Beautiful / by Rachel Banfield

Today was pretty rough, from the industrial landscape and air pollution,

to the continuous increase of both temperature and gradient, the gross taste of the water in all three of my water bottles and a minor bout of food poisoning in the which made me think I might be sick over the side of my bike.

There was, however, a moment that made it worthwhile. When I pulled over in a small dusty town, hoping the upset stomach had passed and hoping to find some food to fuel the next 60km, a woman stepped out from behind her stall and beckoned me over, grinning. She cooked up a steaming bowl of noodles, to which I was free to add whatever I chose from the line of bowls on the next table. She kept staring at my bike and then back at me, smiling and chattering away to me in rapid Chinese.

After I paid and just before putting my helmet and gloves back on, we had this conversation (in Chinese):

"Thank you. Very good food." "You're welcome." "Excuse me, may I take your photo?" "Me?" "Yes. Beautiful." "Not beautiful." "Beautiful." She takes off her apron and pushes back her hair. I take the photo. I show her the photo on the back screen, point and say "Beautiful." "Thank you." She says, smiling. She stands outside her stall and waves as I pedal off. I can still see her when I turn around at the intersection.

Beautiful.