always look both way, twice. Doesn’t matter what country you come from (left or right hand drivers), look each and every way. Bikes will not stop at red lights or pedestrian crossing with a green light (cars don’t as well sometimes). Organised chaos rules the street around here and a bike can as easily run you down as run into a motor vehicle. Vigilance is key. But now I am making it sound like cycling is the best means of transportation, it is not. Bikes have bells and they are used a lot…not adhered to much, just used very often. While it sounds like people will always get out of the way because they are at the bottom of the travel ladder, most will not. As you cycle down a shared pathway-SHARED being the key word-all people and pets will wander into your line of travel, casually ignoring the bell you are desperately ringing to warn them a bike is coming and does not want to stop so it would be so beneficial if they stepped a foot to the right. Or left. Doesn’t matter. Just move. But they don’t and they will slowly turn around, see you there and then drift to one side or the other, you never know so you don’t really know which way to start steering the bike. At times this causes the amateur cyclist in GZ to squeeze the brakes and narrowly miss a 90 year old man out for his morning stroll (and he is most likely in better shape than said cyclist). An expert cyclist (also 90 years old) will casually brush past these walkers and maybe even give them a bump with ah handle bar. This is how China cycling (and life in general) operates.
So this big long explanation is from personal experience, obviously. Our Cycle Canton Tour last week proved difficult for beginner cyclists but we had experienced hands on deck and learned a little bit on how to navigate through GZ. My cycling adventures did not end there however.
The guide on our tour was Ben. Ben is from San Fran, been here for the past 5 years and works at a school for physically disabled young adults, GETCH. From our tour guide I learned that GETCH focuses on English language training while addressing other educational tools to assist these young Chinese adults in finding employment using these skills. I don’t think I could find a more rewarding and beneficial way to spend my English Teacher trained time. Ben invited me to visit the school on Monday and what better way to get there than on bikes. So I had another day of cycling Canton along the river and getting yet another tour of the city. The visit was quick but I think I know where my time will be spent in the coming three years. I am looking forward to getting to know the students and programs and do whatever I can to further their education in learning English and finding their perfect fit in the workforce.
My other exploration of transport was the bus system. Buses can be daunting even in your home country, or even a country where English is the primary language. But here not only do I not know what the light up sign on the front of the bus says, I have no clue what stop I need to request. Both of those things are remedied by 1) numbers on the front of the bus, and 2) the fact that the buses stop at every station. I suppose because there are so many people in GZ, that every station, or stop, has people queued up to get on buses. The buses here also have a lot less seats (as do the metro) so there is a lot of standing. Never expect to get a seat on a bus or metro. Strong legs are key here (for many reasons). The bus was a success and I think I can do it again. Only that bus and only to that stop, for now.