The other day, whilst talking about the effects of the recent increase in temperature and humidity, I mentioned a small creek/river that smells like a sewer. Well, this is it. Visibility into the water of this stream of sludge is less than 1cm. The water is hardly moving (you can see a few ripples down the river) and it liberates a most vile odour. In the middle of summer I'm expecting it to be approaching 'dry retch' status. I have no idea how those trees survive, especially considering how close the concrete is to their trunks.
It really is a crime to have a waterway this polluted. A local told me that when he was a kid he used to swim in this river. I'd hate to think how many diseases and infections you'd be simultaneously fighting if you fell into it now. It's no wonder that we've been warned about eating too much fish if this is the kind of water they're swimming in.
Because the Chinese money is still paper-based money it tends to deteriorate with time. This is most true of the 1 Yuan notes, the foundational single element of the Chinese economy. Either the 1 Yuan notes are very old or they deteriorate really fast. Chinese money is grubby and the smaller notes seem to go soft and tear easily. I received this particularly manky example as change at a restaurant. I've had worse.
The temperature is rising, the haze is increasing and I'm sweating. That can only mean one thing - summer is coming…
Over the last couple of days I've seen a fairly rapid rise in the humidity levels as well as an increase in temperature. how much difference does a few degrees and some water in the air make, you may ask?
- Well, for starters the paper, of pretty much any type, has lost it's crispness. There's now a slight fabric softness to the pages on my desk.
- The next most obvious difference is that I'm sweating a lot more. Over the past few months I've taken to walking to work, provided the weather is fine and I'm not carrying anything. I don't know if I'm going to be able to keep that up over summer after walking to work this morning. I took water rather than the usual morning cuppa after arriving at work just to replace what I lost during the walk. The peak of summer is still nearly four months away!
- Another difference is that things and places in the city that were a little bit stinky during winter are back to being very stinky again. This morning I was really surprised at just how much the small river that I cross each day smelled like a sewer.
- Today I noticed that all the security guards who litter the city had ditched their jackets.
- There is obvious cloud movement in the air, as opposed to a blanket of fog & smog of varying thickness.
So, whilst summer isn't here yet it's just around the corner. In the not-too-distant future we will again be drifting off to sleep to the muted hum (raucous cacophony!) of air conditioners again. On a positive note, we're looking forward the heavy rains that will clear the air, especially in the evening.
For the past few days we've had Wozza, Kiah and Hugh come and
terrorize our household stay with us. After a fleeting sleep on Wednesday night they whipped of to Huizhou for two days before returning for the weekend.
The weekend was a bit wet which precluded us from doing too much, that and the fact that we were all rather tired from hectic weeks. Despite the high humidity which made walking around Lichee Park a little unpleasant, Gail enjoyed one of the first proper rains of the summery season. Even so, we managed to have a bit of a look around together, ate lots of yummy food and watched the complete Series 9 of Top Gear. Besides, nothing beats hanging out with your mates, regardless of what you get up to.
Prior to their visit we 'Hughie-proofed' the house as much as possible. At the end of the weekend we'd made it through with no harm done; or nothing that didn't look the same after a quick spray and wipe anyway. Mission accomplished in 10 minutes. The whole time Hughie managed to keep his cuteness reserves sufficiently high to cover his occasional grumps and grizzles, providing us with plenty of laughs and smiles. He was a particularly big fan of our little red trolley, with pushing it, standing on it collapsed and standing in it receiving wheelies around the place.
Hooking up with friends in a foreign country really does make living abroad seem a whole lot easier. It's a different feeling, having friends drop in after crossing half of China, compared to a half-hour drive. The best way I can describe it is like being re-united with a piece of your identity. How much of that is to do with being friends and how much is do do with them being other Aussies is hard to say. Regardless, it was a breath of fresh air (pun intended) to have them here.
The glass of port is on the table within arm's reach, the comfy wing-back is settled into, filled with memories that have accumulated like the weight of those who have sat in it over the years, and likewise caused the friendly depressions in just the right places.
A book is considered then opened at a leather bookmark. A slightly flexed spine indicates that the pages have been deliberated over before. The bookmark is set aside on the table. A finger is licked and prepares to turn to the yet unsullied page in the saga. A pen is poised. The writer pauses in recollection, then lowers his pen thus:
China, One Year On.
Satisfied with the opening, he pauses to sample the port. It is sufficient. Ignoring the faint alcoholic haze hanging over the glass, he continues:
It's often the things that we least expect that are most memorable. Since coming to China, and more importantly, living and befriending Chinese people in their environment, our thoughts and opinions have changed. The easiest and most effective way to appreciate this is to look back at what we wrote.
Here are some outlines of what the first year has held for us.
- different tastes, much grease
- copious consumption of green tea (thanks to the food)
- copious consumption of black tea (for when yet another green tea is not a friendly thought)
- dim sum
- HK western foodstuffs
- the meritous squat loos
- the single-person Chinese unit, when in public
- pollution/ smog/ smoking acclimatisation
- mobile phone etiquette
- temperamental internet
- like-minded friends
- sore throats and sickness
- Chinese aeroplanes
- small Chinese clothes
- constant noise
- 'how can it be so cold and yet so humid?!'
- humidity and heat combo
- tropical rain
- world political awareness
- a plethora of bikes and people
- Ruski aircraft carriers
- perpetual construction/ destruction of buildings/ 2am roadworks
- Mid-Autumn festival
- confronting poverty
- encountering The System
- people : the large gap between the circle of friends and family, and everyone else
- The Maglev
- SHanghai/ Guangzhou/ HK
- the Taiwan Question
- anti-Japan protests
- teaching Middle school and kindy
- fashion? No thanks.
- shopping conventional practices: receipt system
- the 10cm Behind rule when lining up
- DVD? Copy watch? handbag?
- language barriers
- language learning
- Chinglish on signs
The writer pauses again, and ponders how to conclude a year's worth of thoughts changed, appreciations enriched and acquaintances befriended. More things make sense than they did before, and some things will undoubtably be seen with new eyes before the second year is over. But for now he reflects on the Father's many, many blessings.
Then lowers the glass, dispenses of the pen, marks the page, closes the book, and sleeps.
I bought a new pillow today. There was this interesting translation on the packaging. Now when someone tells you to "look sharp" you can tell them that you'll sleep on it.
The breaking up of the word 'protection' into 'prote' and 'ction' makes more sense when you understand that each character in mandarin only has one syllable. The concept of a word/character having more than one syllable isn't found in mandarin. Consequently, it's not surprising to see the Chinese break English words up into their individual sounds.