The air pollution app we use just did a major update. We can now track cities outside of China, and also choose Chinese or American Air Quality Index standards:
It’s not just that each country characterizes pollution levels differently (China’s “Moderately Polluted” = America’s “Unhealthy”), they’re calculating their AQI differently. The Air Quality Index number is what the average person uses to gauge the pollution level. These screenshots show China and the U.S. arriving at different AQIs, even though they’re dealing with the same pollution data:
Qiu Qihong, an engineer of the Beijing Environmental Monitoring Center, said US and China use the same function to determine AQI figures from six different pollutants. However, he explained that the UStates uses a stricter system to determine what numbers to plug into the AQI formula. The formula requires a range of values of PM2.5 to calculate the number, and the US and China are using different ways to determine this range.
Qiu explained, “The US uses a stricter system because their society is further along in the industrialization process.”
This is why when PM2.5 density is transferred to AQI figures, the two countries have different readings, Qiu said.
For example, according to the standards published by both countries, if the PM2.5 density reaches 15.4 micrograms per cubic meter, according to US standards, the matching AQI figure is 50. But under Chinese standards, the density needs to reach 35 micrograms per cubic meter.
We usually turn on our DIY air purifiers when the AQI hits 200 (though the one in the kids’ bedroom is always on whenever the windows are closed). We can usually smell and/or see an AQI of 75 by China’s calculations.
After so many years here, we rarely see anything “new.” But this recently made me do a double-take:
I’ve passed this woman twice now, and each time I asked about her on Weixin (what we use in China instead of Facebook). It’s a handy way to get interesting answers to cultural questions (like that time my superstitious neighbours made me uproot trees I’d planted in our shared grass area). Also, “What turtle?” 什么龟 and “What the heck?!” 什么鬼 are near homophones (shénme guī/guǐ), so it’s fun. You usually get a variety of answers because even if various regions share similar traditions, sometimes the stories and reasons behind them are different. But I couldn’t get much of a consensus on this one, except for: “It’s a scam!”
Weixin friends gave me various explanations. Here’s a sampling:
She’s advertising a traditional turtle soup (very nutritious!) 炖汤很滋补。见过有人停车买。
She’s selling turtles 路边卖老鳖
She’s extorting Buddhists, who will pay her to let the turtle go free (but then she’ll go catch it again!) 悲催的乌龟先生被人贩子以积德行善名义高价卖给有缘人(一般会是信佛教的人)去放生，然后他会偷偷的跟着买家等放生后用一种技巧召回乌龟，继续卖。周而复始……我弟弟亲眼见过，而且这样的人喜欢在河附近的大马路上卖乌龟。有人会做大补的食物买去，也有人会被卖家说服了去放生。“Miserable Mr. Turtle, kidnapped in order to be sold at a high price to those fated to accumulate merit through good works (usually its people who believe in Buddhism) who buy them to set them free, and then he’ll secretly follow the buyer and wait until after its been released, and use a special trick to call the turtle back and continue selling it. Over and over again… My younger brother saw it with his own eyes, also this kind of person likes to sell turtles near rivers. Some people make a really nutritious food to sell, other people will be convinced by the seller to release it for merit.”
Chinese medicine 中药
She’s scamming people by passing off raised turtles as wild turtles. 骗人的 / 忽悠人的 / 这个人是骗子 / 这些人是骗钱的，很便宜的价格买进鳄龟，然后把它们身上搞上点泥土，再打扮成农民工的某样，说这龟是在河里干活捉到的野生龟，可以卖高价格，千万别上当。 “These people are scammers, they purchase cheaply priced turtles and put mud on them, then dress up like migrant peasant workers and say they caught this wild turtle while working at the river, they can be sold for a really high price, by all means do not be taken in!”
(Emphases theirs.) “恩” actually means grace, kindness, favour… For us it’s strongly associated with Chinese church stuff, and Chinese Christians use it in their kids’ names. So seemed kind of funny (and unintentionally ironic?) that the Party would employ the same usage; switch out “Party” for “the Lord” and it’s basically a hymn (and some quick searches for 颂主恩 did turn upsome church songs). But here it’s connected to the slogan’s poetic motif, not intentionally imitating church language.
Anyone remember when hymnals used to have American patriotic songs in the back?But traffic is bad…
This not-yet-opened overpass arcs between brand new apartment complexes on its way to eventually run past three big shopping malls and a subway transfer station. But one last patch of protested, illegally bulldozedpíngfáng 平房 currently stands in the way.
This is one of at least four regular exercise dance groups in our neighbourhood.
This kind of mass public exercise dancing is called guǎngchǎng wǔ 广场舞, sometimes literally but confusingly translated “square dancing” (think Tiananmen ‘Square’ as in plaza, not line dancing and square dancing). In larger public spaces a block or two away, hundreds of people do this together.
Cold and darkness doesn’t stop them from snaking slow circles around the public spaces in our neighbourhood, but this night at least one of the lights was working.