23 September 2019

Haze Season 2019

Current wind patterns are carrying a great deal of smoky air directly over the city where we live, meaning that last week, we were waking up to skies that looked like this:

(Note the vague shadow of a mountain behind the haze...usually it appears just as green as the nearby trees!)

There are often some hazy days around this time of year, but this is an especially bad year for the haze. Our first "fall season" here was in 2015, and we had just moved out of China. I remember wondering if we had merely moved from one location plagued by air pollution to another when the air quality was so bad at that time, but most of the time our skies are much clearer and bluer.

How does the haze affect daily life?

- Schools were mandated to close for three school days last week. This is particularly crucial for the many schools that have classrooms open to the air and no air-conditioning or filtration systems. Those of us from the USA liken the weather cancellations to "snow days," only it's been joked that kids in the USA might be encouraged to go outside and play on a snow day, if the conditions aren't blizzard-like. For a haze need to stay inside and try not to breathe too much! Angel had two half-days of meetings or office work and one day completely off of work due to the three days when the school was closed. Experiencing weather cancellations from the perspective of a teacher is different...tests have to be rescheduled, homework still has to be assigned, the class must not come to a screeching halt!

- Angel and I bought high-quality masks when we were moving to China and have dug those out of storage for use when we need to leave the apartment. Cyrus doesn't have a mask that fits him and I imagine getting him to actually wear one would be...interesting...but our main strategy is staying in the apartment as much as possible, keeping the doors and windows closed and turning on the air-con units to get some filtration. This is possible for us in the bedrooms and main living area of our house, but not in the kitchen and laundry area or in the bathrooms, those are more open to the air and smell of smoke. But many, many homes in our area are not at all designed to be "airtight" or even have any rooms where you can really block out the outside air, so for many families, even staying home is not providing much safer air quality than the outdoors.

- Cyrus started coughing on day 3 of the haze and continues to cough. It affects him most when he's trying to sleep, which means we've all had some rough nights recently. Angel and I have had some eye discomfort, headache and scratchy throats but remain mostly unaffected--younger children or those with respiratory allergies or those prone to respiratory problems for various reasons are most at risk when air conditions are bad like this. Thankfully we've not had to be outdoors! I'm glad that the baby isn't expected to be born for nearly two more months so that hopefully the haze season will be over before he arrives. We haven't taken Cyrus out to play and are learning the added challenge of keeping a toddler occupied when going outdoors or even going out to visit a new location is no longer a very good option.

When the weather takes a turn for the worse we learn very quickly how much we don't get to control the details of daily life...
Kristin said...

That does sound terrible because it's just something you have to worry about! I remember bad air quality in Alaska/Colorado when the fires were raging or the glacial silt was blowing but it wasn't like this. I hope it passes quickly.