Typhoon Haikui

Well this week’s typhoon certainly made things interesting in Shanghai. The city’s first red-level warning -highest in a 4-tier system- kicked in , ships were called back to port , and nearly 200,000 people were evacuated from the storm’s path. Just after midnight early Wednesday morning the soft pitter-patter of rain started on my awnings and it had intensified to more of a machine gun sound by sunrise. At 7:20 a.m , my alarm clock started blaring causing a bleary-eyed me to lurch up and try to gather my bearings. Yup , even with the typhoon warnings and threats my kindergarten’s teachers had to report to work. However , there were no students. Give the cute little kids the day off. (Aww she could be literally swept by the gale winds!) The teachers?! Hah! Not cute anymore, off to work with the lot!

With a little bit of preparation the whole no students thing made my day pretty awesome. Pack a few books , some DVDs , my laptop, and I’m set. I spent my entire day at work chillaxin in the office , alternating between reading , writing , watching a movie , and staring outside my window as particularly intense wind gusts caused rattling from the awnings , railings , and clothes lines on the tattered old buildings outside.

The weather reports only called for more of same for the next few days. The teachers were released thirty minutes early with cautions to get home and stay safe and don’t come back tomorrow. Can’t work anymore if we’re dead , yea?

I awoke the next day expecting lightning , hailstones , and terror raining down from the heavens. I was greeted by light cloud cover , rays of sun poking through , and a pleasant breeze that occasionally escalated into a slight gusts. No work for this? Awesome.

I was hoping perhaps it was the eye of the storm and things would pick up again but didn’t even see as much as a drop of rain. I’m the kind of person who enjoys watching a summer thunderstorm out the window, and to be honest I was kinda let down by the typhoon. I’ve been in the middle of a hurricane in Florida before and damn was that intense.

On the way home from work during the day of the typhoon I was trying to assess my neighborhood for signs of damage. We were pretty lucky, minor flooding in my street and a few branches were knocked off the trees. Above ground lines of the subway also experienced closures and delays. Other parts of Shanghai (particularly those near the coast) weren’t so lucky with road closures and property damage. The scaffolding on the new Shanghai Tower wobbled a bit but was a-okay.

I heard that things were much worse in the Philippines with Manila being described as a “water-world” by Filipino officials and close to sixty deaths. I’ve spent some time in Manila and am trying to imagine what it must be like now. My thoughts go out to all those affected by the typhoon and I thank my lucky stars my city didn’t get hit too badly.

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Let it rain , let it rain , let it rain.

Shanghai’s weather so far this winter has seemed to me a much warmer affair than last year. By much warmer I don’t mean blue skies and t-shirts but a couple of degrees centigrade higher. This week the lowest high has been 6C with temperatures supposed to rise up to 10C by the middle of the week..  Last year by this point in time we had a couple of days with snow and it seemed that I was nearly freezing to death in my apartment every night.

Listen you Ohioans, I know you are suffering through snow storms , whiteout, slippery driving , and all that fun stuff but still sometimes I like the snow. Maybe after a week or two yea I’m done with the snow but it has its days. Nothing like being the crazy ones bundled up and going to Holden Arboreteum in the winter during a blizzard or grabbing some hot chocolate after sledding. When it snowed in Shanghai last year , I took the opportunity to walk back home from work (2 hour walk) and detour into Fuxing park to take in the sights and enjoy the falling white matter. With my trip to Cambodia and February looming ahead will this be my first winter completely without snow?

Anyways , It’s been rainy the entirety of this Saturday and I couldn’t be happier. Usually rainy weekend and happy are at odds with each other but not today. Shanghai has been hit with disgusting polluted fog aka smog this week. The (acid) rain is now washing out all the chemicals. Walking around outside today , of course keeping the umbrella very close to myself, felt great. The air was easier to breathe in and the sky was much lighter than previously this week.

Here is a Shanghaiist article about the air condition this week.

http://shanghaiist.com/2012/01/12/light_air_pollution_more_transparen.php

Dragon Boats and Plum Rains

Well it’s here again.  The east Asian rainy season known as the Plum Rains are have reared its gray drippy face。 Just in time to rain for the Dragon Boat national holiday. My original plan of heading down to, previously written about, Mengqing park was thwarted by the steady drizzle that started early early morning and has still not let up. Not a hard rain at all , just constant. My enthusiasm for sitting in the park and watching the dragon boats race down the Suzhou river evaporated as the rains condensed. I was really looking forward to hanging out in the park all day and there was even supposed to be a food street set up with all kinds of delicious food. Street meat , brew, sunshine , trees, and dragon boats , arghghhhhh stupid rains!!!!!

Okay let’s go into some details. Apparently the term “Plum Rains” comes from ancient China , the rains would start every year just around the time the plums were ripe.  When the rains fall on the ripe plums, there follows 40 rainy days. Maybe it’s all made up, but it sounds reasonable and I sure as hell haven’t noticed any amethyst hue to the water. Maybe a slight sludge color from all the air pollution getting pulled out of the sky but that’s it. Haha kidding but the air does seem really fresh right and I am definitely liking that. Anyways , these rains last anywhere from a month to two months or so. I wasn’t yet in Shanghai this time last year so I can’t tell you how long this weather phenomena went on before but I will make note of it for everyone this year. Perfect timing for my parents to arrive, no?

Now we will focus on the parade (or race) that these rains fell upon. The Dragon Boat Festival or 端午节 Duanwu Jie as it’s known in Mandarin occurs every 5th day of every 5th lunar month. This holiday has many different theories about its origins but the most common one I am encountering and the one told to me by a Chinese friend is the story of a poet’s suicide. Supposedly the poet Qu Yuan decided that in the year 273 B.C  he had enough and leaped off in a bridge into water to commit suicide. The villagers raced out in their boats in an attempt to save his life but unfortunately they couldn’t make it in time. They couldn’t help him in life but in death they could. The villagers threw glutinous rice wrapped with bamboo leaves into the water so the fish would eat them and spare Qu Yuan’s corpse.

Due to Chinese influence throughout Asia in ancient as well as modern times the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in Japan , Korea , Vietnam , Singapore , Malaysia , Hong Kong , and Taiwan. On an interesting note, this holiday is a brand new one to China! (the People’s Republic of China that is) You may be wondering ,”how this is possible?” considering how I just stated the ancient roots of this festival. Well due to the pure genius of events occurring after 1949 traditional holidays were ignored in an attempt to… uh well …….. I have no idea. Thankfully though this holiday was reinstated in 2008! Woo hoo! Yes opening up and reform! I have the day off now because of you! Weird to think that during my first visit to China back in 2007 this holiday didn’t exist and now it does again. Kinda cool. Ok folks I’ll leave you with some pictures.