I was chatting to some of the locals (what is the correct term for a person living in Beijing, a Beijinger, a Jinger?) about the weather. They had heard that it rains a lot in Ireland. Which I had to concede, to a degree. The greatest hassle is not that it rains, because despite our occasional complaining it doesn’t rain as much as we like to make out. Back in the days when I spent most of my time in Ireland there were only a few days a month where I would have to bring an umbrella to work.
The real problem is that the weather is so changeable. Every morning the first thing you have to do is look outside the window to see what it will be like today. I think the met office have even said that they only have a 75% accuracy in forecasts going out three days. From one day to the next, or even during the day the weather will flip quickly. And even across our relatively small country, very different sorts of weather will happen.
In most of the places I visit though the weather is distinguished by being so stable. Now it could be bad stable, but it will be pretty much the same every day. Down in Dubai it was a steady 30 to 34°C every day. And here in Beijing it is pretty much 10°C each day too. There is no point checking outside the window in the morning. It is almost certainly the same as yesterday. Frankly it is a little boring having weather like that.
The only variation here has been around the pollution. When I arrived we had blue skies and things were clear. But in the last few days it has changed slightly and become grey and smoggy. There are 3 million cars knocking around this city (and knocking into people, but Chinese driving skills and road etiquette are a post for another day) and you can smell it when you go outside.
Adding to the fug is the very low humidity here. Weather Underground gives the local figure as 17%, and you can tell. My lips are dry and cracking (hence the vaseline reference above), and the back of my throat feels dry, and tastes funny from the pollution. It is not a nice mix. The air gets so dry in winter because of the winds blowing in off the Gobi. It dessicates the place, makes the pollution more noticeable, and generally makes life miserable for those sensitive to it.
In the office the locals have machines on their desks, made from clear plastic about the size of a cereal box. They fill them with water and you would see a plume of steam coming out of the machine. Initially I thought it was a rice cooker, but I was told they are for raising the humidity around a desk.
Coming from a country where the humidity rarely falls below 70 or 80% I don’t see them ever catching on in Ireland.
I have to apologise as well for the dearth of photos. I have been working all week and there have been no junkets to interesting places. But the weekend is coming and I should make it to Tianamen square tomorrow. We have an 11km walk on the Great Wall planned for the day after. So I am promising more interesting visuals for Sunday night.