Ping An and PM

 For several weeks, Irena has been feeling unwell. She has been waking up in the morning with swelling on her forehead, face, lips and throat. Usually the swellings gradually fade away after a couple of days.
Near Coco Park

As well as the physical discomfort and the embarrassment, she has found it difficult to plan anything, as she never knows when these swellings are going to come back. For a long time, we thought that perhaps the swellings were caused by some sort of allergic reaction, but we really did not know what was causing the problem. Irena does not have much faith in doctors anyway and she had already been to the clinic once about this problem. Finally, this morning I managed to persuade her to give the medical profession one more go.

The Ping An skyscraper. It's big.

Green Oasis School gives all of its teachers and their families free medical insurance through the Ping An group, so our visit to the Chiho clinic should not cost us anything. More importantly, the doctor was able to tell Irena the cause of her problem: the air pollution.

Bikes at the bottom

Air pollution is measured in terms of Particulate Matter (PM), how much muck you are taking into your lungs. (I suppose you could say that the PM level does for pollution what the Richter scale does for earthquakes.) Shenzhen’s PM levels are nowhere near as absurdly high as Beijing and Shanghai, but that does not mean that there is no pollution at all in SZ. In the five years that I have been teaching at GOS, we have had several occasions when the PM level was so high that we would not let the children go outside at break-time. The doctor told Irena that these pollutants can be absorbed by the body for some time without any noticeable effects, but gradually they build up and then the symptoms emerge.

Steve McQueen in China?
I was wondering whether we were doing the right thing by retiring and going back to Bulgaria at the end of this academic year. After our visit to the Chiho clinic, it would look as though we do not have much choice! Yes, the doctor gave Irena some medication and that might relieve the symptoms a bit and she is planning to do some breathing exercises that might also help her, but there is only one real solution to this problem: leaving China.

Santas climbing palm trees
After our visit to the clinic, we wandered back from Coco Park through the Central Business District (CBD) of Shenzhen. (I don't know why it is called "Coco Park" because there is no cocoa or even hot chocolate and it is just a lot of buildings and shops, so it is not really a park at all.) Anyway, the eclectic mix of skyscrapers is most impressive. Shiny and squareish, the new 115 storey Ping An Finance Centre is a staggeringly huge tower and the fourth tallest building in the world. Well, that is what is says in Wikipedia. So Ping An can build megatall skyscrapers and provide our health insurance, but Ping An cannot sort out the PM. 
Diudiu on Christmas Eve

And for all of you doggy lovers, here is a Christmas photo of Diudiu, the naughtiest little poodle in the Middle Kingdom.

Postscript I eventually made a claim for the medical expenses we had from my wife's visit to the Chiho clinic. Ping An refused to reimburse any of the money. Cheers, Ping An! With friends like you, who needs enemies?


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