Day 201: Hot & Sticky

Two friends beat the heat under a fine mist

Two friends beat the heat under a fine mist

The rains are gone and the summer heat and humidity have arrived in Shanghai. Sunshine, (a low AQI meant blue skies) a temperature of 95 F (35C), and humidity of 71% equaled a heat index of 109 degrees, this afternoon. I went walking the local neighborhood hoping to find a place to buy a dog leash and collar, but had no luck (I did manage to get a pair of plastic slides for 15 RMB). A small shopping center just off Century Avenue and Weifang Xi Lu had a cooling zone with a fine mist spraying out over some benches and it was pretty popular, but stepping into air conditioned stores was more effective.

Day 200: Sunset at last!

Sun sets behind the Huangpu River

Sun sets behind the Huangpu River

For the last 7 months that we lived in Seattle we lived in a top floor apartment with a large outdoor deck that looked over Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains; there were spectacular sunsets almost every night, most of which I documented on my Facebook page. Conversely, during the almost 10 months we have been living in Shanghai, looking west over the Huangpu River and the Puxi side of town, there have been two sunsets, both this week. I am hopeful now that the plum rains have ended and the AQI seems to have cleared up a bit that there will be more to come.

Day 198: Blue Sky, Sunny Day

The sky over Shanghai has finally lost its gray pall

The sky over Shanghai has finally lost its gray pall This is the Metro stop on line 2, Shanghai Science & Technology Museum

Finally! I’d begun to think that they sky would never clear, that I’d never see the yellow orb, the blue skies, or the varied texture of clouds floating past. When I arrived in Shanghai, first in early September 2013 and permanently that October, the AQI was mostly acceptable, or perhaps a bit unhealthy, but then winter arrived, the skies turned ashen and any appearances by the sun had the look of a sunset on Tatooine obscured by a gritty AQI.  And that dreary look persisted for most of the following months, until I returned to the USA in late April.  When I arrived back in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago the Plum Rains were in full force and it appeared that the the gloom would never lift. Today, that all came to an end!  Although it is 8 PM and the temperature is still 85 degrees (29 C) and the humidity sits at 83%, the sun was out today, the sky was blue and clouds floated past. Oh, and the AQI was a moderate 75! Let the summer begin!

Day 112: Clouds

Clouds pass over Seattle.

Clouds pass over Seattle.

We moved from Seattle to Shanghai and had to adjust to life in a massive city of 24 million people after two years in a city of 608,000. But cities, regardless of their size, are all basically the same urban environment; Just like big dogs and little dogs are all dogs. The biggest difference we’ve had to adjust to is the environment, specifically the air. Seattle may often have gray skies because of clouds bringing rain, but when the rain ends, the skies are a deep blue populated by great, big puffy clouds. The sky changes from day-to-day and even from hour-to-hour. In Shanghai the sky hardly ever changes. It’s a dull gray. Every day. Day after day. Now that can’t be you say, surely the sun shines, right? Yes, you’re right, the sun does shine on occasion. On sunny days, the sky is a light, hazy gray.

Day 106: Sprinkler Men

Watering the shrubbery along Century Boulevard.

Watering the shrubbery along Century Boulevard.

The public landscaping in Shanghai is quite extensive and very well done; luxury apartment compounds, high rise office towers, parks and Pudong’s wide boulevards are extensively planted and very well taken care of. Everyday you will see an army of workers planting, trimming, sweeping and watering. For such a modern city it is surprising, at first, to this westerner, that there is not more utilization of technology–automatic sprinklers. But China is still in the early stages of development, relatively speaking, as a modern economy and society, and there are 1.6 billion or so people to employ, so it is quite understandable that there is a reliance on manual labor. And that small Honda engine is doing wonders for the AQI.

Day Ninety-Nine: Mahjong

A mahjong game attracts some oberservers.

A mahjong game attracts some observers.

I borrowed a bicycle from the hotel and took a meandering 20 km ride around central Beijing, yesterday, despite an AQI of 250, in the “Very Unhealthy” range. The bad air isn’t really noticeable at street level, however there was quite a bit of pollen and petals from the Spring flowering trees swirling around and I did catch an occasional bug in my teeth. There was also a lot of construction & destruction taking places, small scale projects in many of the hutong neighborhoods I roamed, that added blowing dust and sand to the mix. The air quality aside, it was a glorious day to be about and about, sunny and unseasonably warm with temperatures reaching the mid 80’s (30 C). My original plan upon departing the hotel was to walk the 4 km to the Bell and Drum Towers, north of the Forbidden City, but when I exited the backside of the hotel I noticed a row of matching bicycles; the doorman informed me that they are available for guests, so I checked one out–complete with helmet and lock– and rode north. Much of the day was spent avoiding the main streets and commercial lanes of Beijing in general, focusing on exploring the side alleys of the hutongs. I did make it to the two ancient, MIng structures and they are impressive, but I didn’t bother entering, choosing instead to lock my bike and wander to surrounding hutongs by foot, where I discovered this cheerful group of resident playing a spirited game of mahjong.

Day Ninety-Five: Looking Back

Hipster in the rear view.

Hipster in the rear view.

Shanghai’s air pollution is having an impact on Melinda’s lungs; a cold contracted back in March turned into bronchitis that has lingered despite antibiotic treatment. Today, we visited the Parkway Medical Specialty & Inpatient Center in Xintiandi where a chest x-ray revealed some lasting congestion in the lungs and some irritation to he breathing pathways. We left the hospital with a stronger antibiotic, an inhaler and an anti-inflammatory. Soldiering on despite an AQI in the unhealthy range, we headed out to locate Sumerian cafe to get a Nitro coffee– a cold coffee with a nitrous oxide injection.

As is typical for us, we had a general idea of where the coffee shop was, but no detailed route, we just headed west, northwest. Along the way we stumbled upon two largely uninhabited parks  and avoided the main streets, choosing instead to walk the more intimate local streets lined with small boutiques. In one, Melinda found a red stone bead necklace. I waited outside–the shop was barely 7 feet x 10 feet — and watched hipsters and surf dudes pass by.