Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sweet Ride

Peace Corps used to issue motos to all volunteers in Senegal, that is until they realized that the leading cause of death of Peace Corps Volunteers was motorcycle accidents.  Now we get bikes.  Not that I’m complaining.  I love riding my bike.  Often I’ll travel into Tamba on bike, not because I have to but because I enjoy the two and a half hours of exercise, wind through my hair, feeling in control of my pace, and getting distracted by the trees along the way.  Bike speed is the perfect speed at which to view a landscape.  But love for my bike did not prevent the twinges of jealousy while watching the Kedegou volunteers in my stage and then all the health and environmental education volunteers in the new stage receive new bikes.  Faster, smoother, more comfortable, fewer ticks, less rusty, sexier.  When my uncle compares my bike to his, he calls mine sweet and his bitter.  If my bike is sweet it is like a butterscotch from your grandmother’s cut glass bowl and these newer bikes are like crème Brule eaten on a Parisian veranda during a warm spring evening.  Sweet but…
Well, one of the new health volunteers in the Tamba region had to go home for medical reasons.  Her return was speedier than that of her things and now her bike is sitting in the Tamba regional house, marked for Dakar.  Peace Corps had us write down our specific pin numbers associated with our bikes to make sure they are all returned at the end of our service.  But that did not stop me from dreaming about what it might be like to switch bikes and send mine back to Dakar instead.
If I were to have taken her bike I imagine that it would be like switching from a Honda sedan to a Mercedes sports coupe.  In an instant my status would be elevated and I am now part of a club I don’t quite feel like I belong in.  I would simultaneously gloat in and feel slightly embarrassed about the complements and envious glances directed at my new ride.   First justifying why I deserve the bike then submitting to how awesome it is and showing off the new bell and flawless gear shifts.  I might feel like I was on a completely different road the first time I took it home, the ride being that much smoother on the new shocks.  I would probably change the tires just for the sake of playing with my new toy and to further affirm my ownership of the bike.  I would probably wash it incessantly, compulsively removing mud splatters, and become extra meticulous about keeping it out of the weather.  I would be amazed at the speed and the comfort of the seat.  I would smile as my gears no longer clicked down the road and the handlebars did not melt onto my hands.  The bike was even my size…!

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