June 18th, 2009
It started with the exhausted struggle to both wake up and sleep in that has become normal this end of semester, but fortunately Thursday is my easy day: 10 o’clock start and only one class. Usual Thursday morning routine: Look out the window and see the same humid murk that’s been smothering us since that big midday storm on Tuesday. Fire up the computer, put the kettle on, do a little surfing while I slowly recaffeinate, generally take a relaxed, civilised start to the day.
Eventually it was time to head off to the office, hoping to see the boss and talk over a couple of things before class. On the way, I saw a couple of cool posters, the first posted at the little gate of our estate:
Cool, huh? It’s not just posters, though. Our building will be getting a much-needed fresh coat of paint on both the outside walls and in the stairwells for the 60th anniversary of the PRC.
And then, after I’d crossed the bridge, just inside the West Gate of the campus:
Power saving… and am I right to read part of those posters as saying “save power to reduce emissions”? In any case, a good thing to be seeing.
And then, well…. Didn’t get to see the boss, but he’s often busy, so I’ll just have to wait. Got to class and that was all good. Then ran off to the gate to meet a possible new teacher, showed him around, took him to lunch with another colleague, showed him a classroom and let him sit in on my colleague’s class. That was all good, but as that was happening, the air seemed to grow ever thicker and tastier and more and more nutritious. Well, in the run-up to the afternoon’s classes I showed this possible new teacher where the nearest Starbucks was- it would normally be easily visible from the building we were in, but it was a struggle to make out the gate he’d have to leave the campus through, and that was only a couple of hundred metres away. And I showed him the toilets, just in case… I mean, we had just had lunch. Chatted with the students for a few minutes- my former students, it’s fun to catch up with them between classes now that I no longer teach them. Then as the bell rang I ducked out and headed home, promising to meet this possible new teacher back in the office at 4, when we’d hopefully manage to see the boss.
Well, by this time the air outside has a distinct smell of smoke to it and visibility is at the point where I’m really glad I’m not flying anywhere. I mean, a few years back I flew into Hong Kong on a day as grey and murky, and that was one of the scariest flights I’ve ever had. The flight was perfectly smooth, nothing even remotely bumpy, but my ears were telling me we were descending and, sitting in my window seat staring out at the scenery, all I could see was thick grey, until suddenly spots started appearing in the grey. As we descended, I realised these spots in the grey were boats. All I could do is sit there watching these boats get ever closer hoping the pilots could see more than I could.
You know it’s ridiculously humid when you put a cold bottle of beer on the desk and a puddle forms at its base- and no, the bottle was not leaking. Yeah, it’s been the kind of day when the only valid option is to put yourself somewhere where you won’t be arrested (like the privacy of your own home, for example) and strip down to as little as possible. And perhaps consider investing in gas masks.
So I trundled back over to the office, moving as slowly as possible to avoid sucking any more of that murk into my lungs than absolutely necessary, met this new guy, and we sat and chatted and waited. The boss was all tied up in meetings, so we arranged to meet again Monday morning- just one of those things, circumstances that can’t be avoided. So I walked him out to the gate and put him in a taxi to Dawang Lu subway station. As we walked, a few hesitant raindrops tried their luck falling to the ground. A few more saw their success and followed. Then nothing. I grabbed up my empties and took them to the store to recycle, wading through the murk praying for rain followed by a nice, dry norwester.
I got home and fired up the computer, removed all unnecessary clothing, turned the fan on, and suddenly the roar of heavy rain hit. I looked out the window, disbelieving my ears. Nope, it’s true. Oh wait, better run and close the windows on the southern side of the apartment before our phone gets drowned yet again and the obviously filthy rain drops unclean the laundry trying to dry on the balcony. But after about a minute, the rain retreats to a gentle shower, then stops. Bugger.
lzh got home and it turns out her story was similar to mine. She’d caught the bus home, like I told her, not wanting her to suck in all that muck cycling home when the API, according to so many people on Twitter, had hit 500. The rain hit when her bus reached Bawangfen, and stopped not long before she got to our stop. Beautifully timed.
Then we headed for what is rapidly becoming our favouritest restaurant in all the world. 28 kuai for a malaxiangguo (is there an English term for 麻辣香锅 other than the “dry hotpot” my colleague uses?) and you can choose three veges and one meat to throw in, and I can get all the barbequed stuff on sticks I could desire. Mmmm…. garlic on a stick…. mmmm…. chopped up chicken hearts on a stick….. As we left, the air was still heavy, thick, humid, sticky and unfortunately tasty. On our way back a few more tentative rain drops started to fall. Then they stopped again. And as I sit here writing this nonsense, I can hear the music of heavy, fast rain beating down. That’s probably the most beautiful music in the world. I’m hoping this music continues through the night, and that sometime in the wee small hours a norwester blows up to drive this humidity away again and let us breathe easily one more day.