Sunday, July 10, 2016

Life in Wuhan, Post-Flood

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: rid this house of all mold and mildew. Any dehumidifying agents are not allowed. You must use only elbow grease and ingenuity.

That little ditty was running through my head in the aftermath of the 2-week rain that flooded this city (see Natural Disasters entry). There was virtually no transition period from deluge to sunshine; it seemed as though somebody had flipped a switch from 'rain' to 'sun'. Like the Itsy Bitsy Spider song: “Out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain...”

Well, not exactly. The sun came out with a vengence but the rain did not dry up. There was too much of it. In fact, after 3 and a half days of sunshine, our school is still mostly under water. So are many parts of Wuhan. I need to make a Metro run – running low on some  things I can only buy there. With that intent I was out of the house before 9 AM this morning.

Small aside: I found a new way off campus! That discovery came timely because the only other way – across campus and out either of the 2 gates is currently under water.

I'll tell you all about my troubles after reciting the visible impact of this recent weather phenomenon around town.

Garbage accumulation: unable to carry the trash off, or even for the sanitation workers to get to the trash bins, they are now overflowing – and, in this heat/humidity, they stink to high heaven!

            In our school, the receptacles are emptied twice per day by teams of two pulling a handcart. They cannot get through the flooded campus and the place where they burn the trash is under water. I've never seen these refuse bins that full.

Pavement is cracking under the strain of all the water. As soon as the flooding dried up around the housing area, we could see several new cracks and sinkings.

A fishmonger's heaven!  In my brief foray out yesterday I was dismayed to see a crowd of people, 3 deep, surrounding a car, parked in the road and whose trunk was open. I suspected that someone had been hit and everyone was arbitrating the accident prior to police arrival. Instead, it was a man who had profited from the high waters to scoop stranded fish off the nearby riverbanks and sell them. Giant carp and other fish were lying on the pavement – without so much as a tarp between them and the asphalt, while the fortunate fellow of found fish bartered for every bit he could get. The stink was unbearable, and I encountered it 3 or 4 more times along the short bit of road I traveled.

He had apparently carried the fish in the trunk of his car, without the benefit of a bucket or other containment device. I can't bear to think of what his car must smell like!

Car owners are making a mint!

Buses upstream from us (pardon the pun) originate from the worst of the flooded area in my part of town: University Row. That area is particularly waterlocked and, as you might guess, has suffered greatly from all of the rain. In fact, those students who are summering at those universities are in dire straits: the news is full of the ingenious way they are getting food. Latest reports show them slowly being evacuated off campus. Hopefully they won't have to scrounge for food and wade through knee-deep water for a meal too much longer. 

Meanwhile, down the bus route from that perilous area, people are waiting and waiting, in vain, for buses to arrive, thus providing a market for drivers willing to haul any desperate sojourner to the nearby transportation hub for the small fee of 10 Yuan  per person. When I say 'nearby', I mean too far to walk but close enough for me to ride there on my bike: about 10 km.

When I got to that crowded bus station, hoping for a trip to Metro, I was dismayed to find that I would have to put off my shopping expedition because the buses weren't running. Fortunately, local markets have everything I need save for foreigner foods like butter and cheese, but I don't really need them, anyway.

And, speaking of things one can buy: shelves are getting pretty bare in the stores around my neighborhood. Delivery trucks can't get through the floods, either.

One reason I was desperate for a trip to Metro was because, after the rains, humidity set in. Mold started growing, seemingly right before my eyes! Normally, I can keep up with unhealthy growths with vigorous scrubbing but, because the humidity is so very high right now, every time I turn around I see another possession afflicted. Not just couch cushions or clothing, either. This aggressive mold is growing on things one would never think could grow mold, such as my little crock pot and my drain stoppers. I can even smell the mold!

I've not suffered mold like this since my first year here, in the Concrete Bunker. And, to make it worse, the air conditioner would not come on!

I know that America has a product called Lysol that kills mold and mildew but I've not seen it for sale anywhere over here. I went to Taobao, China's online shopping mall to hunt for it and there it was! Unfortunately, I cannot make use of Taobao other than to search for things because of an ongoing snafu with my bank account, so ordering any Lysol was out. Besides, it is very expensive and who knew when it would get here? I needed something right now! Maybe China has an equivalent product?

Further searching on Taobao led me to a product called Dettol, a spray whose labeling was in English: I was able to ascertain that it would serve the same purpose as Lysol. Certain that I've never seen it around my neighborhood shops, nevertheless I took a picture of the product's picture on Taobao and set out. After showing that picture around the local shops, I had to realize my fears: there was no Dettol  spray to be had.


But wait!

This Dettol bottle: it has the same characters on it as the spray can (in white, on the green side of the label). And, it bears: '99.999%' - one could reasonably assume it means the number of germs that would be killed using that solution. Maybe, if I mixed it with water and sprayed my house down...    

It worked like a top! Granted the smell is not exactly pleasant – imagine concentrated Pinesol with a medicinal undertone, but I can now lay my head down on my pillow and not fear waking up with mold growing over my face! And my couch covers, a light green now stained with black spots, smell... normal. Ditto my throw pillows.

Why would anyone be gleeful at triumphing over mold? Especially when one doesn't have to be subjected to it?

One reason  I love living here is for the challenge of it: learning the language, getting along in society, and overcoming difficulties. To be sure, I am happy to be rid of mold, but I am more happy at having figured out, without help, how to solve this problem.

Sadly, these successes are getting fewer and further between, the longer I live here.

In my next post, I will deliver the promised GaoKao entry. Please pardon the narrative interruption; this flood is a big deal. I should report on it as it happens, don't you think?


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