I learned to bike when I was 18

I learned to bike when I was eighteen. I had gone on the University of Minnesota’s excellent study abroad program to Tianjin, China. It’s two hours south of Beijing by train.

The first week Charles Sanft, our Program Director took us to buy bikes for $20 apiece and told us that’d be our main transportation for three months.

My roommate Diana and I got up early every day to try and ride our bikes in circles in the pavement in front of the luxe dorm*, and circle after circle, we got it. For three months, this $20 piece of clever machinery carried me through the foreign streets of sweltering Tianjin, to shop in the markets for red, white, and pink shirts (I never seemed able to find other colors in women’s sizes), to the clubs with hydraulic dance floors and Qingdao beer cheaper than water. I’d pay a coin to the kid watching the bike parking lot, hop off and stroll into the internet cafes to write home and also to squint at the AOL news ticker bar at the top of the instant messenger to read the non-censored world news. I’d learn that it would be wiser to walk my bike home from the bar rather than bother riding recklessly late at night. ,It would take me back to the dorms and class* to gain(briefly)full literacy. Thus began my love of biking, and now I use it for commuting, watch for bike options when traveling, and gleefully burn the calories of delicious food I so savor via two wheels.

This story commemorates the close of May
Bike Month
in the U.S.

What’s your bike story?

Share in the comments below or via social media.

*In one Chinese language class, my professor had us read a story of a man riding a horse, who gets off his horse to ask for directions. This was meant to illustrate how to be polite if you stop your bike and need to talk to some one, and I still think of it to this day.

Singapore: Hawker Centre Crash Course

Singapore is famous for its food culture, and although there are certainly high-end top-dollar restaurants with 10-course menus that would charm the foodiest ex-pat executive, the heart of that food culture lives in the local hawker centres.
Street food is a common cultural institution throughout the world, but has a special place in Southeast Asia in particular as the dominant working-class cuisine and in Singapore’s case primary meal option. The hawker centres themselves are the result of a typically Singaporean government effort in the 1970’s to improve food safety and keep an ever-increasing army of food hawkers from blocking traffic. The government built and maintains the cavernous markets themselves, and administers licensing and health codes. Despite this standardization, the hawker centre is still a vibrant part of the local culture and a wonderfully chaotic den of unexpected delights to western palates and challenges to preconceptions about “eating out”.

Tekka Centre, Singapore. Photo by Mike Borchert.

The centres are organized as long lines of narrow, no-frills stalls, each operated by a different vendor, each with their own specialties and styles. Although the cuisines tend to be dominated by the ethnicity of the surrounding neighborhood, it’s still a grab-bag of curries, dumplings, soups, hot pots, noodles, satay, fruit juices, and everything else that’s taken root in this culinary crossroads. Continue Reading

5 Tips to Get Around Taipei

Taipei Youbike station (Photo by Yiling Wong, 2017)

Folks, I went to school for 24 years, the last few of which focused on urban policy, and my urban planner friends will be entertained when I say,

Taipei has SOLVED the last mile problem -down to the last two feet.

It is SO easy to get around! ..once you take a few steps to get going. Here are a few tips I learned from my trip there.

5 Things to Know About Getting Around Taipei

1. Take the MRT from TaoYuan Airport to the Taipei Main Station. There’s an express train, you’ll need NT broken into 100s, the machines won’t take large bills you’re likely to get from the ATMS. Go to a nearby kiosk for change. If there’s a lady standing next to the ATMs gesturing at you, that’s probably what she’s been hired to try and tell you.

2. An Easycard can pay for the MRT, subway, buses, some cabs, Youbike rental, and even the 7-Eleven. That’s right, you could buy yourself a convenience store lunch, or water to stay hydrated in the humid climate. Buses are a breeze if you have a smartphone and a data plan, even without a mastery of Chinese. The buses are very frequent. I heard from my mama’s retired friends that retired folks with a national ID get a number of free rides per month. They say they take the bus all the time and never run out of credits! Continue Reading

The Tapas of Al Andalus in Spain

A guest post by Karl:

Besides the amazing architecture of Al Andalus (the name of southern Spain during the times of the Islamic rule from ~700 – 1492, the area now known as Andalusia), the area is also known for tapas.

Tapas
Tapas are generally served in most bars and restaurants.  Some only serve tapas, and are known as a tapas bar.  With each drink that you order, you get small bites of food that come with the drink.  This is tapas.  I described it to others as a Spanish dim sum while drinking.  It’s a whole culture in Spain.  And it’s fantastic.

The type of tapas that come with your drinks can vary widely.  From the very basic potato chips with your beer to a small plate of calamari with your sangria.

Continue Reading

Friendly Friday:
2017 Living Breath Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium

Last Friday was The Living Breath of wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ: Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium. Folks from afar had made it to the University of Washington campus, including youth leadership from tribes as far away as NE Alaska.*

Inside the main room of the Intellectual House.

If you’re interested in advancing your knowledge in food movements, or advancing equity, there’s exciting work afoot from the folks in this space. Continue Reading

Pro-Tip Tuesday:
Alt Uses for a Water Bottle While on the Road 2

Here’s one from my significant other’s mountaineering class. I froze my ass off camping in in Bryce Canyon so you don’t have to.

While camping, you can fill a large nalgene (or other water) bottle with hot water before bed, and put it in your sleeping bag for extra warmth all night! If you find the surface a little burn-y to your skin, you can wrap a bandana around the bottle.

Yours Truly, wearing 9 layers to make up for freezing in my 32F sleeping bag since it was 25F in Bryce Canyon. I look a bit of a gremlin in my clothes + K’s clothes, but I do feel warmer.

Bonus warmth points if you drink all the water once you wake up. Staying hydrated, friends!

Also see: Pro-Tip Tuesday: Alt Uses for Your Water Bottle While on the Road 1

What alternative uses do you have for your nalgene bottle? Please share!

Friendly Friday: Introducing the Bizarro Tumblr, a Look Behind the Scenes

My friend Amy asked me when I was in Minnesota once, “do you ever make recipes that don’t turn out?”  and that spurred me starting a collection of fail/disappointment pictures. These have been deposited here as a stream, and has started to include situations I think funny.

You know, we’re all human, and we might as well admit it online, right?

I hope it makes you laugh. Let me know yes or no on that.

Tumblr snapshot

Future posts may also just include general behind-the-scenes tidbits, but you’ll just have to keep watching to find oot.