ESL Teacher Nearly Drowns in Freak Torrential Downpour

That is what I think the China Daily headline should read for today, because, yes, I nearly drowned yesterday, standing up, walking on the streets of Shijiazhuang.

My first mistake was wearing my adorable and comfortable Spanish Espadrille sandals to the city. Basically, they are made of hemp and rope and they are now swollen and bloated with all the water they ingested. My second mistake was leaving my umbrella at home. (Not that it would have helped much.)

So what happened? I went to the city, under threatening, overcast skies, to entertain the most basic of womanly needs – shoe shopping – sales shoe shopping. Half-way to my destination, it began to rain. Not too hard, not too bad, nothing to be overly concerned about. I arrived at the department store and began my purchasing. Satisfied with two new pairs, (Well, I could have bought ten, but I didn’t want to be excessive.) I decided to head back down the main road towards a popular mall where I could buy some Western groceries. That was my third mistake. I should have just stayed put.

I bought an umbrella before leaving and made my way down the road. It seemed to be going okay when suddenly, the sky opened up and hellfire and brimstone seemed to be raining down. Or it could have been cats and dogs. All I knew is that I was having problems staying upright because of the wind. Lesser sized Chinese girls were being carried away all around me. Thank god for my hips!! I jumped between two columns in the front of a shop and tried to compose myself. I was standing in front of a tea shop and it wasn’t long before the girls working inside convinced me to come in and sit down. They plied me with hot green tea for 30 minutes before the apparent typhoon passed. I ended up buying some kind of green tea oatmeal in appreciation.

Fortunately, one pair of shoes that I had just bought were a plastic/leather combo that would hold up well to all the water, so I switched out my ailing espadrilles and headed to the streets, which had become more like mini-rivers. If you have ever spent any amount of time in China, you’ll understand how disgusting these rivers were. (In Shijiazhuang, the sidewalks are covered in human spit and who knows else what kind of funk.) I really had no choice but to just wade through, because every taxi was taken and all the buses were crammed full of people. (With that kind of humidity and heat, the last place I wanted to be was on a crowded bus.) By the time I arrived at my destination, my toes were pruney!!

I survived, but looks like the espadrilles are going to need a lot of TLC and the new umbrella is already a twisted piece of metal and fabric.

Actually, it turned out quite nice, because when the sun went down, the air turned cooler, bringing tons of people out to walk on the sidewalks. I always feel the most camaraderie with Chinese people in the evening when they come out to walk, dance, sing and do Tai Chi in the streets. I suppose it is because  everyone is more relaxed in the cool air and away from the stress of the day. People are more free with their smiles. Walking along with a group of Chinese grannies, I felt content with the companionship, even if we were dodging lakes of water and they were all probably chatting away about me in Chinese.

Looks like we are definitely in the midst of the rainy season. We can expect similar downpours for the next two months.

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