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Like anywhere, China has its bad days; they're just smoggier

By JON KRAUSE / VN GUEST COLUMNIST
On March 24, 2015

BY JONATHAN KRAUSE

VN GUEST COLUMNIST

 

China is full of confusing, eye-opening experiences where you get to learn about new cultures and eat lots of bugs.

We've established that much already in my last few entries.

It sounds completely perfect, right?

Well, it’s not quite perfect.

As with any place, life in China has its ups and downs.

Just as in Michigan (and Thailand and Vietnam and Mongolia), there are definitely a fair share of bad days.

What is not so great about China? Allow me to illuminate.

First of all, there’s the smog.

I am sure you have seen pictures on Google of cloudy, murky-looking streets full of mask-clad Chinese people wandering around blindly. It is an entirely different experience to live with it daily.

In my eight months here I have noted an observable decline in my running and stair-climbing abilities. Despite remaining very physically active, it now takes very little effort to make me entirely out of breath.

There is also a general sort of malaise that comes with living in a smoggy country. I have only seen a blue sky and the sun one or two days here.

It can be stressful and depressing to not have any clear days, and to know that the chemicals you are breathing are actively hurting your body.

According to theatlantic.com, a month in China has the equivalent effect on your lungs of smoking five cigarettes. Oh, yeah, and your snot turns brown/black.

That’s not all, either.

Guangdong province has some of the most intense and invasive humidity ever. One reason that the buildings in this region are all built out of concrete and tile instead of wood and drywall is to combat mold and rot.

This style has been in place for hundreds of years.

Nevertheless, the humidity is still so bad that clothes never dry properly, and most rooms are noticeably moist.

Try sleeping on wet bed sheets, drying off with a wet towel and then putting on wet clothes every day for a year. It’s not easy.

Finally, China has a lot of people.

You probably knew this already, but sit down for a minute and think about how much 1.35 billion is exactly.

It’s a number so incredibly large that it is incomprehensible.

Even living in a “small” town of 7 million, I am keenly aware of how many people are around me at all times.

Subways and buses are always a nightmare. My “tiny” school has almost 3,000 children. The smallest class size is 35 kids.

This means that you are never really alone, everything is always noisy and someone is always getting you sick.

Yes, some days are very difficult in China.

I would be lying if I told you that I hadn’t considered calling it quits once or twice.

Despite the smog, the mold and the crowds, though, I am still here.

I am just too curious about what the next day might bring.

Krause is a UDM graduate who is teaching English and China and writing about his experiences there.

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