“…well, this is a red letter day in Dili, for sure. Your mother has WHEELS! Unfortunately it is not a red motorbike as we had hoped, but I do have a new bicycle that meets all of my needs. It a deep purple PRINCESS bike ( this must be a long delayed answer to my childhood prayers) with gray fenders, a large front basket, a padded backseat, a headlight with a generator, spoke guards, a bike stand, a built-in front lock, a bell, and upright handlebars (it only lacks the streamers to make my childhood memories complete). All on one speed for the very flat area I will cover, which goes from school, to church to the grocery store. That is referred to as the missionary triangle, the only necessary and often only comfortable places transplants want to go.
It is truly with a GREAT sense of accomplishment that Dad and I bought this bike in town and then actually rode it home with Dad pumping away while this big white woman sat on the padded seat and hung on for dear life in the Dili traffic. We were QUITE the spectacle, of course, and might be the only foreigners to ever ride double on a PRINCESS bike still partially covered in shrink wrap. We were the source of much delight everywhere we went, and I mean out-right laughter in some quarters. Cheap thrills for the natives at our expense. We are happy to oblige.
We are still waiting to see if the bike shop which we finally found that has bikes that work, will be able to fix up the ancient Chinese-style bike for Dad. Most all bikes are much too small and very poorly built, but this one may actually last for a few months, if Dad can let go of all pride and resemble a Chinese peasant carrying goods to market. You have seen this bike on every photo of every city in China. I shall have to get him a pointy bamboo hat to really complete the picture….” [excerpted from Rory’s letter to the kids]