Greetings from the Mainland!
If you decide to come visit us here in Beijing, I suggest you bring an oxygen tank. For the last few weeks, we've been having "blue sky days" - the sort of fine, clear weather you find in Manitoba. The temperatures have varied, but have been pleasant. One or two days over 30, but most in the 20s.
But Beijing's reputation as a smoggy city is not entirely undeserved. All weekend they've been promising rain, and last night we finally had some. But it hasn't done much to clear the thick miasma that has been draped over the city the last few days. It's quite amazing to look out the window on morning and see the buildings across from you, only to look out the next and wonder where they went. On days like these, roads fade into obscurity.
I've pulled a photo off the web that illustrates the point very well:
(If you go to the link below, you can read an explanation behind these two photos. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beijing_smog_comparison_August_2005.png)
I rode the subways this morning to go pick up our visas. I guess the air had been seeping down into the subway tunnels all night, because it was just as hazy down there as it was on the street. Except there, no breeze blew to take the edge off. It was positively caustic.
As if this weren't enough, it's pollen season, and the air is thick with it. Cars are dusty yellow in the mornings. The poplars have sent up an army of white fuzz, floating on the breeze like a hundred billion tiny paratroopers. It almost looks as if it might be snowing, except that snow doesn't float in through the bus window and get sucked up your nose.
I feel that I should defend Beijing a bit, however. We really have had 20 days of beautiful weather, with air as clear as you could hope for (if only a little dusty). No burning lungs. No slime at the back of the throat. But today is a different story. So if you're sending a care package, a spare set of pink lungs might be good. Or an industrial-grade scrubber that I can affix to my lips.