I have to think the pollution has something to do with the way our lungs are feeling. Frankly, the pollution in Zibo (and across all of northeast China) this past winter was as bad as we have ever seen it. Smog settled down on the city for day after day; some days you couldn't even see across the street. The filthy air kept us from wanting to get out on our bicycles, too, so we didn't get the exercise we should...
Up until this last winter, the pollution was a fact of life, certainly, but was it the reason I often felt so tired and needed more than eight hours of sleep every day? I've read about the fact that teaching is tiring. (If you've never done it, you might question why standing in front of a class and talking is to tiring, but it is. You're "on" all and time and of course, if you are just talking at the students, you're doing it wrong.)
So anyway, whether it's my advancing years, or my lack of fitness, or the demands of the job, or the fact that we live in a filthy smoggy soup, or the combination of everything, it's undeniable that we don't have a lot of spare energy to burn these days.
I happen to think, based on our travels, that the people of my corner of Shandong Province are the friendliest we've encountered in China. They're frank and open and hospitable and I would miss them a lot if we moved elsewhere. But as fond as I am of Zibo and the many friends I've made there, this spring semester might have to be my last -- in Zibo, anyway. Certainly, anyone who is thinking of coming to China has to look at the pollution issue and ask themselves if the adventure and or the salary is otherwise worth it. For us, up to now, the answer has been yes. While China is not for everybody, for me, it's been a wonderful experience. We've had so many "pinch me" moments. It feels great to be liked and respected by my colleagues and students, and that's something I don't take for granted.