When you turn on the news, at least once a month there is a mention of the pollution in China. The pollution is caused by varying factors, but what does not contribute is the weather; the strange, strange weather. One minute you would be complaining of the humidity, perspiring to death, the next you were forced to take cover and throw a raincoat on.
Autumn in China was beautiful. I was in Yangshuo in Guangxi province for my first 2 weeks and it was scorching; blue skies and birds singing- not your typical image of China. The humidity, however, was unbearable. Towards the end of the 2 weeks the thunder and lightning began and the rain became lashing down- I had never seen or heard anything like it.
I should have taken this for things to come!
When I went to my first school in Henan province, to the capital Zhengzhou, it was still warm but the humidity had dissapeared. After much fuss and me being transferred to another school further North, I really started to feel the closeness to Russia!
It was baltic, freezing, iced and the sheer bitterness of the weather made it difficult to want to go out. I was wrapped up for winter in September, but I had brought mostly winter clothes so I felt very lucky I was weather-prepared!
As the week went on I finally realised another move was on the cards and I was heading to the far south of China, to the third biggest city of the country, Guangzhou.
Initially, it was a shock as it was more than 10 degrees warmer than the north; summer clothes were out again. I struggled to know what to wear to school most days. Being a teacher you obviously have to dress different to every day wear, but because of the humidity it was difficult not to be too sweaty before you even start the day; especially with riding a bike to school, it really does get hot!
After quite a bit of shopping I was finally set for the term, and the weather remained very hot and humid for the rest of my time in Guangzhou without much rain at all.
Term 2 arrived and I moved West of Guangzhou, to an industrial village area called Gaoyao. The biggest city close to it is called Zhaoqing (pronounced, Jow- Ching)
Gaoyao was one of the poorer areas I had visited so far, with so much industry going on that the air was dangerously polluted; something which I suffered from daily.
My apartment was located on a busy main road, which also backed onto a railway line. Apart from the obvious noise pollution, the air was filthy, with actual pieces of grit flingig through the air, sticking to your body and flying into your eyes. I used to go out on my scooter to school, and by the time I got there in the 4 minutes it took, my skin was itchy and red, eyes swollen.
I wondered how the Chinese manage day to day, but then i realised it must be mornal, if you have always grown up in it. I, of course, wore a mask to cover my mouth, but it didn’t stop me from getting painfully itchy eyes from dust entering them, or crunchy particles between my teeth.
The Western world sees many stories on the news regarding the Chinese pollution, but I really cannot express how much it is underexaggerated, to an extent that people who haven’t visited don’t really take note. It is awful; partly because the lorries overload their stock so much that it tumbles out onto the road or blows into the wind. The cars and vehicles were so old that black smoke churned from their exhausts; factories burnt excess materials which caused pungent smells and thick, dark clouds filled the air. Even the school canteen burnt things and it almost filled the school grounds. Mountains were being blown up with small firecrackers and not only did it sound like a gunshot, it caused horrific amounts of smoke. You have to see it to believe it. Not only is it causing damage to the Chinese people and its visitors, it is also having a knock-on affect with the rest of the world; our planet is getting warmer in places it should never experience heat.
Not only did my body suffer a lot from the pollution, but also from the severe weather changes. Spring is rainy season in China, and when it rains, it pours. It would be very sudden, and everything would go very dark,the wind picking up to a seeming hurricane. Then comes the downpour.
Chinese people would be very prepared and immediately stop what they were doing to take cover. I threw on my double poncho and grabbed my umbrella and would drive the scooter to safety!
One minute it would be 30 degrees with the sun trying its hardest to beat down through the mist and fog, the next, 15 degrees and pouring from the heavens. I would also never be wearing the right clothes, of course.
Although the sky in China was usually overcast due to the air, the type of pollution varied from city to city. In Beijing, for example, the air was lighter and without physical pollution harming your skin. It was more of a mist, a haze of smoke that was difficult to see through. It also depends on the main product of the province you were in; Guangdong is famous for recycling, Shanxi is famous for its firework production. The plus side of the erratic weather was that the fruit and vegetables were absolutely huge and delicious, too, due to the amount of sunlight they were receiving!
China taught me a lot of things not only about myself, but also that you need to be out of your comfort zone sometimes, and experience the world, to then tell your stories to others. Experiencing cultures and cities is essential for building character and opening your mind up to the wonderful world around us, and essential to understanding some of the problems that face us and our planet every day.Tweet