Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bad Air, Medical Outings, Burned Buildings and Other Musings (Judy)

We had heard so much about the air pollution in Beijing that we were prepared for the worst. We arrived during the Olympics, when factories had been moved and private cars were restricted to every-other-day on the roads. (The government used that handy mathematical concept of even and odd numbered license plates!) The air was better than we expected. There are many more good days than bad. (The two pictures from our living room window, taken at the same time of day, show the range.)

Early March we had some bad days. The haze was thick. Perhaps related to the air, my cold morphed into a sinus infection. So I walked 10 minutes to the subway, took the 45 minute ride down Line 10 to the Central Business District (CBD), then a few minutes to get lost before arriving at my destination at the Kerry Center, which has a Vista Health Clinic on the lower level. This was my second trip to the Vista Clinic, the first one also for a sinus infection. Twenty minutes later I came out poorer (US prices $161), but with antibiotics and decongestants which provided relief. Well worth it.

The walk back to the subway provided a striking – albeit hazy – view of CCTV tower (called “the underpants building”) and the burned shell of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The hotel burned down on the last day of the Lunar New Year, Lantern Festival, when a fireworks display from the top of the CCTV building misfired and hit the roof of the brand new, unopened luxury hotel. The news reports showed a blazing inferno that quickly swept the building. Since the fireworks – ubiquitous during the 15 day New Year celebration – were put on through the donations of CCTV employees, this incident was a major topic of my first class in Business and Constitutional Torts. The class was initially divided on whether CCTV should be responsible for the torts of its employees. By the end of the discussion they had moved strongly to holding CCTV liable.

And conspiracy theories are a world-wide phenomenon. Our neighbors report rumors that the misfired fireworks were no accident but a planned razing. Rick is also suspicious since this massive fire caught and spread so quickly. The building was empty, apparently without sprinklers. Hmmm. BTW, in our first effort to search both Google and YouTube to link to the Mandarin Oriental Fire, all came back with “Connection Interrupted.” In our second effort a week later, Google led us to unrelated stories -- one of the occasional reminders that we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

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