My Chengdu BFF…Blue Air


Gross air goes by many different names. If you are lucky enough to live in a rural area, your gray days are merely filled with fog. It’s not necessarily pretty or convenient, but aside from those who have to commute in its thickness, it’s pretty neutral in terms of health effects.  In big cities, the combination of haze and smoke is smog. And when I was in Hawaii last week, the weird mixture of volcanic smoke and fog created what they have christened “vlog.” In Chengdu, we do get a bit of fog and smog, but definitely no vlog. What we get in spades though is “plog.” (Pollution + fog= plog. I just made it up, but hopefully it will catch on!)

The last few days have been particularly ploggy in Chengdu, with this morning’s AQI hitting 375, just as I was contemplating a lunchtime run to Noodle Alley for fried rice. (Needless to say, said outing was called off by my lungs and I dined on a noodle bowl at my desk instead.) Yesterday, after going to brunch and then visiting a couple of local tourist sites and a new import grocery store (always full of exciting possibilities!), I ended up taking a nap to try to ward off the encroaching headache brought on by hours outside in the haze.

All of this is just part of the gig, and we knew it coming in, so I’ve got no complaints about Foreign Service-living in Chengdu because of it, but, the plog has created a deep and abiding love between myself and my air purifiers. Without my trusty machines, whirling on medium twenty-four hours a day,(high creates a bit of a cyclone, which requires me to weigh everything in the house down with books, so we stick with a more manageable setting) I’d be a hacking, coughing mess for several months out of each year. And, since I’d really like both of my lungs to join me in Kuala Lumpur this summer, hugging my air purifier is not an uncommon occurrence. Because my apartment air purifiers give so much to me, I thought it would only be right if I returned the favor, as they are my Chengdu-BFFs.

After pondering the best way to show my love to these wonderful, whirling machines, I opted to go with the world I knew so intimately for a decade- middle school affection. (Okay, that sentence could be interrupted in a super creepy way. It’s not. I promise!) With this in mind, ol’ Blue Air and I spent some quality time together this weekend, enjoying an array of bonding activities, including:

-playing MASH together

-playing dress-up


-dreaming of clean air vacations

-predicting our futures together with the help of simple origami


While polar vortexes aren’t making their way through western China, bringing the same freezing air that seems to be plaguing much of the US this winter, we’ve got our own winter maladies to grumble about- mainly the air pollution that hits so hard in January and February. But, I’ve got my handy-dandy BFFs to keep me company through the long, cold (okay, not so cold), gray days of winter.

If only I could get one of those BFF heart-shaped bracelets to forever cement our one-ness…


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