Welcome to China: Avoid Breathing...

I am happy to say that I never suffered from asthma as a child, unlike a number of my friends growing up in Sydney, but I recently got a taste of what it's like when every breath is like breathing underwater.

I recently returned to Sydney from a business trip to Shanghai, Beijing, Linfen, Datong, Zhuzhou and Xianyang: over 3 weeks in China and despite the charming hosts and remarkable sites, it was a trip I was glad to see the back end of, namely because after 4 days I felt as if I was in WWE choke hold courtesy of the Undertaker.

The phlegm coming out of my nose had enough coal dust to run a power station for a week after I left Datong - I'll spare you the photo. But the end result was that I was very tired and lethargic for a few days, with a mild headache and difficulty in focusing - pretty evident when I read some of my emails. Normally, it's rare for me to get ill and when I do it does not stop me working - colds and flus are nothing. But with this, I was struggling.

And I still remember the drive to an office at a little after midday there...headlights ablaze to see through the smog on what should have been a fine day.

And it's not just that hellhole. The photo you see was taken around 8:50am, on what should have been a cloudless, sunny Shanghai day. I have seen many photos of this skyline with beautiful blue sky and the odd white cloud and I was assured those days do happen, but that when the air currents are not favorable, it is dangerous for many people to venture outside for more than a few minutes.

I realize now that I am more sensitive to air pollution than most people, but I still cannot understand how locals and especially expats can put up with this over the longer term - and I can only imagine what the health consequences will be like for children growing up here.

It seems I will be making ongoing trips to China now for a while; maybe that SCUBA tank won't have to wait for the Maldives after all...