Thursday, July 10, 2014

Numbers Game

Today the temperature outdoors is higher than the AQI. It's 95 fahrenheit, but only 63 aqi. Normally in Beijing, if the air quality registers in the double digits, we all rush outside like hostages suddenly released.

Today presents a challenges to the parents in particular. "Should I let Leah play outside?" My friend Rachel texted me.

"Maybe just for a short time," I responded.

Earlier today, I had an interview to do, and it was tucked away inside one of Beijing's hutongs. My taxi driver decided to drop me off at the end of the street that was most convenient for HIM, which meant I had to speed walk up Nanluoguxiang, a busy hutong, dodging garbage carts, people posing for pictures, young men carrying their girlfriend's enormous purse, motorcycles, bikes, and even the occasional car, which forced me to step up on the doorway of a store to avoid the crushing of my toes.

By the time I got to my interview I was dripping. Here I was, trying to make eye contact, take notes, and sound interested when the sweat was stinging my eyes, my hand was sliding around on my pen,  and my legs were sticking to the back of the chair. For women of a certain age, there are different heat reactions: the initial, normal, whew-it's-hot reaction, and then, as many as ten to fifteen minutes later, a second wave that comes out of nowhere and looks really stupid because it seems unconnected to what's happening at the moment. I suppose it could be called a hot flash, although it's more like a hot aftershock.

I finished my interview and then could not find a cab to get home. At one point I was standing next to a stick-thin schoolgirl who was also looking for a cab, and I had the uncharitable thought, "I could take her."

I finally did get a cab, a blessed air-conditioned cab. I went home, ate some watermelon, and typed up my notes. I eventually stopped sweating too.

Taking a break, I decided to sit on the couch, and Smudge decided that she needed to curl up on my lap. She's a little obsessed with sitting on my lap and I don't have the heart to turn her away. It's hard to believe she wants warmth, but possible she's looking for comfort because she doesn't feel well.

So that's love: sitting with a skinny, gray, purring heating pad on my lap on a 95-degree day while I type on my iPad and pretend to study Chinese. Pretty much sums up the incongruities of my life in China.

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