Air Pollution in China

In China, air pollution is HAZARDOUS all the time particularly in Beijing, Chengdu, Hebei, Henan, Shanxi and Shijiazhuang.

Shijiazhuang strikes a chord with me because my beloved ayi went there to seek a better future.

Plus, I’ve always had students telling me about how their beautiful hometowns have been transformed into crowded, concrete jungles but I couldn’t imagine it until I saw this video by journalist, Chai Jing.

Chai Jing is a journalist who documented the air pollution levels in Beijing for a year and she presents her findings in this controversial video called “Under the Dome” in the style of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”.

The video (in Mandarin) has been taken off the net in China but it’s still available on YouTube, with subtitles in English. You have to watch the video, especially as a lot of people (from China and other countries) have put in effort to translate the 1-hour video and placed English subtitles.

Can you imagine living in smog everyday where kids have NEVER seen a blue sky, white clouds or even stars at night???

The kids and I are watching the video together – we’ve only watched half of it but here are a few nuggets:

  1. The bulk of carbon emissions come from the burning of coal and young coal
  2. The cities with the highest carbon emissions from the burning of coal are: Hebei, China, the rest of the world, the U.S. and then Tangshan!
  3. Traffic jams are another source of carbon emissions: the more cars there are on the road, the higher the amount of carbon emissions. The more cars idling and braking on the road during traffic jams, the higher the amount of carbon emissions. Surprisingly, the 2 cities in China with the highest carbon emissions from motor vehicles, especially cars, are Beijing and Hangzhou.

Last Christmas, I am sure the world, was shocked at the startling images of a 19-year old factory worker whose job involves spray-painting all the Christmas ornaments red:


“…he works long days in the red-splattered lair, taking polystyrene snowflakes, dipping them in a bath of glue, then putting them in a powder-coating machine until they turn red – and making 5,000 of the things every day.

In the process, the two of them end up dusted from head to toe in fine crimson powder.

His dad wears a Santa hat (not for the festive spirit, he says, but to stop his hair from turning red) and they both get through at least 10 face masks a day, trying not to breathe in the dust.”

You can watch the video here on BBC or read about it on Huffington Post or the Guardian.

When I was a teenager, I’d worked on a construction site and a garment factory. In the first job, my snot was the colour of the dust on site while on the other job, I earned RM0.04 for the loose strands of every pair jeans I snipped.

I had to snip 100 pairs of jeans to earn RM4 (~US$1.30) and breathe in all the dust from the jeans and thread.

Every time you pack a party pack with cheap stuff from eBay, think about the poor people slogging it out in sweatshops in environments that’s costing their health and their lives for your children’s birthday party.

Remember your blogger friend who died of lung cancer? She died from air pollution. She was a mom with two young kids, just like you and me.

Every time you print out a 20+ party invitations, print out labels, worksheets and whatever for a children’s party or a “homeschooling” assignment, think of her and her kids who have lost their Mom.

If you and your kids want clean air to breathe in, you have to give up all the paper paraphernalia, even if they are made from 100% recycled paper or farmed trees.

Plant trees, instead of cutting them down

“Less is More” – You can be creative without the need for so much paper, packaging or party packs.

Below is the haze situation in Singapore in 2013 – you’d see the same photos in 2014 in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia actually.



Last year, I had to keep the kids indoors for more than 1 week due to smog!

We had watery eyes and dry, parched throats.

We had difficulty breathing.

We had to stay indoors and keep the windows closed with all the fans turned out for air circulation, which was ridiculous since we’d be breathing in polluted air anyway!!!

While we are always blaming the Indonesians for their un-environmentally-friendly farming practices, we ourselves (businesses, factories, government offices and individuals) have also contributed to the smog with our buses, cars, factories.

We can move out of the city, we can move to another country but if we don’t change our ways, we will have NOWHERE else to move to.

What we can do is to be more eco-friendly. Are you an eco-warrior? Do share what you have done.

Christmas is shèng dàn jié (圣诞节)

That’s what my little girl told me.

We will be celebrating the Spring Festival soon – you must be wondering why I’m still blogging about Christmas.

Will you believe that our Christmas tree is still up?


One, we have been too busy with work and preparing for school that we have not had time to take it down! Crazy, right?

Two, the little girl loves the Christmas tree ornaments *so much* that she can’t bear to have the tree taken down. She decorated the tree this year after looking at this website and I think she’ll be doing it this year too.

She’s my spunky little interior decorator OR fashion designer – she’d just trailed the silver thingy over her kid’s wardrobe. Then, she took off all the silver balls and stringed them into a necklace! She loves all glittery and sparkly stuff :)

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, I guess we’ll keeping thee.

Freedom of Speech

I had never appreciated the right to freedom of speech until I find that day by day, we are allowed to say less and less.

Recently, we had a discussion about this and surprisingly, the Chinese were the ones who defended it the most. They had grown up in silent classrooms for most of their young lives thus, when given the opportunity to speak their minds, they cherish it a lot.

Of course, they come across rather aggressive and blunt in English although they would be more careful with what they say in Mandarin – I’m still wondering why is this so. Are they influenced by the “American” culture they are exposed to?

In any case, I always encourage young people to speak up although I *try* to guide them to do so respectfully and tactfully.