(101 Things About Shanghai) Plum Rains

Last night around 10, my immune system decided it felt like inviting a cold around for a visit.

Just as I was readying myself for what ought to have been a full night’s sleep, my nose went awry and my eyeballs hummed. This alone would have been fine, except that when I finally dozed off around midnight, I was woken at 3am by a massive explosion, with light and noise and the lingering sound of water falling.  I immediately thought the AC above the bed had decided to follow in the footsteps of our previous bedroom AC, which was renowned for its nocturnal waterfalls.

This, I soon realized, was not an exploded AC. Shanghai had decided to spring the full force of  its June weather on us a bit late.

The Plum Rains had finally begun in earnest.


Nocturnal Puddling


I padded into the darkened living room and looked out our big wall of window. The city from 16 floors up was a deep dark gunmetal grey with rain visibly falling at a vertical angle and sheet lightening illuminating the skies, bolts only a second apart from the thunder. The building shook. I didn’t get much sleep. I sniffled with my cold and stared at the ceiling that was dark and then very very bright and then dark but soundtracked with deep rumbles.

By morning, the puddles were gone and we walked to get our coffee, umbrellas unopened.

Last year, they started in early June. Sudden deluges, thunder, lightening, puddles deep enough to lose a cat in. At one point, whilst I was trying to hail a taxi to get to the police for residence registration before they closed for the day, it started hailing golf balls. In June. Then it rained even harder, leaving the icy golf balls bobbing in the sudden puddles. By the time I found a taxi, I squelched and left a full body imprint on the cushion covers in the back seat.


In the early morning rain


They call them the plum rains because in places where you can see nature, plums will grow with help from these rains. There is little to no nature here so we just accept the nocturnal explosions and ankle deep puddles and lack of consoling plums.

This evening we went out to eat at the Dong Bei place down the street where we always go when we are too lazy or tired or bored or overwhelmed to cook or shop for groceries. We walked with our umbrellas as walking sticks, closed. It was humid but not raining. Did I mention how humid it is these days? The air is heavy and thick and makes my chest ache from its weight. Elegant women walk past with huge sweat stains forming under their arms and in the small of their back.

We  ate our braised cabbage and garlicky broccoli and spicy fried eggplant and peanutty gong bao ji ding and sipped at our melamine cups of semi-chilled Harbin pilsner and watched as the skies exploded and threw down an impossible amount of water in a brief period of time. The waitress threw open the door and watched it fall until the customers next to the door complained and she sheepishly closed it.


And yet no plums in sight


People don’t like the rain here. They tend to leap out of its path as though it were falling acid. When the skies briefly opened this afternoon on our way back from our training course (which I did on no sleep due to the storm, with a raging cold), at the first drop of rain the man walking toward us jumped and shrieked (literally) “Oh shit!” In English. With a Shanghainese accent.

Anyway, the waitress shut the door and everyone went back to their rice and braised veggies.

When we left twenty or so minutes later, it was still raining and the sidewalks were lakes.

My feet were completely submerged. The puddle was ankle deep and extended part way across the road. We waded through and walked home, rain pounding on the taut fabric of our umbrellas.

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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog’s title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.