I have to be honest; after 7 days of severely heavy pollution, I was nearly ready to quit Beijing! Even though I wrote this post just a couple of weeks ago saying how I was prepared to accept the smog for a couple of years, it is really hard to see the blue sky at the end of the traffic jammed tunnel when you have haven’t been able to breath for a week. After days of the (more trusted than the official government reading) US Embassy’s AQI reading being above 500 (it wasn’t even classed as hazardous anymore it was ‘beyond index’ on the hazard levels!) most people were wondering why the Beijing municipal government didn’t call a ‘red alert’. But they didn’t. We remained on orange, we went to work, we tried to carry on as normal, we began to feel ill and really, really tired. I felt like my brain was foggy and, by the time my weekly Chinese lesson came around on Wednesday afternoon, I could barely even remember how to say “Wo jiao Joella. Wo bu xi huan wuran” (my name is Joella and I don’t like pollution!).
But the phrase “what a difference a day makes” has never been truer for anywhere than Beijing. Thursday morning we woke up to pitch black (I get up at 6am!) but by the time I left for work at 7am, the sky was blue and the sun was shining! It was the most beautiful day and, all over the city, Beijingers walked around with smiles on their faces (despite throats and lungs still feeling a little tight).
Although Friday was a bit smoggy, Saturday was glorious. Catching up on work and blogging had to wait as we set out to enjoy some outdoor time. We headed towards the drum tower area and walked around the hutong (the old, traditional streets of Beijing). I love any chance to explore the hutong and this day was no exception. We experienced the traditional side of the area: washing hanging out in the streets, dumplings being steamed and men getting haircuts from outdoor barbers! As well as the new: a lovely new cafe where the owner told us about his recent travels around the world, some cute design and home ware shops and a sock shop full of cutesy socks from my beloved Korea! To round off the day we stumbled upon the most amazing Hot Pot restaurant. Believe it or not, this was our first time eating hotpot in Beijing. We now feel confident enough with Mandarin to say that we are vegetarian and don’t eat meat. We ended up with huge plates of delicious vegetables, tofu, cheese and bread to cook in our tomato based hot pot! It was seriously the best food I’ve had in Beijing and I can’t wait to go back.
It was the perfect day to fall back in love with Beijing. And now we have new pollution masks and are about to put in an order for a low cost air purifier (thanks to a tip off from another blogger in Beijing who commented on my previous pollution post), I am feeling more prepared for the next airpocalypse. But if it never happened again, that would be good too. And really, no one should have to spend money on trying to breath clean air; it should be a basic human right. . .
What do you think? Would you live in Beijing or somewhere else with terrible pollution? If you do live in Beijing, what are your tips for putting up with the smog and how long do you think you can do it for?