Despite valiant defensive efforts this week (denial mostly) I have fully succumbed to the dreaded ganmao (common cold). Ganmao is a word that foreigners tend to learn early on in their time in China, because to sniffle or cough or sneeze in the presence of a Chinese friend will send immediately trigger ganmao le ma? Do you have a cold, said with the concern and seriousness of asking someone if their liver might be failing, followed by a litany of advice for survival.
And announcing that you ganmao in a crowded office is something akin to saying FISH on a tour bus.I did just that yesterday, and at the mere mention of the word, heads popped up from cubicles like someone was coreographing a dance: GANMAO? DID SOMEONE SAY GANMAO? DRINK MORE HOT WATER. WEAR MORE CLOTHES! HAVE A REST! DRINK THIS BITTER TASTING HERBAL TEA. I thanked them for their concern and came home and took a Sudefed. It didn't help. Maybe I need to drink some of that nasty tea after all.
Over the weekend a colleague flying in from Vancouver had her flight delayed. She informed us that the reason given to her by the airline was 'bad weather in Beijing.' Bad weather in Beijing? We didn't have any bad weather in Beijing. In fact, we have hardly had any weather whatsoever in Beijing for 3 months. Just smoggy sunny skies. Beijing is, by and large, a city without weather.
But today we are finally having some weather in Beijing.
This fire was the melding of two great Chinese loves: fireworks and ignoring regulations. Some reports indicated that the police tried to tell them (officials at CCTV, the government TV network) that they needed a permit for their show. I'm guessing the response was simply 'WE ARE CCTV!!' KABOOM! A building that had some of the latest technologies to protect it in the event of an earthquake was simply no match for a two-bit government official!
No, Beijing is not burning, but last night one of Beijing's newest buildings went up in flames….about the time I commented in the last blog post on a fire truck racing up my street. I'm on the other side of town from where the fire was, but given it's size, that truck on Beiwa Lu could have been heading over there.
And was it a coincidence that the building went up in flames last night, the final night for legally blowing things up in town? Hardly. It turns out that an illegal fireworks display put on by CCTV itself set the building alight! Here's the story from Reuters:
An unapproved fireworks display by China's state broadcaster caused a blaze that swept through part of Central China Television's hypermodern complex in Beijing, a fire brigadeRem Koolhaas. The flames were reflected in the tower, which itself appeared to be untouched."CCTV hired staff from a fireworks company to ignite several hundred
large festive firecrackers" in an open space outside the near-completed
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, part of the CCTV tower complex, Xinhua said,
quoting a fire brigade spokesman.He said these fireworks, set off to celebrate the Lantern Festival, were "much more powerful and explosive" than those available at roadside stalls during the Chinese New Year holiday and needed approval from the municipal government."Owners of the property ignored policemen's warnings that such
fireworks were not allowed," spokesman Luo Yuan was quoted as saying. The building was part of the new CCTV complex, CCTV being 'China
Central Television," to state-owned TV network which serves as the
mouthpiece of the Party. This new ultra-modern complex is still under
construction, and was scheduled to open later this year. spokesman said on Tuesday. CCTV apologized for the fire on its official website.
That's right, folks, they blew up their own brand new building! Something tells me that Beijing's fireworks ban will return next year.
It's a war zone out there tonight—the last night of the 2 week Spring Festival, and hence the last night that people in this town (country) can legally blow things up. Imagine a city of 20 million people with fireworks going off in every single neighborhood and housing estate. There's a smell of gunpowder (or is it tnt?) in the air, even here in my apartment, and the spent canisters are hitting my window. Local folk mythology has it that the fire-crackers scare away the evil spirits. With all the racket out there tonight, I can't imagine that there is an evil spirit left anywhere in the country. I'm guessing that all the pet dogs and cats are hiding under the beds as well.
Reporting live from the Battle of Beijing….
UPDATE: Uh-oh…..I just saw a fire truck racing up Bei Wa Lu. That can't be good!
That's how the chief architect of Beijing's new airport terminal describes the building, and after wandering around in it in the middle of the night this week, I believe it. It's a bit disheartening to get off a flight at 1AM at the very last gate of Concourse E and be greeted with a sign that it's a 10 minute walk to the immigration hall, after which it's a 5 minute train ride to Concourse C, where baggage claim is located. That's followed by another trek to the taxi stand.