Monday, May 10, 2010

Just Like Riding a Bike

Some things you never forget. Or so they say.

Back in 1973 when daughter Amy wasn't even yet walking, I didn't think twice about transporting her all over my neighborhood in San Diego...on the back of my bike. I had riden a bike all my life. Nothing to it. Once you 'got' it, it became old hat.

When we moved to Atlanta in 1987, all those cities and states and years later, it was a different story. It wasn't the riding-of-bikes part. It was the city. All spread out, hilly, and without connecting side streets to get from here to there easily. Bottom line, it wasn't a bike-friendly city. Still isn't.

Which is why I haven't had or riden a bike in YEARS...until now, in Holland. My first 5 months here (can you believe I just celebrated that milestone!) I walked everywhere. Anything I needed I could walk to. Plenty of exercise and I loved it.

However, now I'm getting ready to start a year's worth of school (next post) and because time will be a commodity, having a bike is important.

Thanks to Astrid never getting rid of her old bike from 22 years ago, I now have a new companion with 3 gears. (Yes, I'll have to come up with a name for her. Wanna help me?) Astrid's newer, 10-year-old bike has 24 gears, everyone of which she uses. She initially insisted that I use her bike and she'd use this older one. But I won the argument. How in the world could I ever figure out 24 gears, let alone use them! Three are more than enough for my almost 65-year-old body. I convinced her.

By now I have had 3 dry runs to Da Vinci College 15 minutes away by bike. But here's the thing: it's NOT like just riding a bike! That part is, of course...the actual riding. But riding a bike in Holland is NOT like riding a bike in the States. Maybe in NYC? I don't know. Nor is it Amsterdam. But in a country that has more bikes per capita than any other country, it'll be pure craziness for me during rush-hour traffic...bikes and cars alike. The night before my second dry run, alone, without Astrid, I thought I'd have nightmares. The space in between the parked cars on the right and the cars passing on the left freaked me out.

I'm glad to say I've become a lot more relaxed about it all, though still alert, and picture putting my new friend back into her parking space (inside our senior-living complex, under cover) each day I come back from school. She's a bit of an old-fogey like me, but her gears work just fine and she seems to know what she's doing.

HA! Did I ever believe I'd go back to school again. I mean the kind of school that has exams! I start a week from today, Monday, and will go for a year. But as I said, that's my next post, when I'll be writing about the venture for my Vision & Verb turn.

Till then, wish me some more dry runs and lots of confidence...till it's all just like riding a bike!


  1. Good Luck Ginnie!!!! Have lots of fun learning Dutch!

  2. Oh, Ginnie! I'm not the least bit worried. The confidence of riding that bike in traffic will come really fast, you'll see. Have fun learning Dutch :)

  3. What a great bit of symbolism, Ginnie! School will, I do hope for you, be like riding a bike. You'll find your balance quickly, and the more you do it, the easier the routine will become.
    You have such courage. Flat out bravery. I know of whence I speak,, because I have been an immigrant too, but I had my first immigrant experience at a much younger, easier age.

    There may be times when you are overwhelmed by the sheer hard work of learning Dutch, and the frustration of not being able to say exactly what you want. Of not being able to express your sense of humour in another tongue. But it will come, and you have the great good fortune to be living in a country where, if you wish, you can fall back on English. I have only ever met one Dutch person among all the ex-pats in the south of France who did not speak English. They do multi-lingualism so well.

    Everything gets easier once you are accustomed to it. I looked at the photo of you on that bike, looking so fit, happy, and eager, and I am full of admiration for you. Ain't no moss growing on you, girl.

  4. Hi i found your blog, i will link it to mine if you dont mind? So i can write the next time in Dutch :-)

  5. T1: I do hope it will be fun, Kim. Having a wife at home who is eager to help me will probably be the most fun of it all! :)

    CS: Astrid just showed me another way to get to school during rush hour that has more bike lanes and wider roads, so I will go to school that way. I can come home the other way because it's not as busy during my time to ride. So I'm getting more and more confident. Thanks for your encouragement!

    Deborah: My mom, we'd say, was a prefessional student, loving the ethos of every campus on which she walked (with 8 kids, there were many!). I think some of that excitement rubbed off on me, so I expect lots of déjà vu.

    I'm glad you know what I'm experiencing. It's so important to me to NOT be the "ugly American" who doesn't integrate into the language and society. Don't even get me started! I know I can always fall back on English, but I hate to do so. I often tell Astrid it's not fair that I can't speak her language as well as she speaks mine. But then, she reminds me that she has been speaking English since school days years ago. In that regard she will always be ahead of me!

    Your encouragement means the world to me...meer dan je weet! :) Thank you.

    Yogi: Oh, how fun! And yes, you can write in Dutch anytime you want, since that is the way I will learn. Hartstikke bedankt, Yolanda. :)

  6. I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am of you. As one who also learned a foreign language in a foreign country, I feel your excitement and concerns. We used the State department tapes and books, and had a language tutor come to the house, so it was not as intense as the classes you'll attend. I'm guessing you will have very quick acquisition. For one thing you've already been working at it so hard! And your spouse is a native speaker - brilliant. It tickles me to no end.

    As for the bike part, wow, that photo of you and Amy just sent me back! I remember when we got photos of you from SD (me in high school), and I got so excited. So this one is imprinted on my memory, and I just groaned with joy when I saw it. I'm a little worried about your bike rides too. But you are so fit and quick, I know you'll do fine. I'm glad you're already feeling more relaxed about it.

    I'll be thinking of you when I see bike riders in NYC this week. :)

  7. It's so exciting to see the photos and yes it will be new and different and a bunch of nerves to start. I love it though! I love biking in bike friendly countries!

  8. I'd love to go for a bike ride but, for one thing, it's cold and rainy here, and for a second thing, I recently had a tenant in my basement (trying to be kind and help out a friend) and he turned out to be a piece of s**t and I had to evict him, so when he left he stole my bike! However, I'd love to see him riding it down the street as it's a 10 yr old ladies PINK bike... ha! bet he'd look really cute riding that!
    Good luck on your biking to and from school, and good luck in learning Dutch.

  9. Ruth: Isn't it fun to remember those days from long ago. I can't imagine Amy being so young, except through the photos. I do know I had so much fun taking her everywhere on my bike. Yes, you know what I'll be going through, so thanks for your vote of confidence. A year from now I will definitely be speaking and writing more Dutch, and that's the point!

    ET: I will soon become one of the crowd, and that'll be fun. Already I feel like I've gotten the hang of it. Thanks for sharing my excitement.

    Sham: Believe it or not, the bike in that first image with Amy was also stolen. Bill and I had matching bikes and we are sure the kids who lived across the street from us stole them (along with some other things). We could never prove it, though. So sorry to hear when others go through similar s**t. It happens. Sigh. Thanks for standing behind me all the way.

  10. Ik ben heel erg trots op jou, op de fiets naar school om Nederlands te leren.
    I am so proud of you, on the bike to school learning Dutch....
    I am glad that I kept the old bike, it brought me to all kind of places.
    I already could see the second time I rode with you that you are more confident and that will grow.
    A few days before you start school, you know that I always will support you and I start speaking Dutch to you more often.
    It will be so much fun en ik bewonder je om jouw moed.
    (I admire your courage)

  11. We just came back from our week in Baltimore. That plus the trip to Tennessee I was not able to read all my blogging friends’ posts and when I came back I had over 800 posts to read – I was down to 485 posts last night but this morning it’s back up to 515 since some of them write a post a day. I wished to write one on my mother today since she would have been 100 (born 5/12/1910) but I would not do it justice, so I shall do one for Mother’s Day (French Mother’s Day is 30th May.)
    Don’t you wear a bicycle helmet when you ride Ginnie? You should – just for safety, like wearing a seat belt in a car. I had my first bicycle when I was about 5. My father hired a teenager in the country to teach me. You know when I went to France last November I met him again. He rode with his bicycle near my cousin and I then he stopped. I did not know who he was and he said: “don’t you remember me? I taught you how to ride a bike” so I said “bien sur” (of course) a little white lie. I have a bicycle here but it has been hanging in the garage for decades unfortunately. In Copenhagen, during the rush hour downtown there were not too many cars, but bicycles galore, with ladies in business suits, and men too. You’ll have a great time at school and meet some new friends I am sure.

  12. Seeing you on bike now and then is really fantastic.
    You never forget how to ride and handle a bike.
    I do understand you very well, when talking about a Bike as a means of transporation.
    It is uttermost comfy when riding in a flat terrain and free from dangerous trafic.
    Holland is perfect for cykling; for people using Bikes going from A to B.
    In the local area.
    Where and when I was born right after WW2, most people and kids in the lower part of Oslo used Bikes as well. But I find nowadays its to much Trafic and hilly, so our Bikes are history.

    We went once whith our to first Sons on a bike-vacatin in Denmark; went like you did in San Diego:
    Hence the name of your Bike is hereby:
    Good memories

  13. My first thought was you were going to write about how wearing helmets was not fashionable when Amy was a baby. So many things we lived through that have changed now for safety reasons.

    Best of luck in school. It really is like riding a bike, I can tell you from experience. You will do great!

  14. Hello Ginnie,
    This post made me smile :)
    Remember our bike ride in Amsterdam a few years ago? I even have some blurry photos of you riding the bike.

    Nothing more fun then riding a bike!

    I even started a little business over here in the UK by selling the typical dutch bicycles to the "Brits"
    I can see that you are doing very well in Holland and wish you and Astrid all the best!


  15. Astrid: So much of who you are and what you have has become mine/ours, and in that is the treasure of you. Hartstikke bedankt. By now riding the bike is old hat, but I still Pas Op and make sure I'm staying alert. :)

    Vagabonde: You are such a world traveler still, Woman! I WISH it were a law to wear helmets here but it isn't...not yet. Astrid wishes it were, too. For now, I do NOT have a helmet but I'm sure I'd feel safer if I did. We did put a mirror on my bike so I can see if/when someone is coming to pass me. That helps. Atlanta is not a bike-friendly city, sad to say. Too bad for everyone. It would save so much gas.

    Tor: You NEVER forget how to ride a bike, right! And I love your name for my bike: Diego. Hmmm. What a sweet story.

    Susan: I wish it were a law to wear helmets here because with so much traffic, you need them all that much more. DUH. Thanks for your encouragement and vote of confidence. That means the world to me.

    Petra: Wow! A voice from the past. How fun to see you here...and yes, I'll NEVER forget our bike ride in AMS and how we ended up doing more talking than riding. And as we say, the rest is history. :)