Same thing, different continent

It’s bike rush hour. The sun is brilliant in the cool morning, and I left my house fifteen minutes later than usual. I’ll still be on time for work, but I won’t be early. I like being early, the time that I usually use, when I arrive at 8:30, to settle into my chair, boil a pot of water for tea, chat with the legal officer who bikes in around the same time. Today, I’ll stand in line at security because every else is arriving at 9am, too.

And, so, I’m late, by my own standards, and I hit rush hour. There are nine bikes ahead of me as I pedal past a windmill, through a tunnel, over a bridge on a canal, and up to an intersection. The bikes line up at intersection and wait for a break in the cars. The line-up is mildly frustrating because it takes a gutsy biker to dive through the double lanes of traffic, and the people ahead of me are always patient. I stand on one foot, the other on a pedal, judging the ambition of the bikers ahead of me who hesitate to push across the throughway.

I make it through eventually, and I’m only five minutes early to work.

Bike rush hour happens on the other end of the day, as well. The bikes careen out of the narrow gate from the ICC bike shed at 5:45pm like bees spilled from an upturned hive, each person pedaling furiously away from the court. I take the route along the sand path that splits off one way toward the dunes of the beach and the other way south over the highway. I take the overpass and head back down to the brick path that curves by a stable. The smell of horse and manure fills the wind of the early evening.

At home, I sit down to research and to write. Most nights. Except on Monday, my French tutor comes for lessons, and after our lesson, I go to sleep reciting new words in my head. It’s our eighth week of lessons and finally the language is coming back to me. A little. It flows again, and I think in French, sometimes.

With the work and lessons and papers to write, sometimes, the days here feel like the same old grind, just on a different continent. But sometimes, when the weather turns lovely, I’m riding past daffodil fields and windmills, and my frustrations are only strings of bikes pausing in the sun. 

Last week, I headed to the beach after work with three interns. We watched the sun set on the North Sea, and it was the first time that I have seen the sun sink into an ocean like that. Afterward, we ate cheap pizza and bike rode home laughing. One friend sat on the back of another’s bike for a ride to her house. I got home and slept in, a little. 

Tonight, I take a break from writing a paper, and I head out to my balcony in the evening to sit in the wind and listen to world. A train slows in a long hiss on iron at the stop by our house. The sound is not quite a screech but something related, a comforting sound, if the sound of train braking on iron rails feels comforting to you. It does to me.

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