Pollution Predicament: Greetings from Beijing! (八)



~ Today’s Mandarin Lesson ~
character: 八 | pinyin: bā | definition: eight | pronunciation: bah
character: 好 | pinyin: hǎo | definition: good | pronunciation: how
character: 很 | pinyin: hěn | definition: very | pronunciation: hen

I’ve had a handful of people ask about the pollution over here as it is widely known to be a problem. I’m sad to say these are not rumors, although it’s not quite as bad as I had anticipated. Let’s call it a DEFCON4, sometimes a 3.

Basically, we have good and we have bad periods. There have been entire days where I need to wear my menacing mask whenever I step outside, but that is rare. More often, there are periods throughout a day where the pollution will be bad enough to warrant a mask, usually late at night. During those times I don’t go out unless it’s necessary. I can say that it is quite ominous when you can actually see the pollution lingering in the air. Eep.

We watch our air quality app (AirVisual) like hawks, which gives a reading for the current moment as well as predictions for the rest of the day and the upcoming days. It’s pretty highly regarded, so I take it at face value. It’s the first thing I check when I wake up. I also take my inhaler every morning as a precautionary measure, something I only do back home when I’m sick.

Some screenshots of our AirVisual app showing the fluctuations of Beijing air quality.

Mornings are better on average, which works for me since that is when I’m outside commuting to class. There is some correlation with wind: more wind = less pollution hanging about. I’ve been told the pollution also gets worse during colder weather due to indoor heating systems being turned on, but I can’t say for sure on that front.

We have a big air purifier in our apartment that I always keep on, so the air I breath most is clean and my asthmatic lungs are satisfied. I’m lucky and work from home, so I don’t have to leave if air quality isn’t great. Unfortunately, Kyle doesn’t have the same luxury. I recently discovered that the classrooms don’t have air purifiers, which I find appalling; same goes for their offices. There’s a professor here who has been pushing for getting them in all the classrooms, but no dice. So, she lugs her purifier back and forth. I would probably be that level crazy, too — though is it actually crazy? I think not.

I can attest that pollution headaches are a thing. I very rarely get headaches, but there was one instance where quality was bad – though not the worst we’ve seen – and I didn’t wear my mask to grab dinner. About 30 minutes later I had a doozy of a headache. Kyle also had one after spending a few hours in his office with the window open on a bad pollution day (his office mate – a Beijing native – opened it, and yes I scolded him for not saying something). Other than that, I haven’t noticed any symptoms, but again, we are pretty proactive.

In case you were curious to see the mask IRL, here’s a snippet of a video I sent to one of my fave humans.

It blows my mind how so few locals wear masks, and those that do are the ones you see in hardware stores or in surgery rooms… i.e. not airtight and they definitely don’t filter out the smaller pollution particles.

When quality is good, I have all the windows open despite the cold to get as much fresh air as possible into the apartment. I’ve always been an outdoorsy person and value clean air, but you bet yer ass it’s not something I’m going to take for granted after this stint.

I think that’s all on the subject? If you’ve got any questions, holler at me or post below so everyone else can see the answer. xx

About azuremarie

I'm Azure; a healthy dose of eccentricity best taken with a grain of salt. I am often described as sassy. I have a fondness for words and those who can twist them in their mouth to create something exquisite. I read a lot, delight in live music, have a mild obsession with honey bees, and am baller at boggle. I believe that being normal is boring and love bright colors. Oftentimes, I prefer the company of animals to people; particularly dogs and horses, but have recently joined team cat. I love to travel and learn. I want to be able to experience our world, as well as help it. Oh, and unicorns exist.

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