It’s Saturday morning just past 7am. I am in the hotel restaurant noming at the breakfast buffet as I have been most mornings. The repast here is virtually the same each morning and it’s getting a bit “long in the tooth.” I do enjoy using chopsticks to eat with, though. The repast has many familiar items. It I want bacon and eggs with any variety of breads, no problem. If want corn flakes or other breakfast cereal, again, I’m covered. However, there are plenty of more traditional Chinese options such as tofu, steamed buns, mixed vegetable offerings, lots of mystery meats and fishes, two types of congee, etc. Mercifully, there’s coffee and it is passable. Then, there’s the dishes that I consider “question-marks.” Every morning there’s baked beans and also an offering of pasta with red and green peppers. (yum!) The buffet is included with the room which EF is paying for, so I don’t know what it would cost if I had to pay.
Yesterday, the smog was pretty bad. Many websites and apps have an “AQI” listing which informs the reader of exactly how unhealthy the air is on any given day. Of course, you can simply look up and know whether or not you should have left your lungs at home. The peak reading yesterday was 169, on a scale of 0 to 500, which represents “good” to “hazardous”. No doubt, a typical day in the SF area would be considered “good” which is between 0 and 50. 169 is defined as: “Unhealthy” AQI is 151 to 200. Everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.” I did bring masks and plenty of people on the street wear some variation including very complicated ones that suggest something quite alarming. Still, at this juncture, I can’t bring myself to use one. It’s so foreign to me and I feel I look ridiculous.
Speaking of lung problems, I’m greatly relived that indoor smoking isn’t the problem I feared. Most places that I go to are non-smoking and people seem to abide by the rules. I’ve even seen smokers “shown the door.” I have colleagues at work who take frequent smoking breaks. You can only imagine the assault and insult to their lungs between the smog and their “death-sticks.” I would opine, once you leave a major city here, all bets are off as to the above.
When I arrived here, I couldn’t help but notice the nonstop “rain” of small white dust-bunnies that are continuously circulating in the air. If you sit in any room with a window open, you will see a constant flow of these. I finally asked what this is about. They call it “Beijing snow” and it’s from local trees. There is simply no way they won’t enter your body unless you wear a mask. I figure if I’m going to get cancer, by the time I die of it, something else will have done the job. See? Who says I see things “half-glass-empty”?
Walking across ANY street is perilous. You never, ever know when or what direction a vehicle will come at you. As I wrote previously, signal-lights mean little to anyone. Sidewalks share space with motorbikes and scooters although I have yet to encounter a car that is moving, on a sidewalk. It’s the little things that make life bearable! You can go against a red light with the throngs who do so but I’m reluctant because cars will simply drive into a crowd, slowly, at least, but still, it’s not worth it to me. Yesterday, there were a handful of traffic cops at a major intersection ensuring compliance and the result was masses of people waiting to cross. One intrepid pedestrian didn’t even care about the cops and he ran across the street as one cop tried to stop him. When he got to the other side, he was rewarded by another cop who gave him a vicious shove, for his efforts. Of course, that would have resulted in a police-brutality lawsuit back home, but here, forget about it!
I’m off to work in a bit. Weekends are very busy at EF centers because working adults usually have the day off and it’s a good time for them to go to class. As I mentioned previously, tomorrow at 5pm, the office closes and we all head to the middle of nowhere for “team building”, i.e. an excuse to drink to excess. As I am somewhat sick, I have the perfect excuse to take a pass on that particular “team building” exercise.