Spring fling in Beijing

After 9 years the weather in China still surprises me. At least I’m no longer surprised about being taken by surprise.

For my first few years I was constantly shocked by how quickly the weather changed. The temperature, but also the light. It’s strange, because when our family lived in Connecticut when I was in high school we were as far from the equator as Beijing is, and yet I don’t recall noticing such dramatic changes there.

I lived in Canberra for the 6 years before I moved to Beijing. I often joke that Canberra weather is 5 months Spring, 1 month Summer, 5 months Autumn, 1 month Winter; and Beijing is 1 month Spring, 5 months Summer, 1 month Autumn, 5 months Winter. It’s really more 4-2 in Canberra, but the 5-1 is about right for Beijing! I quickly discovered that most of my Canberra wardrobe didn’t work in Beijing. I had lots of mid-weight clothing that’s really only wearable for a month or so out of the year here. My heaviest coats weren’t warm enough. The temperature would change so quickly I would find myself way over- or under-dressed for the day. It took me a good 2-3 years to learn how to dress for the Beijing weather. Of course now that I’ve acclimatised it’s not as difficult as it used to be.

Blossoms in the garden.

Blossoms in the garden.

Anyway, this year the Beijing Spring has sprung with more speed and surprise than ever before. We went from two-cardigan weather to warm-in-short-sleeves temperatures within a week. The prolonged winter (snow in March!) and sudden Spring warmth meant all the flowers bloomed at once – or so it seemed. Instead of 4-6 weeks of different blossoms with overlapping flowering periods, the entire city came alive at once! Well, within about 2 weeks, anyway. The result was layer upon layer upon layer of blossoms. Trees that usually don’t flower at the same time were side by side, creating colour combinations I don’t recall having seen before.

I swear the blossoms in the house where I’m living came out in a single day. The first tree to bloom was a mass of buds when I left in the morning and in full bloom when I came home!

There are other repercussions. All the allergens released at once time means more friends than ever are suffering with allergy symptoms. The fluff (seeds released by certain plants) is building up like cotton wool. It seems like there is fluff in the air everywhere in the city!

Fluff seeds building up among the purple-flowering weeds that are everywhere this year.

Fluff seeds building up among the purple-flowering weeds that are everywhere this year.

It also means the blossoms have faded almost simultaneously and the trees have greened just as suddenly. It feels like we went from grey to green in a single week! The photo below is the side of the house – I swear it was completely bare just two weeks ago.


Sadly, though, the beautiful clear (pollution-free) skies that accompanied the new warmth has been replaced by a week of horrid grey muck. But that’s the way it goes in Beijing – the long list of reasons the weather here sucks means that those rare wonderful days are doubly appreciated :)


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