So I’ll break the weeks-long silence on our blog by talking about the thing people are always talking about: the weather. At the moment we are emerging from the bone-dry Beijing winter into the gusty, dusty Beijing spring. Spring is a very windy time here, and for the past few days the cracks in our apartment windows have been moaning and howling intermittently.
In recent years, spring winds have carried heavy loads of sand into the city from Inner Mongolia. As recently as four years ago, Beijingâ€™s spring sandstorms were reaching new heights of intensity (see some of the news coverage here and here), but since 2002 they seem to have abated. There are lots of theories why: is it â€œa new El NiÃ±o phenomenon,â€ as one report suggested? More winter precipitation than in the early 2000s? The man on the street (well, outside our apartment building, anyway) insists that itâ€™s the result of the governmentâ€™s â€œgreeningâ€ efforts over the past few years. Lots of trees and other vegetation have been planted outside the city, and the neighbors and friends Iâ€™ve talked to say thatâ€™s holding the soil down. Well, whatever it is, itâ€™s making spring a little more pleasant.
Of course, itâ€™s still early for sandstorms, so we may yet see a few. And ordinary precipitation can carry a lot of dirt, too. The other morning, after a light rain the previous night, I was dismayed to see that my bike, which I had just ridden the day before, was caked in dirt from stem to stern. Absolutely filthy. Later that day, it snowed on BH and me while we were out on our bikes, and when we got home, we had to wipe a film of dirt off the lenses of our glasses and dust off our pants and bags. Iâ€™m starting to understand why Chinese friends will cancel an appointment just because itâ€™s raining.