The Yellow Sands hit Seoul with full force today. Yellow Sands are the remnants of sandstorms blowing eastward from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Visibility was reduced, and I could barely make out the silhouette of nearby mountains. I fear that this will get much worse before it’s over. On really bad days, you can barely see anything at all. I had a light dry cough today I’m sure was caused by Yellow Sands. I really should buy a mask, but I would rather stay inside. The dust gets into your lungs and causes fits of coughing. It’s the same feeling you get when you’re cleaning something that’s really dusty and you breathe it in. Turn on the vacuum and feel the choking dust constrict your lungs–that’s the sensation you feel in a Yellow Sand storm. In 2002 I arrived in Beijing, China at the end of a storm when the residue of the sandstorm coated every orifice of the city. Other than that, I’ve never been through a Yellow Sand storm. I can only imagine what it must be like right now in places closer to the source such as Beijing, Ulaan Bator, Mongolia, or in the Gobi Desert. Yuck.
Korea is unique in that it exhibits perpetually shifting weather patterns. During the winter season, the wind currents blow southeastwardly, bringing frigid Siberian weather and Yellow Sand storms. During the summer season, the wind currents flow towards the northwest, bringing in the warm, tropical weather and monsoons from the South Pacific. The spring and fall seasons are lovely, but they are much too short. Honestly though, based on my brief observations here, Korean weather does not seem to be as extreme as one might believe. It can be uncomfortable but bearable. During the summer, for example, the humid weather breeds a nasty brood of mosquitoes that often remain in homes as late as December (definitely time to invest in some mosquito net). They’re annoying, but non-lethal. The weather here is similar to that of the Great Lakes area of the U.S. It’s very cold in the winter and muggy in the summer.
Tonight I went out for dinner and drinks with five colleague at an excellent Korean restaurant. We were all hired at the same time and went through the same orientation course together. My colleague from Taipei and his wife joined five of us working here in Seoul. Another colleague from Beijing will arrive soon, and we’re all planning to get together again. Considering that about 90 of us were in our orientation class, our small group here constitutes a large portion of our class. The rest of us are scattered around the world on five different continents. I really enjoyed meeting up with my colleagues, relaxing, and having fun. It was a trying day today at work, and I was glad to have a chance to unwind with them.