Over the past two weeks I’ve started biking to work every day, and I have to say its been a welcome improvement to my daily routine. Between a cold shower, cup of coffee, and twenty minute bike ride I’m energized and ready to start teaching by the time I reach work.
It takes about twice as long to bike than to take a three-wheeler the 3 km between home and work. My bike provides freedom, I can go wherever I want in this town without worrying about the cost of a tuk-tuk. I can stop at the vegetable stands on the way home from work, and pick out my dinner for the night. I don’t have to worry about taking a trishaw, or being dependent on someone else to get me around town.
It’s really quite nice to have almost an hour of exercise built into my day, I sleep better and feel better when I get home from a long day of teaching. It gives me twenty minutes to unwind and forget about stressful classes. By the time I reach the last major hill on my ride home I’m usually covered in a film of sweat, and ready to lay in my hammock for a while – until the mosquitos start coming.
People look at me strangely when I ride through town on my bike, for a number of reasons. I wear a helmet, which is truly bizarre. I had to go to Colombo to purchase the helmet, and visited five stores before buying one. The first store I went into had a helmet for 2,500 SLR ($20.00 USD) and the last store I went into had the same helmet for 1,500 SLR ($11.00). The other stores didn’t carry helmets, and at the store I eventually purchased mine from, they only had that one helmet. I’ve been told by many Sri Lankans that it isn’t necessary to wear a helmet on a bicycle – but when I’m dodging cows, pedestrians, and busses, it is nice to be wearing one.
People also give me strange looks because I’m riding on a bicycle. Most white people who come to Trinco are NGO officials and Diplomats who are chauffeured around in air conditioned Land Rovers and Toyotas. It isn’t often that you see a white guy struggling up a hill on a push bike.
On another note, I’ve been learning to ride a motorcycle. Yesterday my friend took me into town to grocery shop on the back of his bike. You’re really conscious of what you buy at the store when you have to hold onto your parcels on the back of a motorcycle.