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A Minnesotan in China: Coastin' down the China coast

Brandon Ferdig stands in front of the Zhuhai Fisher Girl Statue at Xianglu Bay during a stop on a bicycle trip along the coast of the Chinese city of Zhuhai. Submitted Photo

A teacher colleague of mine, Marilyn -- who's from the Philippines -- and I decided to explore the coast along our city, Zhuhai, facing the South China Sea. The weather is sub-tropical with palm trees and some islands in the distance. It's also hot, but tell that to Marilyn.

Remember being told about Snow White being attractive in the days when to be tan was to be a laborer, which was to be lowly? Yeah, well, that's China 2010, so the women use umbrellas regularly. And it's also the way it is in the Philippines. Thus, Marilyn sported a thick cotton forest-green hat and an orange, corduroy long sleeve button-up. Oh, and it was 90 degrees!

Crazy, huh?

We rented one of those double bicycles, which frankly always look weird, but are weirder yet in China. I was in the front of an old, paint-chipped, too-small-for-me bike with a rusty bell that made more scraping noise than ringing when pushed. Meanwhile, Marilyn was holding up the rear. And a-wobbling we went along the bumpy, stone pathway.

We're awkwardly making our way along on this thing called a bike. But we don't care -- it's fun! I mean, we're in China; we see it all as an adventure and an experience -- not a burden or pain in the rear.

Ever notice how when you're away, inconveniences can seem quaint, even comical, but when you're home little things can be so troubling? "When are they gonna fix this pothole?" ... "Why don't they clean up that graffiti?" ... "Why did they/why don't they make it a law to not drive with cell phones?!"

Something about the freshness and strangeness of another location makes things that would bother me at home so much more digestible and acceptable.

But I'm also aware that this "away" feeling wears off after a little while. In fact, the four stages of living abroad are said to be as follows: Honeymoon -- it's all good, man! Hostility -- this place stinks with its corruption and pollution and no English TV! Humor -- settling in allows you to laugh at yourself and the things around you. Home -- in the rhythm of being a regular.

Back to the ride.

We got our biking bearings going down a narrow bridge to an island. Once across, we were greeted at the entrance by a nice big rock. Then we went biking around the small island, which maybe was a mile and a half around.

After the island, we headed south on our dandy tandem, checking out the attractions and views the whole way. There was a bike path along the coast, but our smooth cruise was regularly interrupted with curbs, large rocks, trees and traffic when we had to ride on the road. So it was kind of a bumpy ride for us two-seater novices.

Next stop was the famous Zhuhai Fisher Girl Statue.

From "Zhuhai Fisher Girl Statue is the landmark of the city. Standing elegantly at Xianglu Bay, she drapes a fishnet and holds a pearl high in the air with both hands up to the sky. The statue symbolizes a vigorous and lively Zhuhai welcoming visitors from all over the world."

After a minute with the Fisherwoman, we saddled back up and pedaled. We were hungry, and I had just the place to eat. A few days prior, I bumped into a man named Jim in the locker room of my gym. He was a westerner and I was glad to share a few English words.

He said, "How you liking China?" I said, "Fine, but my body's still adjusting to the food." "Well, well," he said, "I have a restaurant!" He invited me to try his mix of local and Western cuisine, and how could I say no? He was so compelling in his undies.

So we dined at Roman's Seaside Restaurant. After a full belly, we took a few pictures of the nearby beach.

After a few ticks at the beach, we started heading back, but we had to make one more stop at some awesome boulders along the way. They were fun to play on.

Brandon Ferdig, who grew up in Blackduck, spent a year teaching and traveling in China. His blog is at, where he has a slide show showing people he met. He is on at 1