Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring finally arrives after the sandstorms and snow

Spring is finally here. But first around a third of the population of China had to endure a horrendous stand storm last weekend (though it was much worse in Beijing than any other large city). Waking up at 7.30am on saturday it seemed like my bedroom window had an orange shade over it. The whole world outside was orange-red. But it was not the window, it was the sand in the air. Once I got downstairs the sand was swirling around, just like being in the desert last Summer, and as cars drove down the street the thin layer of sand on the ground would swirl around. It was the worst sandstorm in Beijing for about 4 years -I remember the one before that, and it was indeed worse. Although most cars this time were dirty and sand-streaked, last time it was much worse. Good business for the car-wash people anyway!

The government had actually warned everyone to stay inside and not go out, but by the afternoon it was pretty clear. By monday it seemed spring was finally here, only for wednesday evening, after going an event in a cafe about Climate Change (Debate: Has China done enough?), to find myself cycling home in a horrendous snow storm, arriving home 30 minutes later soaked and covered in snow. Unfortunately the debate was pretty tame. The team (apparently the more experienced debaters, though much younger than the other team) arguing China has not done enough did a pretty poor job and lost comprehensively.

It is clear China has done a lot and is doing a lot; China has the political will to do something and is getting something done -none of which can really be said about the US or other developed nations. Yet, it is also clear China has to do a lot more, as China will be one of the hardest hit from Climate Change with a third of its population close to the coast and liable to be flooded and another third living next to major rivers that will first flood and then run dry. In the meantime, every year the droughts in China affect more people and get more severe not just ruining farmland and leading to food shortages, but also with real economic consequences from the triple whammy of a lack of food being grown, the need to provide food to those who cannot grow it, and the extra time and resources needed to organize and transport food as part of the 'relief' mission. The rest of the world is not doing much compared to China, but China has to do more -it cannot wait for the rest of the World, for its own sake!

Now, finally it seems Spring is here. The proof is that most of the covers that have kept all of Beijing's bushes hidden during the Winter have come off. As I referred to previously, alongside every main road there are bushes and hedges and around most office and apartment buildings too. Over the winter all of them were crudely covered with wooden frames and a green sheet stitched over the frame. Now thousands of workers have been out dismantling the frames.

Our apartment complex is owned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who sold apartments to its employees cheaply as a benefit, so our landlord works there (actually in Myanmar/Burma at the Chinese Embassy) and many of our fellow residents work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I've met old people who speak excellent English from their time served overseas, and young people currently in between postings. The guy i spoke to last week just came back from 3 years at the Chinese delegation to the UN, though his English should have been better (then again, so should my Chinese after living here over 5 years!).

Current 'news' seems to weighted around football, with 5-a-side games twice a week (we actually one our season opener which is amazing, but then lost the second) and a one-off 11-a-side today. Spurs seem to be promising they'll finish 4th or 5th, but i am sure we'll fall at the last hurdle as always. Only 6 weeks left in the season so we'll find out soon enough.


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