China questions #1

lonelydandelion asked “What does it smell like there? Oh, and what is the light like?”

The first part of this is surprisingly hard. In general, China smells a lot. Most cities are landlocked with traffic jams and factories and have thick smog. If I lived in Chongqing, for example, I would probably have lost my sense of smell within weeks of arriving. Other Asian cities smell of sewage, though this isn’t as bad as it sounds as you soon get used to it.
My city, on the other hand, is different. There are lots of parks, not so many factories, and the sewage is pumped directly into the Pearl River. Many other smells are blown away into the sea. All the same, there are a few I can identify – the fishy reek of the harbour and the market, the burnt meat smoke blowing over from the street barbeques and, of course, the disgusting odour that comes from occasional piles of rubbish in the streets. Mainly, though, I can smell food – Cantonese food, Sichuan food, Xian food, fried noodles, fried rice, steamed dumplings… The base level of most buildings includes a couple of restaurants and the kitchens aren’t hidden away at the back.
Smells are very evocative, and I’m still here. Once I’ve leave and come back I’m sure there will be a thousand others to add to this list. Right now it all just seems normal.
As for the light, it’s bright. On a hot day, with the sun high in the sky, I can’t walk around without screwing up my eyes. I suppose I should buy some sunglasses. As I can’t see colours properly the qualities of light are substantially different to me. There isn’t a great deal of contrast – no long shadows. It’s just light, then it’s not so light, then it’s fairly dark.

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