The weekend of my birthday was quite incredible. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Tour de France, right? Well here in Timor, we have the Tour de Timor. It’s a biking race, and it took place a couple weeks ago. Last year Paulo did it, but he couldn’t do it this year because part of it was on Sabbath. Anyway, the Sunday after my birthday, Paulo’s biking club/team planned a "fun ride" for whoever wanted to come, but especially for kids. Paulo, Miguel and I went, and it was a blast.
You're probably wondering where I got a bike, helmet, and everything else needed for biking. I certainly didn’t bring my bike in my carry-on. The Grilo's have a biker friend, João Luís Gustavo de Matosme, who is very kind and generous (he also has written several books, is incredibly intelligent, was the one who planned and placed the country borders between Timor and Indonesia, etc). Anyway, he came to the little supper/vespers that we have every Friday night (which also served as my birthday dinner), and when I played violin for vespers he was really impressed. When he found out that I was looking to borrow a bike for the ride on Sunday, he decided to loan me one of his (the wheels alone are $1000, and the gears are $2000; I don't even want to know how much the whole thing is! It's so light I can pick it up with one hand!). He also gave me a water bottle that can be carried on the bike, a pair of socks for biking, and a pair of men's biking shorts (they work fine for girls too, they just have a funky pad in the crotch for extra protection. I'd hate to feel the bike seat without the pad though, it is quite hard).
For a jersey, Paulo lent me the jersey of the person who won the Tour de Timor two years ago. He also had a spare helmet and biking gloves which I used. As for shoes, my bike has clips instead of pedals, and I don't have shoes with clips. So far I don't know anyone with the same shoe size as me, so I was stuck in that department for a bit. Then Paulo suggested using shoes with the hardest/stiffest sole I could find, and it worked. So, I rode in my brown chacco's with bright red socks! lol
The ride started around 8-8:30 on Sunday morning on the other side of town. We biked there, and when we arrived, there was already quite a mix of professional bikers riding works of art and little Timorese kids on junk bikes. It was quite an amazing sight. When we finally got going, it was incredible to see the number of bikers on the street. I think there was about 150-200, but I'm really bad at estimating crowds. Anyway, we rode through the inland part of Dili and saw some of the districts that I had never seen before and then finished by off-roading down the dry Comoro River bed. It was a blast! There wasn't much uphill, it was mostly flat, but there were lots of gravel pits and holes and water crossings and other obstacles to go over and around. I really had fun. Miguel and I were in the front while Paulo and some of the other team members helped the poorly equipped kids in the back, but near the end Miguel got tired so I stopped and waited for him. I didn't want him to get lost or fall and not have someone there. We still stayed pretty close to the front of the pack though.
Overall it was a really great experience, and if I ever have the opportunity to do something like it again, I’ll jump at the chance. Praise the Lord for the fun things that He throws into our lives!