Late last night I was searching for more information on individuals' experiences in China, mainly Beijing, and was surprised to find how much the air pollution was mentioned. Well, I was sort of surprised. I had heard long before I even accepted the teaching job out there that Beijing had notoriously bad air quality, but still the degree to which these posts were lambasting this particular aspect of the country was astounding.
Some of the claims sounded like gross exaggerations, and I dismissed them as being just that. For instance, some posts said that Beijing was the most polluted city in the world, by something like 100 times. Which sounded ridiculous. I also heard stories of people leaving their house in a white shirt and coming back a few hours later with a dark grey shirt. I took these accounts for what they were, someone ranting about the pollution that existed there and possibly blowing it out of proportion to make the rant seem more justified.
I mean, I used to hear how horribly rainy the UK was before I went. That it was like constantly being in soup or something. When I got there, I was surprised to see that it really wasn't that bad. Sure, it was overcast often, and it was pretty chilly most of the time, but it wasn't nearly on the scale of what people made it seem.
Another example was how people were saying that Kansas was flat and extremely bland and boring. People were saying, "If you are driving out west, avoid Kansas like the plague. Its nothing but flatness and cornfields." But when I went through Kansas, I'd have to say that only about 30% of the area we drove through was flat and cornfieldy. Everywhere else I looked it was beautiful green hills and staggering, gee-whiz inducing, cumulonimbus cloud formations. It was anything but boring and bland.
People seem to have a tendency of blowing the negative aspects of certain areas out of proportion it seems. I'm not saying that I think that I'll enjoy the pollution in Beijing, but I definately don't think it will be as bad as I'm imagining. I don't think that the winters wil consist of month-long inversions and weekly sandstorms. I don't really think that I'll be hacking up a lung constantly and suffering through carcinogens equivalent of years of smoking, thus shortening my lifespan significantly. I do think it will somewhat difficult to adjust to the air though. If I had a coughing problem in Boise, with its dry air and all, I'm sure that I'll have a sore throat after being out and about in Beijing for a bit. But I think I'll get used to it, just like my brother did.
I just better be prepared to drink a lot of green tea, and sport my surgical mask when things get especially nasty.