In Korean culture, couples usually get money instead of gifts from wedding guests. There are exceptions, (a few of our friends gave us gifts) but my mom was very adamant that she wanted to buy us a gift. We thought about it for a while, but couldn’t decide. We wanted something practical, useful, and something that we could use together, but our house is fully furnished and we have almost everything we need.
However, spring time came and we wanted to enjoy the nice weather, and decided that bicycles could be the perfect solution. We could use them to exercise, enjoy the beautiful bike paths that are built along the riverbanks, and we even thought our kitty Leo would love to take rides with us.
He has a car for work, but now that I’m home by myself more often, I needed a way to get to the store and back more quickly, and a bike would help me do that. My mom loved the idea when we told her. “It will give you way more freedom!” she said, and she’s right. Now, I can get to the grocery store without walking 30 minutes or waiting for the bus. My workplace is also not far by bicycle, which gives me more options.
My husband had his reservations, though. We don’t live in an apartment, so we don’t have a designated place for bikes outside our building. Also, our elevator is small, and getting even one bike in there takes some work. He also pointed out that our city offers free bikes you can rent, but in Japan, I got so used to owning a bike that I didn’t want to deal with renting one every time I needed to use one.
In the end, though, we decided that it was a great thing to ask for as a wedding present, as long as we got good use out of them, so we went to a bike shop and picked two out. They are similar in style, and they are both mint green! We got the bikes delivered to our house the next day, but it was raining a lot, so we decided to wait until it cleared up to take them for a ride.
It was a bit of a hassle getting them in and out of the elevator. I found an easy way to get mine up to our floor, and since I’m the one who will be using my bike the most, I’m not too worried about the other one being slightly harder to get in and out.
Leo is a big crybaby whenever he’s not sitting in our laps, so Junkyu put him in his basket for our first ride. He really loves riding in the car, and he liked riding bikes with us, too. Occasionally, we stopped to let him walk around in the grass.
Our first ride was amazing, and we noticed how many bicyclists there are in our city. When driving, it’s easy to overlook people on bikes, but there are so many bike paths hidden under the roads in our city, and it’s exciting getting to know a previously unknown world.
The first time I went biking alone, however, was a bit of a disaster. For one thing, I’m afraid of heights, and I chose to go the most direct route to work, which had me bike alongside the cars over a huge motor bridge. There was a tiny walking/bike path, but it had me so close to the edge of the bridge, that I was panicked the whole time. Then, I saw another, similar bridge in front of me. I wanted to avoid it at all costs, so I tried to make my way down to the bike path I saw below. There were only stairs for a long way, so I had to backtrack to find a ramp, and then I had to find a place where I could cross the river on my bike.
I found a stepping-stone path that had a metal railing along the way, intended for people pushing bikes across, and figured it was my only option unless I wanted to be really late for work. I started going across it, not realizing how long it was. I got to the midpoint and the water was rushing fast around my feet, and I again became terrified of crossing. Needless to say, I really hate bridges.
Somehow, I got across, but I swore I would never go over those two bridges or anything similar ever again. Surely, I thought, there was a way to get across more safely and with less anxiety. I came across another problem, though, before I could solve that one. I had to lock my bike up on the opposite side of the road than the school I work at, because the only ways to cross the road were underground (which I normally use) and a footbridge that is built over traffic. I’ve tried to use the latter before, and had to close my eyes the whole way, and I thought I was doomed to cross it every time I went to work until I discovered the subway entrance.
I called my husband and told him I couldn’t get home by myself going back the way I came, but he found a very safe-looking wooden bridge for pedestrians over a more shallow part of the river I crossed. He showed it to me on the map, and I was confident I could make it home unscathed.
I unlocked my bike, rode down the path until I found the very sturdy wooden bridge, and I crossed it, giddy that I found a good solution. However, I was so excited that I didn’t continue to cross the river before it split in two, and I followed the wrong side for a few miles before realizing my mistake. I didn’t want to turn around and do it all again, so I went up onto the main road and followed it straight to the university near my house. It amazed me how far away I had gotten from home, and I realized that I was close to my husband’s company.
I did eventually make it home, but I was exhausted by then, and I haven’t ridden my bike since. Now I know the way to work and back on my bike, though, and I’m proud of myself, despite being too proud to check the map before I was extremely lost. I learned a lot about the things in my city, and I feel more free and independent already. I hope the weather is nice this weekend so that my husband and I can go on another ride together (not forgetting Leo).