Thursday, January 14, 2010

December Beijing Snow

When we arrived in Beijing last year, there were the remnants of an earlier snow on the ground. This excited me and terrified Veronica for the prospect of a snowy winter. Unfortunately for me, the winter of early 2009 didn't grant me my wish and I quickly learned that Beijing isn't known for its precipitation. The subsequent spring, summer and fall were speckled with random showers and the occasional thunderstorm - but on the whole, not much fell from the sky.

Back around the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I remember seeing a Daily Show sketch in which Jon Stewart conceded that China was officially a "Super-Power" as it has the ability to control the weather. He was alluding to reports that a division of the Chinese government seeded clouds to create rain, thus ensuring that the skies were clear for the Olympic Games.

We didn't witness this tremendous might until November of 2009, when the Government announced a planned snowfall for the coming weekend. Lo and behold, flakes fell. We were in awe. It was just a few inches, but this didn't happen back in Philadelphia. Mayor Street was barely able to keep public transit running, let alone make the heavens open.

The next weekend it snowed again, though not as much and I was surprised that the government didn't take credit for that as well. The next month progressed nicely and snow free until right after my birthday when we were visited by a multi-day and many inch snow storm. Veronica was home, so she didn't have to deal with it - leaving me in my own snowy heaven. I love snow.

Beijing is a city much like Washington DC in that it has managed to convince itself that snow is a rare occurrence within its borders. As such, neither city has done much to plan for snow removal if (WHEN) such snow does occur. When the snow kept falling and falling, Beijing was paralyzed.2009 beijing snowfallThe morning after much of the initial snowfall, I had some house guests (HEY RAMONA AND KEELEY), so the three of us decided to take a photo-taking-walk around the neighborhood. The Imperial Academy (国子监 - guozijian) and the Confucius Temple (夫子廟 - fuzimiao) look particularly awesome in the snow.beijing temples snowThe snow stopped being pretty and started becoming annoying when it began interfering with everyday life. My motorbike ate up its entire battery four times as fast as normal when it was skidding around in the snow.

Roads were horribly messy and one night some friends and I were blasted by a Beijing Snow Removal Vehicle (a street cleaner that was filled with some salt-water compound). This, and a blast text message that told residents to avoid driving, take the subway and help in neighborhood cleanup efforts were about as official as the cleanup process got. Which is probably why it took almost a week to really dig out.beijing streets snowA few weeks after the snow, the government has finally gotten around to sending around cleanup crews. These crews are usually a group of guys with a trash-collecting bike and some shovels. But they get the job done.

I think the snow is done for the year - but who knows. Weather is usually unpredictable - except for in China that is.