You’ve all seen it. Sipping your coffee and breathing in your fresh mountain air as you gaze upon the grey photographs of China. Is that a building that I see or a person or is it just a denser smog? You ponder what it’s like living in China, living with that air. You think to yourself, “Why don’t they do something about it? Why doesn’t the population revolt?”. I thought of that too before I came to China but I wanted to come and experience it first-hand. My expectations of China were really low. I expected grey skies, uninspiring Soviet era architecture and a hell of a lot of people. I came to China to make money, see pandas and experience living in such a populous place. I didn’t come to enjoy the local air and the crowds (who am I kidding?). So you ask me on Facebook, “How do you breathe? How do you live?”
Well, I do. I somehow do and honestly it sucks. Living with Chinese smog is awful. It has made me realize that I’d rather live in a clean environment than fatten up my wallet. It is making me sort out my priorities. Existentialist thinking aside, the poor air quality affects my daily life as I’m sure it would affect you.
Everybody is an Expert
I have become an expert on the Air Quality Index. I know scientific terms that I would never known if I never set foot in China. I know a hell of a lot more about the Great Smog. I’ve been scouring the internet for AQI and ug/m3 of London from 1952 to try to compare it to Shanghai’s worst pollution levels of December and November 2013. I now know about the air quality measurements, the size of particles. I have daily discussion with my friends, co-workers and even strangers about wind patterns and air quality in Shanghai and Beijing. Everyone has got an app on their phone that provides hourly updates on AQI of Shanghai.
Talking to the locals about smog is an equal combination of hilarious and frustrating. My former CEO wanted to move the entire company to Xiamen or Hainan because the smog doesn’t dare travel there. Some say that this an important part of development as a nation as United States has gone through this in past. There are so many things wrong with this statement but I will only say that repeating mistakes of others is a completely legitimate way of being.
Steam Sales Galore
I cannot exercise outside as freely as I would back home. There are many things I can’t do outside in China and pollution is just one of the things stopping me. I want to go for a run but I look outside my apartment and my heart aches. I check for outlines of buildings as I consider going for a bike ride. When the air gets bad I want to stay indoors. I have never played this many video games in my life in such a quick succession. I catch myself looking at most anticipated games for 2014 (so far it all looks awful). I have found a way to get Netflix working without a hiccup. Now if only Chinese internet would start working like it’s 2014 and I would be set!
Living in Desolation
I started dreaming about living in a cabin in the BC wilderness. I never in my life had an urge to live outside a big city but after living in the biggest city in the world I cannot wait to get out. Sometimes all I think about is buying a house in the middle of nowhere and going on hikes with my dog ( for whom I also search for on Pet Finder weekly). At times when I’m not decorating my future cabin I try to improve the air quality in my current apartment. The only way I’ve discovered how is to get more plants but even those bastards keep dying on me. How is it possible that I kill plants and have kept cats alive?
It’s Not Just the Air
Manufacturing all of the world’s cheap crap comes at a price. It’s not just the amount of particles in the air per cubic meter. Chinese lakes and rivers are so polluted that the water is not suitable for irrigation. Shanghai water treatment company still hasn’t sorted out how to treat its water. Some days I step into my shower and it reeks of chemicals that are definitely not just chlorine. Aside from washing dishes and showering I don’t use tap water, not even to brush my teeth. Every three weeks we get a delivery of 10 gallons of drinking water for 5 USD. I cannot wait to shower in Canada and be able to drink the water. Oh, it’s the little things. In the end, in China you don’t know if the down blanket is filled with moldy pigeon feathers, if the oil used to fry those pancakes came from the gutter or even if that French wine you bought actually isn’t manufactured north of Beijing.
This pollution makes me think about the damage that I’m doing to my body. I do hope that I don’t end up with lung cancer 20 years from now. I am most worried about decreased lung capacity as I do notice my lungs burn at random occurrences. Alas, I’m not here for long. I have a long holiday in Indonesia coming up where my poor lungs will catch a break. I cannot help but feel that I am a mere observer to a life in China, never fully committing to it. I know that once I leave I will never return as there is nothing left for me here.
P.S. I would also like to mention that it isn’t just the air, the water and the food that is polluted in China. Once Jonathan and I finally make our way out of here we will need to reformat all our electronics. This is one country where I can’t say that wearing a tin foil hat is utterly crazy. The government controls and watches all internet traffic. Even WeChat will be getting the boot. All hail Kakao Talk. God, I miss Korea.