I noticed yesterday that the Yellow Sand is back in town. I knew it when my nose felt dry and dusty at work–the same sensation you get whenever you change a dirty air filter. Yellow Sand, or hwangsa (황사), is an annual event in northern Asia, where sands from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia blow across the plains into northern China and the Korean Peninsula. The sand stops at the Eastern Sea (Sea of Japan), so it doesn’t quite reach Japan (lucky Japanese). The sky turns dingy gray, greatly diminishing visibility, and fine sand granules settle everywhere, including in one’s lungs. I attached a photo of Seoul Tower taken today. The photo does accurately show the full effect of Yellow Sand, but it gives you an idea of what it can do. Medical professionals encourage people stay indoors during bouts of Yellow Sand or wear masks if venturing outdoors. Unfortunately, silty air still enters and circulates in homes and offices with inadequate air filtering. Yellow Sand gets into the eyes, nose, mouth, lungs, hair–you name it. Last year, the Yellow Sand was moderately light, but this year the annual phenomenon hit Korea with a vengeance. It usually lasts about a week and a half, ruining what would otherwise be a wonderfully mild spring.
I hope the Yellow Sand subsides as soon as possible. My nose is choking as I write, and I don’t feel so well. I have a splitting headache, probably because I snorted too much sand today (my family and I went out for awhile). My negative reaction to the Yellow Sand reminded me that I was very fortunate this winter to stay relatively healthy. Considering how busy I’ve been lately, I’m glad that I’ve felt great–until now. I suppose that going outside today without wearing a mask worsened my condition. My wife and son also have stuffy noses, although I think they feel a little better than I do. Just a little.
On Friday I drove past the Seoul City Hall. A work crew was in the process of demolishing the makeshift outdoor ice rink in the grassy, circular greenspace in front of the city hall. Although I’m glad winter is coming to an end, I think it’s a shame the rink was torn down. It was one of the nicer attractions in downtown Seoul during the past winter. With its Christmas light displays and casual skaters, and the ice emitting a soothing white and blue hue, the rink brought some coziness to the cold downtown. The light displays that once graced Cheongyecheon Stream just north of City Hall (see the photo album) are gone too. Winter is officially over in Seoul. The Yellow Sands have begun. I can’t wait for Spring to arrive.