Holy cow, my mind is blown, yet again, by the efficiency of this place. Yesterday I tried to ask my neighbors, the people who work in the security booth at my apartment building, where a nearby bicycle shop is because I'd like to buy a cheap bike. I'm not sure exactly what they said back to me, but I thought they said the Chinese words "tomorrow" and "1 o'clock", which I thought meant one of two things, 1) at 1pm they would show me a used bike in the building next door because that's where they kept pointing, or 2) at 1pm they would somehow show me how to get to a nearby bike shop, so I said "Ok, tomorrow, thanks" in Chinese.
So today I went downstairs to the security booth at 1:03pm and the man called up to his wife in the apartment above the booth (I guess she's his wife) to keep watch, and then he motioned for me to hop on his electric scooter with him. Alrighty then! So I hopped on and off we went.
I had no clue where we were going, but I was hoping it was a bike shop. I had looked up the word for "bicycle shop" yesterday and was hoping they understood what I was looking to do, because my pronunciation is so terrible. We arrived at a little bicycle shop a couple of miles from where I live. They showed me the bikes in the 1,700 kuai range but I said I would like something around 500 kuai, which is about $80 US dollars.
Yesterday my coworker and I went to the large Carrefour to look at bikes, so I had a rough idea of the quality to expect for this price range. I didn't end up getting one there because all they had were women's bikes, and of course being the gigantoid human that I am, I need a men's bike with an extra long seat pole, at least by Chinese standards.
So anyway, the bike man shows me the bikes in the 500 kuai range and I was surprised at how much better of a bike you can get there versus the Carrefour, because my coworkers had told me otherwise; i.e. that I was likely to get a better deal at the big shopping center. I was expecting to get a cheapy beach cruiser style of bike, but this little shop had full on mountain bikes with gears and nice tires and full suspension, WHA!? The guy told me it would cost 550 kaui and my neighbor man gave him a stern look and said "No, 500!" and that was that. Thank you neighbor man! They also threw in a bike lock.
Oh, and the best part? I was back in my apartment by 1:44pm, a whopping 41 minutes!! That included waiting for the wife to come down to keep watch, the scooter ride over to the shop, the actual shopping and test riding the bikes, the jimmying with the seat over and over to get it to the highest height, the wrenching of all the bolts to make sure the bike was put together properly, airing up the tires, mounting my bike lock to the frame, paying for the bike, riding it home, thanking my neighbor man profusely and trying to conjure up the words for "how can I ever repay your kindness" and failing, and him waving me away and telling me in Chinese "go take a nap!" and then maneuvering my bike into and up the elevator and into my apartment. WHEW! 41 minutes!!!
Now, as with most things here, I'm told the quality of products isn't so great, so I should probably expect this bike to fall apart quicker than other bikes I've had in the past. But the upside, as I'm learning, is that it's super quick and easy to find someone who can fix just about anything, and fix it darn fast and cheap.
So now I'm all set to explore my new home on my new wheels. I can now venture out farther than walking distance, hooray! Tomorrow at work (we have to work this Saturday due to the May Day Holiday; we get off Sunday, Monday, Tuesday instead) I plan to ask my English-speaking coworkers who know Chinese and have lived here for years, what is the best way to thank someone for this kind of favor. The neighbor man totally went out of his way to help me, and I really want to show him a huge thank you. But I don't dare try to do it uninformed, because I'm finding that it's very easy to offend people accidentally or make them "lose face" so I want to be extra sure I'm showing the proper thank you.