Monday, September 17, 2007

a change in season

The rain as finally descended on Beijing. After several hot, dry months, it is here. I haven't experienced a daytime temperature below 85 degrees since mid-April, but today I've found myself outside shivering in my long-sleeved shirt. I love it. Although the rain itself can be a bit of a burden. . .

Imagine, if you will, a city of 17 million people. 17 million. Yes, that's how many people are now living in Beijing. It's no easy task walking around on an average day. I'm constantly getting bumped into, pushed off the sidewalk, and nearly sideswiped by bicyclists and cars. China is a crowded place and Beijing is one of its most populated cities. There isn't always a lot of room for movement. Now try to add umbrellas to the equation. It adds a whole new dimension of insanity.

At first, I usually try to to be the kind and considerate American that I am. I try not to run into other people with my umbrella, nor do I run my umbrella into other umbrellas. In fact, I will lift it high over my head or move it from side to side in order to avoid other umbrellas. But this gets tiring after awhile. Plus, nobody else seems to care. They just allow their umbrella to run into me at full force. And sometimes their little pointy umbrellas poke me in the face and of course I receive no apology. But I've lived here long enough, I no longer expect an apology for anything. Burn me with your cigarette, ride over my toes with your bike, sneeze on me without batting an eyelash, and then just walk away with out recognizing your bad. Thanks.

So after awhile I just run into everyone and get bounced around like a pinball. Eventually, as I get further away from the subway station and nearer to my apartment, the crowd thins out. But now I must deal more directly with the cars. It always lovely when a car comes whizzing through a huge puddle at 40 miles and hour and you're standing in close proximity. When there's a large group of people around, if you're smart, you can use others as a type of shield to avoid the nasty spray. Not so easy in less crowded areas. And it must also be noted that the puddles in Beijing are a special breed of puddle. They are not the clean, fresh, fun to jump in puddles that you find in rural Wisconsin. No. These puddles are filled with weeks and weeks of dirt, grim, and whatever else has been hanging around in the air and on the roadside. These are toxic puddles.

But eventually I make it home, thoroughly wet despite having an umbrella. Useless thing. I find that the rain has come in through the screen window and soaked my entire patio and all the clothes I had hanging out to dry in it. Lovely. But I'll take this over a Beijing summer any day.

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