Tuesday, May 01, 2007

April showers

Usually April is a bit drizzly. Not a lot, just a bit. This year it had been pretty much bone dry. Until last night, when it absolutely pissed down for 3 or 4 hours.

Beijing does not cope well with rain. There are very few storm drains, and those that there are almost immediately become blocked with sand, garbage, bits of tree - the universal detritus of this city. Recently re-layed roads and sidewalks sag and split as the earth beneath them turns to quagmire. Standing water fills these undulations within minutes - these are not so much puddles as small lakes, quite a few inches deep in places, and stretching more than halfway across the road.

The storm drains and the sewers share one system (at least, until recently - it's one of the things that is supposed to be changing before the Olympics); and that system (at least, until recently) used to empty into the moats and canals in the city centre. A few years ago, we had a particularly heavy day of rain one Saturday in early summer that led to flash floods and the collapse of a number of hutong homes. Large sections of the moat had been drained for rebuilding and refurbishing projects and the storm drain outlets into them accordingly closed off; but no adequate alternative routing had been arranged, and so the sudden downpour quickly backed up the whole system and large sections of the city flooded with sewage. Or so I heard.

Reflections such as this take much of the joy from puddle-sploshing.

However, it is still a very refreshing change. I walked through the rain for 40 minutes to a favourite bar, and decided not to bother to put my umbrella up. Rain is one of the few things about England that I miss. We often go for weeks or months at a time without any significant rainfall here in The Big Dusty.

2 comments:

Tulsa said...

Hurray for rain!

I've been enjoying fabulous midwestern showers for the last 24 hours. And here, in Clean Air, Blue Sky, the horizon is so clear and crisp that when the clouds roll in, you can SEE the variation and depth, both during the day with the sun reflecting gold off the watery clouds and at night, with the full moon reflecting silver.

I took a walk through the woods today. Visited the creek and saw it swollen from the rains and rushing past me and over the beaver dam. I felt the cool wet grass on my feet and ankles as I strolled about in my summer sandals.

And at night, I took another walk, to enjoy the remaining mist, smell the sweet wind that comes right behind the rain, and listen to the cicadas hum (definitely a more pleasant hum that the hum of cars whooshing by on the third ring road, or metal clanking at the construction sight across from my Beijing apartment).

Puddle splosh away - enjoy the rain - and dance like a walmart cartboy gathering the carts in a parking lot. It's raining!

Worry about the potential sewage contact tomorrow - when you wash your clothes and soak your feet in disinfectant.

Tulsa said...

I am back in the Big Dusty and today is my first serious downpour... alas, I am at work and only experienced it minimally on the commute in and had to make an effort to not get my suit soaking wet.

But my heart is outside playing in the puddles and watching the world be washed clean and fresh.

so, of course, I had to revisit this post, too, as a vicarious method of enjoying the rain outside. :)