Washing in Beijing

Water dripping into the subway steps the day after the storm.

You may have read in the news that last Saturday brought record rains to Beijing.  It was the worst storm in six decades, killing at least 37 people and causing thousands to lose their homes or need to be evacuated. Sadly, the area that was hit the hardest was Fangshan, the district where we painted the school building with the migrant children. The kids are ok, but some of their homes have suffered. I’m hoping we might be able to help out with some of the restoration when we return in a few weeks.

Even after the storm was long gone, the water stuck around, the earth too full to accept any more.

I did go outside in that storm, not realizing how bad it would be.  We kept thinking the rain would stop, but instead it kept raining harder and harder.  Many of our students were supposed to fly home that day, and their flights were delayed many hours.  For me, the inconvenience was small.  I walked through deep puddles, perhaps full of significant pollutants from the city streets, but my ankles didn’t seem to know the difference. The air quality was also reported to be worse than usual that day, but I never would have known had I not read it online.  And I arrived back at the hotel wet, and stayed in for the evening to watch the lightning and flooded streets from our 9th floor window.

Swimmers washing in Hou Hai Lake this afternoon

Tonight, the rain is expected to continue.  And it’s supposed to keep going for a few days. We were grateful for today’s weather, because despite the intense humidity, it was much cooler than usual for roaming around the city.  Clouds protected us from the usual blaring sun. Tomorrow may be wetter, and it feels like Beijing is gearing up to get a good wash.

My laundry in the hotel sink

Don’t worry about us. We are lucky to be in an elegant hotel, safe from the damage that water can bring to homes with less infrastructure. As Beijing prepares to be washed, I did my own washing tonight.  For someone from a privileged background like myself, hand washing my clothes in the sink isn’t so easy.  I’m used to throwing everything in the washing machine and dryer. But sometimes you can’t fight it when it’s time for a wash, and it was clearly that time.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll buy a bigger umbrella. Or prepare to splash in some polluted puddles. I wonder about those poor people in Beijing who may suffer tonight in the rain, like the boy on the subway who was begging for money earlier. What will he do tomorrow?

Kids playing in a fountain a few days ago; Sanlitun Village, Beijing


Categories: China

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8 replies »

  1. It’s so wonderful to get to read about your experiences, it makes us feel like we are traveling along with you, your posts are fantastic. Thanks for sharing!

  2. woah. im glad you were ok. is th e school house still in tact? it would be terrible if it got destroyed. did cars sink and stuff like that? how deep was it?

  3. Whoa, that’s terrible.

    My dad told me about that huge storm, but I’m glad that you’re safe, Ms. Krakauer. Did all the students get to fly home?
    I feel REALLY bad for all those poor people. I hope that little boy will get a safe place to stay, maybe you can give him some shelter?
    Is the school okay? Is all the paint still there? At least the children are safe.
    I remember when I was in Beijing (there was a storm too), the next day there were still plenty of puddles at the bases of trees, like in your picture.
    You SHOULD probably buy a bigger umbrella; better to be safe than sorry.

    But, I think the last picture is really cool!!

    Stay Safe!!
    ~ Anna

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