Observations of Beijing's environment

By Orr Shtuhl (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2007-07-05 15:54

Some of the most unusual of Chinese habits (by American standards) are the ones I find most delightful. Spitting? Completely understandable - you've got to purge yourself of the Beijing smog. Staring? Fair enough-there's no denying I stand out. And I'm a strong proponent the heat-beating method of hiking my T-shirt up to my armpits.

The pollution, however, is a justified complaint. Beijing ranks second among world cities for the worst air quality, and the oppressive, coal-stamped atmosphere affects me every day. Running in the city is out of the question -- I feel sick and congested for at least two days after any outdoor exercise. And it's largely due to coal-burning and construction, as well as some people whose job is seemingly to pollute. Outside the China Daily office building, they paint and repaint the same construction barrier every few days with the foulest, most toxic spray paint. There are things more important than the appearance of a construction barrier.

Dirt can washed off, but there is one inescapable thing in Beijing: noise. It's never one thing, but a constant cacophony of noise pollution. Diesel engines, jackhammers, honking, and the loud hiss of buses braking - all day and all night. I wake up Saturday and Sunday mornings to the sound of drills working on the other side of my ceiling, not 10 feet above my head. And because my bathroom window doesn't close properly, my apartment is filled with amplified music and hundreds of children's voices singing anthems every morning at 7am. Even thinking about it makes me tired. Excuse me while I try to take a nap.


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