The Toronto Star listed China’s Urumqi as one of the Top Ten worst places to live in the world in 2008. The reason? Pollution. The list prompted my strangely fond memories of coughing and spluttering through winter in Urumqi while teaching English there between 2005 and 2006.
By Alison Bate
It’s winter in Urumqi and everyone is out in the streets chipping away at the snow and ice. A huge human effort. Even the local doctor is out in the alley in her white coat and mask, attacking the ice with a spade.
The local government has closed all the major roads downtown until noon, and told the residents to clear the streets. No snowplows here or salting and gritting of roads. Just hordes of people attacking the ice. It’s dirty and grimy, full of soot.
After a token effort, the stall-keepers huddle round tiny coal-fire tin cans, the men wearing Chinese army overcoats and Snoopy sheepskin hats with long earflaps. Only the Uyghurs selling kebabs look warm, with large old-style barbeques for cooking the mutton. Continue reading