On the Fifth Day of China: Gasping for Air

My weather app indicated full sun the day I flew to Xi’an, and plenty of sun was to be had from 36,000 feet on my flight in, but on the ground, as the photo on the left below demonstrates, no sun was visible. China’s air quality issue is well known but until you are in it, you can’t really understand how it affects you. Within 15 minutes of landing in one of the oldest cities in the world and one of China’s most polluted, a tickle began in the back of my throat. The weather app also indicated “Unhealthy Air Quality for Sensitive Groups.” I don’t consider myself a “sensitive group” and I’ve lived in plenty of heavily polluted cities in India, Russia, and elsewhere, but maybe a decade of clean, blue, Rocky Mountain skies has altered my ability to deal with smog. That tickle quickly turned into a scratch and then a persistent cough that cleared up briefly as I moved on to Shanghai but then returned with a vengeance. I don’t know how the Chinese do it. I don’t think those ubiquitous face masks can help that much. Continue reading →

On the First Day of China: All the People

I love Boulder. But as I’ve mentioned before, Boulder is almost 90 percent white and, more importantly than skin color, fairly homogeneous in terms of interests and education level, especially in my group of friends. So, while I went to China to learn about the Chinese, I also talked to everyone I met on the various tours I took. People are endlessly fascinating if for no other reason than that their lives are nothing like mine. Among the tourists I spent time with were Continue reading →