Die Luft in Peking

Und wieder einmal sind wir in China eingetroffen um das chinesische Neujahr zu verbringen. Und wieder einmal hat uns die chinesische Luft gleich schon auf der Fahrt vom Flughafen Richtung downtown begrüßt.

Gewappnet mit dem Wissen aus der Dokumentation “Under the Dome” und unseren eigenen Erfahrungen in Macau und Indien, hatten wir unsere N95 Masken dabei. Aber das, was man im Fernsehen sieht oder auch im eigenen Gedächtnis hat, bereit einen nur schlecht auf das vor, was man dann wieder am eigenen Leib erlebt: Smog.

Wo man selbst nur einen metallischer Geschmack im Mund hat und ein leichtes Kratzen im Hals verpürt so schockt einen doch am meistens die Ignoranz im täglichen Leben, welche viele Pekinger einem vorleben. Seit mehreren Jahren sind die Messwerte zahlreicher Luftqualitätsmessstation online verfügbar (und werden auch nicht durch die Great Firewall of China behindert) und doch scheint es so, als würde es keinen interessieren. Obwohl die Werte heute im PM 2.5 Bereich über 100 lagen waren nur wenige Chinesen mit Gesichtsmasken unterwegs. Der Himmel ist irgendwie nicht richtig blau und unser Taxifahrer lobt das gute Wetter das doch jetzt zum Chinesisch Neujahr aufkommt. Das man den Smog nicht immer sehen kann weiß er eventuell nicht oder ignoriert es.

Eine solche Übersicht, und vor allem Auftrennung der Werte, sollte es auch für Deutschland geben. Hier gibt es aber leider nicht die Dichte an Messstationen und auch nicht die quantitative Auswertung in einer App. Die Stadt Stuttgart (via die Landesanstalt für Umwelt, Messungen und Naturschutz) z.B. veröffentlicht die Werte des “schlimmsten” Smogstandortes “Am Neckartor”. Wobei es sich hier um PM10 Werte handelt, nicht um die gefährlicheren PM2.5.

Bemerkung zum Screenshot:

  • Die beiden “13”er Werte scheinen Messfehler zu sein. Beide Stationen sind plötzlich von “unhealthy” auf “good” gewechselt.

China – Huidong Mall Fire

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There had been a mall fire in Guangdong Province, China, leaving at least 17 people dead. Given the above photo and the description offered in the news article, it seems to be a very typical mall as operating throughout the country.

From my own experiences in China, as well as in Macau, fire safety both in prevention and in suppression is lacking far by European standards. A few examples:

  • Fire exit doors closed, locked or barricaded.
  • Emergency staircases used as storage or carpentry store.
  • Contractors that try to save money by conciously trying to circumvent existing regulation and installing inferior materials.

One can only hope that regulations and especially the implementation and control of the same are being tightened after the event above. Otherwise we might see a repeat within a short time.

Travel Report: Chinese New Year Customs in Dandong

For Chinese New Year 2014, I travelled to Dandong, border city between China and North Korea, situated at the Yalu river and home to a railroad crossing between both cities, that got famously bombed by the United States of America during the Korea War. Dandong being a perfect example for a North-Eastern third or fourth tier city, I present to you a number of Chinese New Year customs displayed in photographs:

Gifts & Snacks

Buying alcohol in Dandong

During Chinese New Year it is custom to bring along gifts when visiting relatives. It is also custom to keep sufficient snacks, fruits and drinks at home in case of (obvious) visits by family members. Hence all shops have stocked up and offer their goods on the road side, displaying boxes full of Tsingtao beer, Yalu River beer,various kinds of fruit juices, milk-mix beverages and dried (or non-dried) fruits.

Selling famous Dandong strawberries

Dandong is famous for strawberries which are big in size and great in taste. Here is one of many street-side stands selling fruits, amongst which are the strawberries.

Selling nuts for Chinese New Year

Having a bowl of nuts or several kinds of nuts at home is part of the Chinese culture for CNY. Offering snacks to numerous relatives and family members that visit your home is giving face to the host. Peanuts as shown here or any other kind of small snack are supposed to be on everyones table.

Firecrackers

Fire crackers being sold on the street

From multi-rocket boxes to small volcanes to multi-layered rolls of small fire crackers. During Chinese New Year one can buy any kind of explosive easily on the street for a night of fire works.

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Fireworks are being lit all over the city, in between apartment buildings and across the street. Little care is to be taken about one’s personal safety and the safety of others and every year there are firework related accidents, fires and unfortunately fatal accidents.


Crackers

Dandong’s most used fire crackers are the long rolls of simple small dynamite like fire crackers. In this photo one can see the aftermath of a short roll of these bombshell crackers.

Family come togethers

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Chinese New Year is a family festival and as such all offspring of parents are supposed to return home for a huge meal involving numerous dishes, based upon the traditional cuisine of the area. In Dandong’s case this involves seafood, various types of meat, bean-mixed rice and cold vegetables.

BBQ Dandong Style

Together with friends we enjoyed Dandong-style barbeque at a local restaurant. The coals have been heated outside and are inserted into the table with a small grill on top of them. Meat, mushrooms, vegetables and seafood are grilled by each one individually or jointly as a group adventure. Obviously beer or other alcoholics are part of friend re-unions which happen during Chinese New Year especially amongst the younger Chinese crowd which lives far away from their hometown.

The decorations

Similar to Western Christmas, decorations are an integral part of the Chinese New Year celebrations and involve four major parts displayed around the main entrance door of an apartment, shop or other important facility:

  1. The square-shaped sign in the middle of the door, usually a upside down 福 symbolizing happiness
  2. Lucky sayings displayed in rectangular shapes on the left and on the right of the door
  3. A top piece, usually a shorter lucky saying sometimes along with some short curtain-like pieces

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Please feel free to see more photos of Dandong.

Shenzhen Bao An Airport Terminal 3

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Bao An Airport (Shenzhen Terminal 3)Bao An Airport (Shenzhen Terminal 3)Bao An Airport (Shenzhen Terminal 3)Bao An Airport (Shenzhen Terminal 3)Bao An Airport (Shenzhen Terminal 3)

The new terminal 3 of Bao An airport in Shenzhen got inaugurated last November (2013) and is called out for its modern interior design. As can be seen from my photos taken on this last trip during Chinese New Year, the overall design resembles corals and underwater structures while being kept in a neutral white color.

Let’s hope the electrical installations are better than in Guangzhou Airport.

Construction: The importance of proper electrical installations

Fire in Guangzhou Airport, October 28th 2013, photo via Shanghaiist.com

Fire in Guangzhou Airport, October 28th 2013, photo via Shanghaiist.com

In another example, unfortunately displayed at GZ International Airport a shop caught fire due to

an electronic display board that short-circuited above the store

According to Shanghai Daily:

Two people were working on the store’s rooftop when the fire started. They quickly climbed down from the scaffold, the report said. Salespeople were evacuated from all stores in the vicinity, the salesperson said.

Most airport workers and travelers were wearing masks as the departure hall was still filled with smoke at 11am.

This leads to the following questions:

  • Why was there an electrical short circuit above the store? Was the installation of fault?
  • Was there a fire alarm raised? According to the reports above that cannot be distinguished
  • Was there a smoke extraction system available at the airport? According to the photos shown at Shanghaiist.com and the report at Shanghai Daily, it seems not.

In view of Asian daily practice of electrical wiring and installations, as witnessed in this photo set, this comes by no means as a surprise. What is a surprise however is the low amount of actual incidents happening.

Update: It seems that German newspaper ZEIT ONLINE has discovered this topic itself only recently in September this year. it also highlights a German citizen science project website, hosted by the Helmholtz Gemeinschaft and the Leibniz Gemeinschaft. Typical for a German project website: it features less projects than the English/American one and its projects are of a less online-interactive nature as far as I can see.