Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

An American woman alone in Canton, China

"Iím 63 years old and wear a hearing aid, but I peddled 63 miles on my birthday. Would I qualify for the China bike trip?" The young trip leader laughed and said, "Yes, Iíve just signed up an 84-year-old man from New Orleans."

The 11-day trip from San Francisco, including everything except camera supplies, cost approximately $3,000. There were four young men from California, a young couple, a plumber and his wife, a Chicago lawyer - 16 bicyclists total. Male and female interpreters were available day and night. Our longest bike ride was 53 miles on a drizzly day. I didnít know that a woman in our group was "drafting" - with her front wheel too close to my bike. The bike lane suddenly ended, and I had to make an unexpected left turn. The woman drafting knocked my bike from under me, and we both went down. She got up and peddled away. I realized that nothing would stick on wet skin! I straightened handlebars, saddle and front wheel and was soon on my way, muddy and lightly bleeding. Every Chinese person I met stared, horrified and sympathetic. I often recall those concerned faces!

Trip insurance required a doctorís report, so the next day interpreters and I walked to an ancient building called "Hospital." The doctor wrote a long report in old-time Chinese characters. Someone paid 35 cents for three envelopes of pills, and then I was permitted to stay downtown alone. The interpreter wrote our hotelís name and address on the bag in which I carried camera, film and flash. I was quite comfortable to be alone on the streets and in the small shops with roll-up front walls.

The streets were filled at noontime with people eating white rice with chop sticks. Huge metal containers steamed with the cooking rice inside. I never saw anyone pay for rice - and I was determined to eat nothing from street vendors, but I had tourist money and native money and could buy. A woman sitting flat on the sidewalk sold me some dirty Chinese china cups, saucers and rice dishes - exactly like some I had paid well for in touristsí money earlier.

Cups were tied through the handles, and shallow rice dishes were stacked; all of it was filthy from the street dust from trucks loaded with workers headed for factories. She would accept a little money, but not much.

I was fascinated by an unusual basket that was thick with years of street dirt hanging high above a sidewalk in front of a dentistís office. The dentist, in white shorts and shirt, left his patient to get the basket down and wash it thoroughly - and he wouldnít accept either kind of money! He made it clear that I was to have it, to take it to America, and he went to his bike and removed the black crocheted piece.

A few pigs were running loose on the street, and one was asleep on a pile of damp sand. An occasional old 1930 truck passed, loaded with workmen standing inside stock racks on their way to work in factories.

Click here to return to the index

 Subscribe in your RSS reader

Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.