Sept 17, 2011

This is a continuation of ”Later that Night”

One of the most fascinating things about China, is their powerful and frequent lightning storms.

Now, of course, this is only fascinating if you like lightning. For Christina and I, however, lightning is anything but. Growing up in Ketchikan Alaska, we’ve seen our share of powerful storms. They are so common that we hardly notice them anymore. Near hurricane type winds tear through Ketchikan every year, blowing branches off trees, and sending waves crashing into the sides of the roads. But none of this ever phases us much, its something we are used to. Lightning however, that is a different matter….

We’ve never really seen it up close and personal. Lightning, just doesn’t happen in Ketchikan -despite all off the storms that we see.

The only experience that Christina and I have had with lightning, is the occasional spotting of streaks of it in the distance when we are on a vacation to the lower 48. That and hearing the stories about lightning.

You never hear stories about lightning that just hit a place and then left without incident. No, the lightning stories that you hear about are always the tragic and scary tales. Every story involves someone getting hit or killed. And that, is one reason that we are afraid.

In China we had our share of lightning storms.

One night in Beijing while we were sleeping, tucked safely into our hostel rooms, a storm hit. *CRASH!*

We all heard it. Mom, Dad, and David were unfazed. Mom, because she slept through it, Dad because, he’d heard thunder before. And David, because he was used to lightning -they have lightning in England. Christina and I however, were SCARED!

The next day as we all talked about our nights, I asked Christina if she had heard the storm.

“YES” she said. “I woke up to the sound of a CRASH and thought ‘I’ll take a picture of this storm’ so I looked out the window and as soon as I pulled the curtain there was another louder CRASH and everything lit up all I could see was white, so I freaked out and ran back to bed and grabbed the remote control and turned the AC on!!”

“WHY did you do that??” I asked “You’re supposed to unplug everything in a storm, turn everything off not on”

“Well, it was hot so…I turned it on, but then I decided that the electricity might come through the AC so i threw the remote across the floor so it wouldn’t electrocute me!”

“NOT TO DO THAT!” I said, “You lost the remote so you couldn’t even turn it off then? Let me tell you what I did, the smart thing, I woke up to the CRASH but I turned everything off, unplugged everything, and then hid under the blanket. That’s what you’re supposed to do in a lightning storm!”

Of course, not five minutes after my frantic adventure to unplug all things did the power go out, so it didn’t make a difference anyways, still I think I can be proud of doing the right thing, as I wasn’t electrocuted that night, and considered myself very lucky to have escaped without harm.

The people in China are unfazed by these storms. When we were outside and caught in one, we saw people just pulling out their umbrellas and walking along like there was no problem. Christina and I pulled ours out too, but carefully held onto it, afraid to hold it too tight, “Just in case the lightning hits it” we thought, as though holding it loosely might help us! We also tried desperately to avoid stepping in puddles, howbeit without much success.

This all may sound rather superstitious, but we like to think that there are logical reasons for the things we do. Stepping in a puddle might cause the water to act as a conductor for the electricity and if the water is hit, we know that anyone standing in that water is going down! And we don’t want that!

Everything is more scary in a lightning storm, we came to realize. That’s probably why the scary movies always use lightning during the scenes with the villains, you can make a simple slightly scary monster, look absolutely terrifying by adding in a few streaks of lightning and a CRASH!!! You know those scenes where something scary is happening then there is a CRASH and the evil villain steps out? David says this is a technique that film makers use to create a scary mood -it really works too!

Earlier that stormy night, when we were headed back to our hostel, terrified because we were caught in the storm, we heard a crash. Lightning hit somewhere very close and a figure stepped out of the shadows. EEEEEEEE! We jumped! It was just a lady with an umbrella but somehow the crash combined with a figure emerging from the dark alley had terrified us.

There are probably two types of people in the world; those who don’t mind lightning, and those who are terrified of it. Thanks to the insane lightning storms of summertime China, the girls remain firmly in the scared camp, probably hiding there under a blanket,and hopefully with all of the electric appliances unplugged.

And until I start hearing happy stories, where lightning strikes and it’s actually a good thing, that’s where I am going to stay.

Disclaimer: We were much to scared to take pictures of the lightning storms, despite Christina’s brave attempt to snap a picture out of the window one night, so these pictures are some other people’s shots of lightning storms in Beijing. No credit of ours!

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