This is nuts. And I don’t mean the ladies in the photos.
The other day it rained solid all afternoon and all night. It was more rain in one day than the whole three months we’ve been here combined. We’d remarked how unusual it seemed. Then when we got to school, one of Jessica’s teachers mentioned that the government had made it rain. Other students had seen it on the news. It’s called cloud seeding. I’d heard of it before, but never actually knowingly experienced deliberate rain. Apparently they shot stuff into the clouds… apparently they do this all the time to clear the air of dust and pollution.
Aside from the regular Industrial-Revolution-era-mega-city-type pollution we’ve got going on over here, the Gobi desert can blanket Beijing in sandstorms. And we’re more or less downwind from Beijing. On a bad day, like the one we had a few weeks before the artificially enhanced rainstorm, you can clean your whole apartment at night and then write your name in the dust on the table in the morning (which is exactly what we did). As you’ve probably heard, there are plans to use cloud seeding to guarantee blue skies for the summer Olympics.
Something about messing with weather patterns gives me the willies.
Women dressed like those in the photos are common in Tianjin. It can be so dusty/polluted here that riding your bike to work can coat your face in grit. One of our teachers says she started taking the bus because she was showing up at school with dirt on her face. Most people don’t worry about it; I’ve only personally noticed this phenomenon once, on a day when we were out riding for about 6 hours. Maybe I’m just a dirty guy. But a good number of slightly older-middle-aged women (and one kid) wear nets/veils around their heads to keep the particle pollution off their skin. From far away they can look like colourful Muslims. Veils are usually accessorized with gloves, sometimes of the elbow-length variety.