It’s funny what things have stood out to me since returning from a month outside China, especially language and weather issues. I’ve been back for over a week now – and what a busy week it’s been! While I missed several students who visited over Christmas, there have been others to catch up with. Plus there are friends I haven’t seen in over a month, my normal youth group commitments, and a seminar Friday-Sunday. And I’ve been working on my book, with more feedback coming in and more writing to be done. Like I said – busy. It’s been hard to get myself writing here but I’ve been filing away things I’ve noticed so I could share them with you. I hope you all feel special ;)
Language – Something I didn’t mention in my last post was how I kept wanting to say “arkoun” on the flight back to China. That’s the Khmer word for thank you (with the spelling that google translate provided). I have never defaulted to Khmer before. Cambodia may be the country I visit most but I’ve never studied Khmer formally, just picked up words from friends while visiting. In fact, it is the only language I have learned any amount of without the aid of a textbook. I thought it was entertaining, but what I didn’t expect was for this mental confusion to continue! But continue it did, to my great surprise. I struggled to swallow the words “tow trang” when what I meant to say was 一直走 (yi zhi zou – go straight). Not just once, but multiple times. And “arkoun” was also on the tip of my tongue several times. Other Khmer words came to the front of my mind, but those were the two I had to deliberately hold back. It has been quite surreal!
Weather – China welcomed me back with the smell of pollution, as always, and just one day in I could feel the changes in my sinuses, as building congestion produced sinus pain and affected my breathing. My face started to feel oily (despite the dry air making the skin on my limbs beg for moisturiser) and I sadly remembered how much nicer both it and my hair had been while I was away. Then things got worse. We had two days of “hazardous” level pollution – over 300 – with a high of over 500, and our worst pollution since the airpocalypse of last January. The end of the scale in most places is 300, in China the scale keeps going to 500, but there have been cases in other cities this winter of nearly double that. I could smell the difference between my bedroom and my living room, so I carried my good air purifier downstairs to use during the day. Thankfully, though, a wind blew through and dropped the pollution level. Then it kept blowing, and blowing. After a full night of banging windows and other noises, the pollution level dropped into the “healthy” range earlier today. Sorry, Tianjin – hope our pollution blew past you into the ocean! Maybe California can have it again this time ;)
In other weather news, the cold snap I expected upon my return has not yet eventuated (I figured Beijing was sadistically waiting for me to come back before unleashing its normal deep-freeze). This has been the warmest Beijing winter I can remember, with daytime maximums remaining above freezing the entire time! I kept an eye on the forecasts while I was away, mostly because I couldn’t believe it *still* wasn’t getting cold. I would normally expect the daytime max to drop below freezing shortly before Christmas and stay there til the end of January, so this is quite a difference. There also has been no snow, which is sad. I like snow. (Update: the cold snap came in February, when we had our only snowfall and the coldest weather of the entire winter – the only time we had daytime maximums below freezing).
Finally, I’ve decided to keep my Christmas tree up. Okay, it’s partly because I don’t feel like doing the work necessary to put it away, but mostly I think it’s pretty and see no reason I can’t continue to enjoy it. Plus two of my youth group girls helped me put it up and decorate it and I don’t want to destroy their handiwork :) Maybe I’ll put away everything but the gold and red ornaments and call it a Chun Jie tree? My house helper put up some red plastic paper-cut style decorations on my windows already so hey, why not be festive in multiple cultural traditions at once!