Monday, January 23, 2012

Side effects

With the two-and-a-bit week bore-a-thon of the Chinese New Year, we expect the days on end of unquiet sleep and shell-shock; we expect the choking palls of gunpowder smoke across the city (occasionally thick enough to close down the aiport!); we expect the plethora of crappy 'Temple Fairs' (crowds and carnies and bugger-all else); we expect the subway to be too heaved out to use during the daytime, but largely deserted at night; we expect it to be impossible to travel anywhere within China (online travel agent C-trip has been taunting me with 'special offers' of hotel rooms in the 'paradise city' of Lijiang in the temperate southern province of Yunnan supposedly available for as little as 70 rmb a night; the catch being that there is currently NO WAY to get to Lijiang!): we expect all our favourite restaurants to close for a while (without usually telling us exactly how long for); we expect it to be impossible to get a haircut for a fortnight or more either side of the dratted holiday.

That's the standard shit we have to endure at this time every year.

But this year, I've noticed two other curious phenomena that I think must be indirectly related to this dratted holiday:

1)  The stink in my drains is back with a vengeance.
It was a nasty annoyance when I first moved in here a couple of months back, but I managed to clear it after a week or two. I speculate that its violent recurrence NOW is connected to the dramatically reduced occupancy in my building. My immediate neighbours are still here, but every other apartment on my floor seems deathly still; and taking a stroll in the courtyard last night around 10pm, I counted only half a dozen or so lights on - in a five building multi-storey complex that must comprise several hundred units. With little water-flow through the system, the sewers on the lower floors tend to get log-jammed...

2)  There's no decent fruit to be had
There were some lovely apples, oranges, and bananas around during Christmas time, some of the best I've ever seen in China. Now, my small neighbourhood supermarket and the two nearby open-air markets I often use seem to have hardly any loose fruit - and what there is is deeply crappy quality. The reason, I surmise, is that all the good stuff has been assigned to the expensive boxed gift sets of fruit that are such a popular present when making house calls on friends and family at this time of year. (I don't know why I hadn't noticed this in previous years. Perhaps I don't always eat quite enough fresh fruit.)

Only another two weeks to go....


Carolyn said...

Maybe your local friends would chip in for an expensive gift box of fruit for you.

Froog said...

Ah, well, I have hardly any local friends.

The thing about a major Chinese city like Beijing is that a huge percentage of the population has moved here from somewhere else - and will usually go back to that somewhere else for this holiday.

I'd guess it's well over 50% overall, and probably quite a bit higher than that amongst the educated middle class. My building seems to be 80% or 90% empty at the moment (although it's a long way short of full occupancy anyway).

I have plenty of Chinese friends, but none of them are actually Beijingers.