|Rickshaws lined up and ready to go in Hutong District, Beijing|
Let me make this perfectly clear.
Riding in a rickshaw down narrow, historic streets in Beijing, China, was not Chuck’s idea.
People may consider riding in a rickshaw fun.
Cats consider it one unholy nightmare.
Cramped inside my smart bag, allowed to peek out only when we’re well on our way, careening around corners and such, Chuck, no doubt, assumed he would get sick.
I felt sorry for the kid for being so pessimistic.
While Chuck moaned and groaned as we made our way to where the rickshaws were being kept, I reveled in the fact that first, I was in China, which is no small feat for a girl from Jersey. Second, I was in the Hutong district of Beijing, much of which had been destroyed in the last ten years or so to make way for new construction. And third, and I guess this was the obvious part, I was about to ride in a rickshaw, an authentic Chinese rickshaw, a mode of transportation that pre-dated the turn of the century.
I was curious to know what that would be like.
If you read my blog, you know I do my homework. Of course, I’d researched the history of the rickshaw, and to keep Chuck’s mind off his impending feelings of doom, I
began to explain just what an historic means of conveyance he was about to ride in.
“Chuck,” I said, “the rickshaw is almost always made of bamboo so it’s light in weight. Nowadays it’s outlawed in most countries due to concern for the workers.”
Here, I had to admit, I was concerned. China didn’t have a good human rights policy, and I was anxious not to be part of a group which exploited Chinese workers.
I needn’t have been concerned. The worker assigned to pull our rickshaw was smiling. He was happy to have a job.
|Our runner for our rickshaw, happy to have a job in Beijing|
“Rickshaw comes from a Japanese word meaning ‘human powered vehicle.’” I explained to him that the word first appeared in 1887 in the Oxford English Dictionary. There was some dispute as to the real inventor. Some say it was an American blacksmith by the name of Albert Tolman who invented the rickshaw in 1848 for a missionary. Others dispute that claim.
“The first rickshaw was seen in Japan in 1868, but by 1872 there were over 40,000 of them in Tokyo.” By 1914 the Chinese applied for permission to use rickshaws to transport passengers. Being a runner for rickshaw was often the first job for a peasant migrating to a big city.
Chuckie listened intently to all I said. “So, what do you think? Are you ready to ride in a rickshaw? It could be fun.”
He shook his head no.
They’ve never made a cat more stubborn than Chuck.
“Then keep your eyes closed. It’ll be over before you know it.”
Bob and I climbed into the rickshaw, and I put my smart bag between us. One by one the rickshaws took off down the street. We were traveling at a stready pace on a level street. After a minute or two, I glanced over and noticed that Chuck couldn’t resist peeking out and looking around. Then he inched out a bit further. The slight breeze ruffled his whiskers.
Was the Chuckster actually enjoying himself?
Everything was rolling along fine UNTIL we started going down hill. The speed picked up. We transitioned from a wide main street into narrower streets that truly define the nature of the Hutong district. We passed Chinese houses and small shops.
|Typical Chinese houses and shops in Hutong District|
This rickshaw ride was beginning to feel more like an adventure ride at an amusement park.
|The streets started whizzing by faster and faster|
His worst case nightmare was unfolding before his very eyes.
“It’ll be over soon,” I whispered to him, like a mantra, more for myself than him.
But the rickshaw wasn’t stopping.
Our runnner made a sharp left. We squeezed down a narrow lane, which reminded me a bit like being shoved down the chute of a cannon. Suddenly, the momentum building, we shot out of the lane down a cobblestone street. The rickshaw bumped up and down, and we bounced UP AND DOWN.
A lake appeared on our right.
For a split second, I had this horrible thought that the rickshaw, our rickshaw, would suddenly careen out of control and topple straight into the lake.
|The lake where we almost ended up in . . .|
IN THE LAKE? ON THE STREET?
“Bob, where’s Chuck? He must have . . .”
Panic closed my throat.
“Bob, I think Chuck . . .” But I couldn’t finish the horrible thought.
Bob reached over and grabbed my hand. “He’s okay.”
“He’s in your bag.”
Sure enough. Chuck--my not so fearless cat--had crouched way down into my smart bag.
By this time, the ride was over. We came to a halting stop.
My knees were still shaking as I climbed out of the rickshaw.
Chuck gave me his usual Chuck look. I told you so.
I turned to Bob.
“This was a lot of fun,” he said. “A lot of fun.”
To read more about Chuck and his adventures, log onto www.katelutter.com.
Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. Recently it was rated 5 Stars by The E Book Reviewers, who said, "At the very core . . . is a multi-level mystery, with plot twists and turns that you never expected. And there is a deep touching love story that grasped my heart and never let go. This is one book you must go buy now; once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it back down."