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Finding a few bright spots in monster storm Jonas

By Chen Weihua | China Daily USA | Updated: 2016-01-25 12:11

News of the blizzard in Washington and the East Coast spread fast back in China, with family members and friends expressing their deep concern.

At the same time, much of China also faced the lowest temperatures in decades, with the mercury in suburban Beijing plummeting to minus 27 Celsius, or 16 below zero Fahrenheit.

It indeed looked quite dismal, as all of Washington, DC was shut down during the snowstorm named Jonas, which dumped more than 20 inches of snow in most parts of Washington. Flights were canceled. Government offices, schools and businesses were shut down. No bus, no metro, and virtually no vehicles of the streets on Saturday that weren't snow plows or police.

Just as Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser had warned before the storm - that "it has life and death implications"- more than 20 snowstorm-related deaths have been reported on the East Coast as of this writing.

On Sunday, when the first sunshine came out after the storm in Washington, people got busy digging out cars buried in snow.

It will probably take days before Washington fully recovers from the snowstorm.

But as someone who grew up in Shanghai, where it rarely snows, I have to confess a bit of excitement over the historic snowstorm. I did not hesitate to volunteer to shovel snow outside of my apartment building.

The Chinese like to use the saying geren zi sao menqian xue (everyone sweeps snow just outside their own doorstep) to describe someone who is selfish; but I found it amazing that when Americans did just that, the whole sidewalk had a narrow but pedestrian-friendly path throughout the snowstorm. If everyone just does his or her part, everything works out fine.

It's a lot of sweating shoveling snow to clear even a narrow path after a heavy snowfall, yet it's so much fun for me. I even made a gigantic snowman in the yard.

Clearly I was not alone in terms of the level of excitement compared with many Washingtonians. Even while the snow was still falling on Saturday, nearby Rock Creek Park was filled with people skiing, snowboarding and sledding down the slopes, especially parents with young children.

While some people seemed to be well-equipped, a few slid down the snowy slopes on nothing more than a sheet of cardboard.

On Sunday morning, Dupont Circle, a busy traffic hub on normal days, witnessed hundreds of young adults participating in "Snow Wars: The Snowball Strikes Back," a traditional snowball fight organized by the Washington DC Snowball Fight Association. This year it had a Star Wars theme. It's been said that more than 2,000 people took part in the snowball fight there in 2010.

In one corner of Dupont Circle, I saw a young mother, with her husband looking on, time and again hold up their two-year-old-ish-looking son and throw him into the deep snow - an amusement that amazed my Chinese friends and me. Chinese parents would never do this, we told ourselves, but the boy was clearly delighted.

Near Dupont Circle, the few restaurants that were opened were jammed with people taking a break after enjoying all the fun in the snow.

While the National Zoo was closed for the weekend, it tweeted a video of giant panda Tian Tian, mother of the panda cub Bei Bei, rolling adorably in snow.

I have shared many of the photos and videos with friends back in China on WeChat, a kind of popular social media platform much like Facebook. There were many likes. The kind of excitement during and after such a big snowstorm as shown in the photos seems contagious, especially among fellow Shanghainese who have never seen a big snow like this.

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