Anyone who talked to me during my summer break in England will know two things. First, you will know that whenever and wherever we were talking, it was raining. It rained a lot in England this summer. It hardly seemed to stop. The other thing you'll know - and you'll know because I told you - is that it doesn't rain in Baiyin. In my first three months in the city last year it rained twice - briefly.
Well, that was then and this is now.
This year is different.
I've been back here for four weeks and while it would be an exaggeration to say that it's rained all the time, it certainly has rained a lot. We've had almost as many rainy days as sunny ones and that seems very strange to me. Streets are muddy with the bright orange mud that comes from living in a place built in the middle of a desert. The situation isn't helped by half the streets and pavements being dug up for assorted roadworks. The entrance to my apartment can only be reached by negotiating an assault course of ditches, wooden planks and bogs.
It's raining write know, as it has been through most of the night. Looking from my fifth floor window I can see the water spattering down into pools and the cars slicing chaotic patterns of parallel tracks into the morass at the junction.
There is an upside. The parks are not the barren places they were; the trees that line many of the streets are not the brown skeletal things I remember. Instead there is plenty of green to liven the monotony of the view. There are flowers in the allotment area outside the apartments at the end of my street. The extra water has really made the place, mud notwithstanding, look rather nicer.
I mentioned the difference to a Chinese friend and was told that it always rains more in The Year of The Dragon. Whether this is true or just a folk myth I have no idea. It's certainly raining more in this one.
So, if you are not one of the people I talked to in the summer - if, instead, you are one of the people who has read the write-up I did about the city for the agency that employs me, then all I can say is is that I'm sorry for misleading you.
It does rain in Baiyin and in some years it rains a lot.
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