Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bike Passport Please

In Hangzhou, the kids and I set off on our own to bike around West Lake.  Biking around the lake was touted as one of the top ten things to do.  I loaded up on Chinese currency (what I thought was a lot) and found the bike kiosk, of which there are many in the city.  The woman at the kiosk took one look at my face and handed me a laminated sheet in English.  The rules were simple enough except for two things: the price seemed outrageous for China, charging $17 a day plus $34 deposit per bike....and while I'd brought just enough money, I didn't have the necessary document.
"You need my passport?" I asked, thinking this isn't international travel, just a ride around the lake.
The woman said I could just write down the passport number and that would be good enough.  The kids frowned.  Nobody could remember their numbers.  I quickly made up a sequence of passport-like numbers.  It wasn't as if we were going to run off with these bikes.
Later, when we tried to return the bikes to the same kiosk it was a fiasco.  Although she was standing right in front of us, she insisted she was closed.  I would have left our bikes and gone on, but I kind of wanted my deposit back.  She said we could return the bikes somewhere else.  We went there.  That kiosk was "closed" too.  So we tried a third one.  The third one was the charm.  Not only did the lady return our deposit, but she returned most of the daily-use fee.  Instead of $17, she only charged us 1.70.
What was that about?  My brother-in-law said that we'd met a kind kiosk woman, someone willing to treat us as locals rather than take advantage of our foreign status.  He said the passport issue is common.  Some amenities (like bus passes, store ownership, reasonable prices) are only granted to Chinese citizens.    

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What People Are Saying About My Half of the Sky

My Half of the Sky was the BookSense Pick for August 2006 as well as a Forbes Book Club Pick.

"McBurney-Lin tells a wonderfully entertaining story with the traditional coming-of-age theme (which is experienced universally)...weaving in the cultural challenges of growing up in China's rapidly changing social system."
Mary Warpeha, co-President of the Minnesota Chapter of US-China Friendship Association
March 2010

"The novel ...includes many of the tales and the folk ways of the people living in the rural areas of South China, still followed provincially. The story takes place in current China, but could relate the dilemma of any young woman in rural China through the ages."
Kitty Trescott, National Board of the Midwest Region of US-China Friendship Association. March 2010

"A lot is expected of a young Chinese girl. My Half of the Sky by Jana McBurney-Lin is the story of Li Hui, a young girl who has just achieved marriageable age. She seeks to make the most of herself, but the expectations all around her make it difficult, as her parents seek to use her as pawn to their advantage, she is faced with what she believes to be true love. She must balance career, romance, and family, all to somehow make everyone happy, a tough endeavor indeed. An engaging and entertaining read from beginning to end, "My Half of the Sky" is a poignant tale of the modern Chinese woman, and recommended for community library collections.
--Midwest Book Review November, 2008

“It is a rare women’s novel that sensitively describes the life of a young educated woman in modern-day China in its full complexity, without resorting to unnecessary sentimentalism. Jana’s deep knowledge of the realities of life in China and Singapore makes the reading extra rewarding. In fact, with every new page the novel gets harder to put down and you find yourself gobbling it up before you know it. Finally, the author has given a voice to the Li Hui in all of us, as we struggle for the golden middle between tradition and the modern momentum of our world.”
Isabella Sluzek
Friends of the Museum Book Review 2008

You'll be rooting all the way for Li Hui as she struggles, ahead of the curve, to be her own woman in an emerging, modern China. Jana McBurney-Lin's My half of the Sky is a beautiful, witty, touching debut novel.
Thomas B. Sawyer
Head Writer TV Series "Murder, She Wrote,"
Author - The Sixteenth Man

A complex and mesmerizingly original tale of a young Chinese woman caught between the modern world and the pull of her ancient culture. McBurney-Lin’s intimate portrait of China sparks with insights and is peopled with characters so rich and alive, they seem to breathe on the page. Dazzling and unforgettable.
Caroline Leavitt,
Author - Girls in Trouble

McBurney-Lin's debut novel is a gift. Li Hui is a memorable heroine, a young woman torn between her heart and her culture.Her daunting journey is a trip into China's complicated soul, and a deeply moving exploration of love, honor, duty, and loss." Frank Baldwin, Author - Balling the Jack

My Half of the Sky is a wonderfully-crafted story that was obviously written with a piece of McBurney-Lin's heart. A masterpiece."
Lee Lofland, Author - Howdunit: Police Procedure and Investigation

My Half of the Sky heralds the arrival of a fantastic new storyteller. With artistry and precision, Jana McBurney-Lin's clear-eyed prose takes the reader on a new journey into a past world that speaks to a modern sensibility, a modern world, a modern woman. This is a book to be treasured.
Emily Rapp, Author - The Poster Child

Through vivid descriptions of sights and smells, Jana McBurney-Lin's My Half of the Sky is a haunting, emotional journey of what it means to be an honorable female in modern China. Jill Ferguson, Author - Sometimes Art Can't Save You