Should we talk about the weather?
It rained here yesterday, which is actually more of an event here than you would think. Sure, it snowed a few times during winter--which I know technically counts as precipitation--but it hasn't really rained here much. As far as I can remember, it's only happened once since we've been here, sometime in late mid-November, I believe. The rain was actually kind of nice, though. I never thought I'd miss rain, but I guess growing up in Seattle will do that to you. Go figure.
The rain was funny in a few ways, though. First of all, I was amazed at the number of people who had umbrellas. Yes, umbrellas. I know that doesn't sound so amazing, but in a place where it's rained two times in almost six months, who the hell would bother buying an umbrella in the first place? And, in a related question, since I would describe the rainfall as a "steady drizzle," why even bother using an umbrella at all? Just suck it up and get wet for a few minutes--it would probably help to wash all the dust and grit off of you anyway, dust and grit just naturally accumating all over you and everything else as a result of simply walking around Beijing.
(Side note: I was also amazed at the number of people who could ride a bike while holding an umbrella and still manage not to crash. There were tons of them. I guess that's why the Chinese are good at gymnastics?)
Finally, I couldn't believe how badly the rain messed up traffic. Traffic was awful last night, which--here in Beijing--is really saying something. Imagine the biggest, longest road in the city where you live, and then imagine traffic is backed up on it as far as it can possibly be. That is what traffic was like last night. The road just to the north of our house is ten lanes wide (not including separate bike lanes on both sides) and at least two kilometers long, and the entire thing was complete gridlock: nothing was moving at all.
Since that made it impossible to take a cab anywhere for dinner--even if we could have managed to find an empty one--we decided to walk the half-mile or so to the restaurant, without an umbrella. Luckily, being good Seattleites, we didn't mind the rain.