September 17th, 2007

Richard of the Peking Duck has a beautiful post up about autumn in Beijing. Of course, like every other post at the Peking Duck, the comment thread has already been hijacked by various nutjobs and their political hobby horses- I can’t understand how Richard tolerates these people- but that’s a whole different story.

Yep, it’s autumn in Beijing again, and so far it’s been quite a wet autumn. lzh tells me this means the temperature is going to drop pretty quickly, although it doesn’t necessarily signal an unusually cold winter.

And just after I got home from work (strenuous day- one class. I don’t know how I cope) a new storm broke over us. Thunder and lightning, a small breeze, big drops of rain. Nothing too serious, though, but even so, it somehow reminded me of a late-summer-early-autumn storm that I think will be impossible to forget.

It was late August, 2000, and I’d just arrived in Taiyuan. I’d discovered the hard way what an address on Wanbailin Lu meant- a campus right smack in the middle of an industrial slum, surrounded by broken-down-looking factories on most sides, with a slum made up of the oldest, dirtiest, most run-down-looking siheyuan I’ve ever seen taking up the slack. And it seemed like nobody had organised a rubbish collection in that slum since the fall of the Qing Dynasty- honestly, I couldn’t figure out how there was any space left in those courtyards for human habitation, there was so much rubbish piled up. Or perhaps some of the residents made extra cash for the family in the recycling business. Who knows? But I digress (as always).

My apartment was on the southern side of a long building, with all the rooms facing south, except the bathroom which was on the in-side of the apartment and had no outside window. I’d already noticed that all the windows in my apartment had gaps under them so large I could quite literally see through them, and the latch on the balcony door was broken and so it had to be propped closed with a chair- and the balcony was of the totally exposed variety, not the enclosed and useable as an extra room kind.

So one day soon after I arrived, this storm rolled up from the south. One of those ones you could sit in your apartment and watch it roll in and see the exact second it hit your place. And boy did it hit. Of course, the wind came first, kicking huge loads of dust around. Then came the rain which flew northwards with awesome ferocity- northwards smack into my apartment windows and the gaps under them. And what did I see from the dubious comfort of my apartment? Jet black rivers of water gushing through the gaps under my windows and balcony door. Jet black rivers of water like it was raining ink outside. I sprinted around gathering any and every towel or other suitabe piece of cloth to try and plug the holes in my apartment before I drowned in a solution of water in coal dust, then sat the storm out hoping my makeshift defences held.

The defences held, fortunately, and when the storm abated the first thing I did was put all of these towels- which were themselves now as black as a Shanxi coal miner’s lungs- into the washing machine. And then I had to sit and wait for the mains water to come on- we only had mains water supply three times a day (fortunately three regularly scheduled times at which the water came on almost without fail), and although we had a water tank on the roof supplying the shower, toilet and taps while the mains water was off, the washing machine was only connected to the mains supply (presumably because it would use too much water for the rooftop tank to cope with) and so could only be used at those three specific times each day.

Actually, that year in Taiyuan provided quite a few memorable storms, but most of them involved sand and coal dust being blown around at high velocity. Not too many of them involved water in any way, shape or form.

It’s still raining now outside. But it’s good, civilised Beijing rain. The only question is whether lzh puts on her raincoat and cycles home or takes the bus. No need to worry about cleaning up coal mud.

6 Responses to “rain”

  1. John Says:

    Meanwhile, the sun shines in Chengdu.

  2. wangbo Says:

    Sun in Chengdu? What is the world coming to?

  3. John Says:

    Just blame global warming.

  4. wangbo Says:

    No, I blame FEC. It’s insidious effects spread beyond the twisting of young Chinese minds with badly written textbooks.

  5. Anna Lei Says:

    What a terrible experience you have had in Taiyuan. I have never been to Taiyuan, so I have no idea about what the city looks like. According to your description above, it seems dirty and shabby, at least in the region your apartment lay in, doesn’t it?

  6. wangbo Says:

    I didn’t mean to make the whole city seem so bad. My school was surrounded by an industrial slum, so that area was pretty rough. The rest of the city wasn’t so bad, but yes, it was very polluted.