Autumn is probably my favourite time of year here in Beijing. We have great weather, we get a national holiday (contributing to the great weather), and we have our annual youth camps. That makes it a crazybusy time of year, but I still enjoy it!
A few weeks back I was in a taxi one morning on the way to a meeting and we turned onto a small side road – a less traffic-light-full way to go. The road is lined by tall deciduous trees and it follows the curve of a river. I had the window open, enjoying the clean air and the short window between hot summer and cold winter. The air smelled like autumn, something about the smell of deciduous leaves fallen and rotting, and the wet earth smell from rain the night before… whatever it was, I immediately thought of a playground near the lake in Weston Park in Canberra. I remember going there with my family not long after we moved to Canberra, back in 1991. It took me a while to work out why the smell took methere. I think that was the first time I ever smelled autumn like that – the first time I was around that many deciduous trees.
Unfortunately, the air is not always that clean. I have an app on my phone that shows the AQI (air quality index) numbers as measured by the American Embassy, with the numbers for every hour of the past 24 hours and the daily average for the past 30 days. It’s fascinating to watch, especially how fast the AQI can drop when wind or rain blows in. What’s more fascinating is that at dinner last week someone said the AQI was over 400 and four of us pulled out phones to check out AQI apps!
Some friends have an app that compares the US embassy figures with the figures released by the Chinese government… Let’s just say the two are rarely in sync.
I made a chart of the past thirty days based on the info on my app. The categories on my app, and the embassy’s figures, are based on the US EPA scale. Up to 50 is considered “good”. 51-100 is “moderate”, 101-150 is “unhealthy for sensitive groups”, 151-200 is “unhealthy”, and 201-300 is “very unhealthy”. In north america the scale usually only goes to 300 – over 300 is considered “hazardous”.
By this scale, 14 of 30 days in the past month were unhealthy-hazardous. Only 1 day had a daily average in the good range. Wow. What was that I said about the good weather in Autumn? Now I remember why I bought an air purifier… To be fair, these are the averages. There was more than one day in which the AQI was in the “good” range – but only one in which the daily average was good.
All the same, we had lovely weather this past weekend for the high school youth camp. The AQI dropped from 400 to 70 in an hour at about the time we got started. Although being outside the city the weather was nicer at camp anyway. But it was also warm and sunny. We had about 210 people, including 170ish students in grades 9-12. I count at least 15 nationalities on 5 continents in attendance. This coming weekend we have another camp – this time with the younger students, grades 6-8. After that I’ll write up some stories for you. At least, that’s the plan.