Ever since I was young, I always enjoyed bike riding. I remember my grandpa’s house was right beside a river. Everyday after school my grandpa would take me, with my bike, to the riverside, and we would go for a walk there. My grandfather and I shared a special bond, since I was the youngest in the family and he was the leader of the family. People always say he cherished me the most. After my grandpa passed away, riding bikes seemed like a way to remind me of those memories we had together. I still go on bike trips whenever I can.
One of my first missions after I came to America was to find myself a bike. In the first few weeks after buying a bike, I rode it with no destination in mind, hoping to find a pleasant place. Then I stumbled upon the bike trail at Fairmount Park. It amazed me with its beautiful sceneries. It has become my favorite place in Philly whenever I need to escape from my busy life. The reason this place makes me feel like home in Philly is not entirely because of the cultural similarity it possesses. It is the scenery and ambience of the bike path that brings back memories of my hometown. This has become the place I go to take me away from the busy school life.
My college in Taiwan is also located near a river. This place is similar to Fairmount Park in many ways. The riverside next to my college in Taiwan is a special place for all local residents, and it is always crowded from early in the morning to late at night. However, whenever I went biking there, I was still able to ride on the trail with full speed, and even sing songs along the way. I enjoyed watching all kinds of activities happening along the trail: children running with kites flying behind them, high school kids yelling at each other on the basketball court, elders practicing martial arts under the morning sunlight…etc. I enjoyed watching all these sceneries fading behind me as I pedaled past them. It felt like a colorful, blurry motion movie, always calming me down.
Just like in Taiwan, at Fairmount Park, people do all kinds of activities on the riverside.The long trails remind me of the multiple times I went on biking trips with friends late at night, and the people enjoying activities along the riverbanks remind me of the times when my family used to go to local parks every weekend. The difference is people do water activities in Philadelphia, like rowing or kayaking, while the water level in Taiwan’s rivers are usually too low for people to do anything. Also, there are way more bikers in Philly than in Taiwan. I have to learn to control my biking speed and stay on the same side of the road. There have been a few times when I’ve almost bumped into other people’s bikes because I was so busy looking at the cherry blossoms around the trail.
Despite small differences here and there, this place gives me the most comfort during my stay in Philly because it brings back memories from when I was growing up. I have always thought that Philly could not have a particular place that would immediately remind me of the culture that I came from. I think that’s because I consider Philly to be a city that holds a diversity of cultural influences, with a very distinct Philly identity and Philly “vibes” that make it unique. The reason Fairmount Park always gives me an “at home” feeling might come from the energetic people doing sports there, and me passing by, riding a bicycle, seeing many things happening around me. The action and similar scenery bring back memories of activities I did with friends and family back in Taiwan.
Being an international student can sometimes be hard and lonely. Fairmount Park acts as a place for me to calm down and refresh my thoughts when things are not going well. Seeing people having a great time in the park cheers me up and reminds me of how lucky I am to get this opportunity to come over to America.