[Photo taken at The Great Wall of China, Feb 2016 - reminding me what blue skies look like]
Today I’m afraid, this isn’t the most exciting blog post (I apologise for that now), and it isn’t directly linked to the Prompt-a-day, although it could I guess [ Simplicity], but after doing some more packing, watching a number of films while marooned on the sofa, I still felt good about my bike ride through the storm, so wanted to make note of it…
Here in Suzhou it is hot, muggy but somehow dull and bright all at the same time. Makes no sense right? After going for brunch with Leah at the lovely Miss Pancake this morning, binge watching some New Girl and Game of Thrones, it was finally time for me to get on my bike, literally, ride to school, and test the 5k route that the geography teacher had made up for the Race for Life event tomorrow. I put on my exercise leggings and a vest top ready to tackle the heat, and made my way out of the apartment complex all prepped with water, music, and map. I made it two streets over and that was when I felt the first little spittle of rain fall down from the grey sky above, and land on my bare arm. I sat waiting for the stagnant red man to flicker to green, and considered my choices.
- I could turn back, avoid the rain, and get back on the sofa not having completed my mission
- I could continue on a little further and see if the light patchy rain was all it was going to be, and maybe see if it stops
I chose the latter. I’ve not exactly been that active the past few days, and as it was still warm, I decided to continue on, and see if the rain holds off. Roughly 15-20 minutes later I arrived on the street of the school and stopped to check the map. Maps and roads did not seem to add up, and as most of the map was either in Chinese, or missing street names, I was a little stuck. So far the rain had either stopped, or kept to a very light, barely there drizzle, so I continued on my bike ride in hope of finding the 5k route somewhere along the way. Cycling down a deserted road [still in the bike lane, safety first and all that], one head phone in listening to my ultimate, very mixed and random playlist, I heard, and felt, the strong rumble of thunder crack down from above me. I stopped, looked up at the sky, and then the rain started to fall. Still lightly at first, but this is where I decided to head back home rather than pursue my search for the mythical 5k route. The thunder continued, the lighting came, and my god did the heavens open and, I’m sure, set out to drown me. Still in my leggings, vest top and converse, I continued in the downpour heading back the way I came. I passed a number of panicked E-Bike riders quickly putting on their large rain covers so they could also continue on their way back to their homes. I actually did have a raincoat with me, but due to the heat, I decided it would be more beneficial to use it as a covering for my bag (and Subway sandwich) in my basket, as, as many people keep reminding me and my generation, ‘skin is waterproof’.
The further I rode, the harder the rain came down. It got to the point where everyone else riding or walking stopped to take cover, abandoning their journeys. I was getting a lot of different looks from everyone I passed; “crazy white woman”, “you go girl”, but, honestly, the main look was: “oh my god what are you doing?!” It reminded me of Venice. (Quite apt as Suzhou is named Venice of the East). In 2014 when Hannah, Soph and me ventured into Europe on our little Interrail trip we were very fortunate with the weather, all the way up until the last few days, in Venice. The square flooded, the water was getting worryingly high in the canals, and we, just like me today, were the last ones continuing out adventure in the rain while everyone else stopped and waited for the worst of it to pass.
I carried on like this all the way home, knowing there was no point in stopping, so I just made sure my phone, purse, and iPod were safe from the rain, and enjoyed my music, literally singing in the rain, as the Gods commanded the rain to pour even harder, and the thunder to crack even louder. It was amazing. I often look at the rain and think how much I would enjoy to go for a walk and enjoy the weather (you can tell I’m from Wales), but walking in the cold rain is never as fun as it looks. But here, where it was still hot, sweaty, and humid while the rain hammers down, it was different. It was actually enjoyable, yes a little awkward and uncomfortable at times, I literally had to just accept it, and let the water run down my face and soak my clothes. I wasn’t concerned about my mascara running, I wasn’t worried about my clothes getting ruined, I didn’t care what I looked like. I was just enjoying the very simple, and free, pleasure of going for a bike ride in the rain. The only issue I did have was that my hair started to run. And I mean that as in, I dyed it yesterday, so thanks to the rain, I had blue and red dripping down my face and neck, which was a bit of a concern I must admit…
By the time I made it back to Block 7 of Time City, Phase 2 apartment complex, I looked like I’d stood in the shower, fully clothed, for at least 5 minutes. My fingers had even gone wrinkly from the rain! Once out of the downpour, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. After such an unexpected, odd and weirdly uplifting ride in the rain, I was back in the dry, heading back up to the apartment. I don’t really know how one small and such a simple thing can have such an effect on my mood and outlook of the day. I guess it really is the simple things in life that make the difference.
Yesterday, instead of heading home right away from the hairdressers, I stopped by the lake, watched a few happy couples and little families go by enjoying the sunshine, and decided to enjoy it myself. I knew I had things to do back home (does packing ever end?) but as this is my last weekend (possibly ever) in Suzhou, I decided to enjoy the simplicity of sitting on a step near Jinji Lake, book in hand, and the sound of lapping water as my only playlist. I may have only sat there reading for about 40 minutes, but, again, that seemed to make all the difference to my day. Just taking that time to be on my own out and about, but in my own little bubble, makes me feel so much more content. Maybe I should try and start fitting that into my daily life? 40 minutes to be by myself, but not in work, not in the apartment, somewhere else… Whether it be: in a café, at the park, or by the lake; just a change of scenery. That will be one of my aims and things to ensure I do next year, Foshan or South Wales. I think with either position, I’ll need it.
Isn’t it funny that when you’re in the school system, student, teacher, or whatever else, your year starts in September, you barely even acknowledge January 1st as a new start, it’s all about September, the new academic year. There’s going to be a lot of changes for me this coming new academic year. However all this pans out, I’ll be living somewhere completely new, on my own, making a new life for myself, and taking on new challenges. I know I’ve said this before, but I’m so ready for it. I’m so excited for the struggle, the challenge, and the new adventure. (My interview is on Thursday for the Trainee Medical Photographer position in South Wales; they’ve been kind enough to accept my interview and portfolio online, so fingers crossed.)
Anyway, how to end this long, rambling, not very exciting or philosophical post? Perhaps with a quote, another one I found a while ago in the great vastness that is the internet…
“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”