For a long time now I have wanted to ride a bicycle, even if just for fun. Every day I see men using bicycles to transport themselves and some large load–either a couple of long 2 x 4 boards, a propane gas tank, a bag of charcoal, or a bundle of grasses upon their head. I always look out for women riding on a bicycle, and I have seen young girls riding, but it is only once in a blue moon that I have ever seen a grown woman on a bicycle. For a while I wondered if there were any cultural inhibitions keeping women off of these two-wheeled transportation systems, and I still can’t figure it out. I asked men and women Jamaicans if they had ever noticed this phenomenon, and one said that women do ride bicycles here, while the other said that they hadn’t noticed.
Anyway, next door, a second floor is being built on top of the first, and there is a man that comes to work on the house that has an old-time bicycle, the kind that I really love with the handle bars shaped like a “C” and the wide flat seat. Well, when I came home from work this afternoon, I saw that bike and said to myself, “I wonder if the owner wouldn’t mind if I borrowed his bicycle for a bit.” I dismissed the thought, but it came back so I thought that I would ask and see what happened.
As it turned out, he said yes, so I quickly went inside the house and changed my clothes, came back outside, and away I went. True, with the road conditions as they are, with potholes and all, the boys on the basketball court had reason to say “Take time Rachel!”, but I think that the community was so surprised to see a girl on a bicycle, charging forward, that it took them aback. For others, seeing “the white girl” zoom past lifted them out of themselves, even if for a few seconds. I don’t mean this to be presumtious in any way, but as far as I can tell, only a certain class rides on bicycles, and in their minds, a white person didn’t fit into that group.
Also, as mentioned before, bikes are usually used to get from point A to point B, and not for recreational purposes (excluding children), so again, this ride didn’t fit into their expectations. I got a lot of smiles and surprised looks, but I think it could be a good thing for the community to see that bicycles are not just for men and not just for work, but can also be fun.
I rode for the pure joy and fun of it, and it was great. I did a figure 8 through the whole community, and surprised myself how fast I could encircle the town. I passed all sorts of pedestrians and other bicycle riders, but none had a destination as I had mine, or so it seemed, because I passed everyone on the street. I guess people even amble along, even on a bicycle. They all asked me, “Why you ride so fast?” and “I didn’t know you were such a bicycle rider”, and I responded “Because I love to go fast!”, and “Yes, I have always had a bicycle, and I love to ride.” The next thing: Call Peace Corps office tomarrow and ask if there are any bicycles left which I could use.