When I travel, part of the fascination is seeing the different ways we all live our lives, both good and bad. As we travelled in America I became disturbed at the amount of trash we seemed to be leaving in our wake. I know that when travelling, and buying food on the run, you increase your consumption of disposable products and convenience foods, but I started to feel guilty about the large amount of garbage we were creating each day. Then I realised that most times when we ate, even in restaurants, we were given items that ended up in the rubbish bins. We needed to slash the trash!
At a motel Continental breakfast, the entire crockery and cutlery was disposable. So just to eat cereal and juice we binned two plastic spoons, two plastic bowls, two plastic glasses, two paper coffee cups, one plastic stirrer (we shared) along with the usual waste of serviettes, sugar packets and yoghurt containers. That’s a lot of trash!
At another cute café where we ate, we still received paper coffee cups, plastic stirrers, and sauce in individual disposable containers. When we bought popcorn for the train trip it was already packaged in a paper bag but was placed in a plastic bag, inside a paper carrier bag. In our hotel rooms the drinking glasses have been plastic and individually wrapped in plastic.
I don’t think that I can spend a month in China and not say something about the smog. From the first day we arrived in Yangshou I have felt disoriented, as if my senses have shut down and I am unable to “tell” what the weather will do. The sky is unlike anything I have seen before and the air feels different. While there have been some gloriously clear days, in general, a grey haze hangs in the air and it feels oppressive. Steven and I have both been coughing since we arrived and I am convinced that it is smog irritation. Steven is a well managed asthmatic and I have feared that the smog would set off an attack but thankfully this has not happened. Before we left for China, friends who visit here often for work warned us about the smog and they check the air quality before they travel.
I am writing this in Xining, at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau on the 23 floor of the hotel. I look across at the other skyscrapers and the dirty haze just hangs in the sky. It horrifies me that I am breathing that air. Do children who grow up with this think it’s ordinary weather? How long would you have to be here before you started to accept this as normal, that a really smoggy day was just a bad day?
Today in Xining the Air Quality Index is 134 which means it falls in the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” category. Apparently the general public, like me, wont be affected, but Steve with his asthma may be affected. To give you a comparison, Brisbane, where we live, was 45 on the same day, in the “Good” category.
In Beijing I read an article in a magazine for expatriates living there. A man discussed his dilemma about staying and working in a country he loved now that he had a young child. He had been ok about putting himself in the unhealthy environment but felt completely different when he made that unhealthy choice for his child. Lucky him, he had the choice of whether to leave or not, the Chinese don’t.