Friday, January 08, 2010

The weather outside is frightful

I can't seem to escape the snow. My last day in Beijing, Sunday, the skies opened up and dumped on us unlike I've ever experienced in China before. Life went on pretty much as normal--cars rushed down the streets at alarming speeds, pedestrians packed the sidewalks, and shops continued to run as normal. Businesses had their glove-less and hatless employees out with straw brooms, sweeping the snow into pathetic little piles. Eventually they emerged with dirt shovels, chipping away at the ice on the pavement. Fashionable young women took to the streets to go shopping, sporting capris that stopped just below the ankle paired with knee-high boots and an umbrella open over head. This bizarre style resurfaces each winter, one which I will never understand. Desperately needed but very much absent were plows and salt trucks, an investment in safety and sanity that Beijing City perhaps isn't ready to make. Despite the madness, I made it to the airport without incident on Monday and my flight was only delayed by an hour. All things considered, I left the city somewhat impressed in Beijingers' ability to carry on as usual in these unusual weather conditions.

I cannot, however, speak of the English in the same light. Half an inch of snow or an overnight freeze brings British civilization to a sudden and screeching halt. The light snow that dusted London overnight on Tuesday resulted in widespread closings and delays. While I normally would find this frustrating, it provided me with a great excuse to stay at the flat and nurse my jet-lagged body and catch up with a best friend I haven't seen face to face in over a year. I was less amused yesterday when some minor morning flurries left me stranded at the bus station in Canterbury for nearly two hours. I was admittedly lucky, as many bus routes were no longer running. I was assured that my bus to London would come and was given numerous updates as I sat patiently and waited. It was nearly on time, it was running behind, it was broken, it was on its way. The truth, the bus seemed to up and vanish. I wasn't expecting this type of inefficiency in England, but I suppose I will do as the British do and blame it on the weather.

In just a few more days I will be landing in Chicago and I will have five weeks of subzero wind chills and blizzards to contend with. I think I am ready for it, yet I can't help but wonder why I don't ever come home in the summer. From what I remember, Wisconsin is lovely in the summer.

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