Can’t breathe 30th January 2015

It is difficult to put into words what the air pollution is like and how it governs our lives. Maybe it shouldn’t govern our lives, and maybe I shouldn’t think, though I don’t for the most part, about what the long-term effects are of living in an environment where the air isn’t that clean to breathe.

On Sunday 25th January the Air Quality Index (AQI) reading was well over 350 otherwise known as Hazardous. Today the reading was 162 which is branded as Unhealthy. However on Wednesday the reading was in the 80s – Moderate.
By contrast Edinburgh is around 14, Belfast 21, London 48 (depends where), Stoke on Trent 23 and Cardiff doesn’t produce any data. Now granted it is 8.30am here and back in the UK it is half past midnight, but all of the readings in the UK have an air pollution level of Good even when I check at night here and day in the UK.

About three times a day Dulwich College Suzhou measure the air quality. If the AQI is above 200 there is no outdoor play. This week, it has not only been raining and a bit of sleet, when the AQI was at its lowest, but with the bad air and no rain or good air and rain Eleanor has had very little time, save in PE and Tennis in the atrium of her school to run around and expend what energy she has. I haven’t cycled to Chinese this week, on Tuesday because it was bad air and on Thursday is was persisting down with rain (no fun on an e-bike let alone a bicycle).

Some people say that they can taste the difference in the air, I can’t but I can certainly see the difference. The environment just has that milky tinge to it. Eleanor and I wear our masks for our daily commute, but the one day where it was very cold and a low AQI, I decided to leave the mask off – this was a big mistake – the mask keeps your face warm!

During the school run this week I also witnessed my first e-bike accident – up close and personal. No, Eleanor and I were not involved. There were two e-bikes in front of me and we had just passed a junction where all the e-bikes seem to fan out in an effort to overtake people. Everyone was narrowing back in and the e-bike in front of me just kept drifting over, so much so that he drifted into the e-bike beside him. Both toppled over. At this point I sounded my feeble horn and kept riding, however, in the seconds that it took me to pass them,  both men where standing up.

Next week, on the anniversary of the Croziers being in China for 6 months, Eleanor and I will get on a flight back to the UK via a stopover in Munich. Both of us are excited. We are no doubt packing too much in the 4 days either side of our ski trip to Bulgaria, but at least when we come back to China we will then have 10 days to do nothing as it will be in the middle of Chinese New Year. I am glad we did not come back at Christmas. It was too soon. Now, though I need to stock up on the essentials – toothpaste, Heinz tomato soup (now available in sachet), Bisto, milky bars, mars bars, dairy milk cough mixture, calpol, mini eggs, jelly, school shoes, mango chutney, knorr chicken stock TEA BAGS and indeed anything else that takes my fancy and I can get into my 40 kg luggage. (just read that back – that is a lot of chocolate!!!)

By Tuesday I will also have finished the second module of my Mandarin course. Currently there are 4 of us – Elizabeth from Poole, Dorset, Katie from Michigan – a fellow mother from Eleanor’s class and Noellia from Mexico. However, for the next module it will just be Noellia and I. It will definitely be more intense as usually with the 4 of us while one was speaking, we were all working out what we were going to say.

Learning Mandarin has highlighted some of the differences in how each of us uses the English language. Both Katie and I are fascinated at how we speak the same language but sometimes the meaning is lost. Plaster and Band Aid cause hilarity a couple of months ago. This is further compounded by her son being taught by an English teacher and rewiring how her son speaks (example we say anti clockwise and they say counter-clockwise), I have also had to interpret Downtown Abbey on occasions, notably in the first episode of the last series when the Earl speaks about the Ramsey MacDonald the new Prime Minister being a “son of a crofter”. Add Mandarin into the mix and our lessons are amusing and revealing.  In Mandarin it is the same word for lift(elevator) and escalator.

This week’s titbits of Mandarin – we would say North, South, East and West, and we also say Northeast, southwest etc. In Mandarin they say East, West, North and South and it is Eastsouth or westsouth when talking about locations.

I think there was more to this one in 2015… but it hasn’t been printed. 

Eleanor and I went to Bulgaria with Claire and Connie our friends from Wincanton who came out to see us in April 2018. The trip had been booked long before China was on the horizon. Eleanor and Connie did ski school and Claire and I also did ski school but far more intense than the girls! We went skidooing one afternoon and ringo-ing down mountains. It was a fabulous experience and clearly Claire and I got on as we wouldn’t have done China with them if we didn’t. The air was clean, there were blue skies and it was refreshing. Borovets where we were was a beautiful little town, and our ski instructor really kind and informative!