Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cold & Pollution

Public bus ride home after an after-school v-ball game 
Most everyone knows that I moved to the coldest capital in the world. Many of you have asked if it's getting cold yet.  I've mentioned in recent Facebook posts that we've already had a couple days with snow flurries (though no accumulation of any kind). Thus far, September and October have been most comfortable with many days in the 50s or 60s, while dropping to freezing or below every night. Similar to Colorado weather, when that sun goes down, the land cools of significantly. We enjoy sunshine most every day and very less days with continuous cloud cover. You can see the current 10-day forecast looks most comfortable. While some of my friends and family may fear I'm spending one-half to three-quarters of a year in freezing weather, you are incorrect (Thank Goodness!). From what I can tell, the weather WILL begin to dip much colder come next month. Then December, January, and February are brutal--temperature wise. In March, we begin to climb our way out of the frigidity. November and March are the steep descent/ascent months of the year.

High fashion (left) meets Traditional attire
I have more coats than I think I'll need; and Zorig keeps having me try on others of his that he doesn't use, and saying they are now mine. From what I've learned, it's all about the temperature here, and not much about any significant accumulation of snow. Though I do hear that ice forms easily on the marble sidewalks that seem to be crouched all around the city. Definitely need to keep an eye on my footholds and steps once ice appears. The women here LOVE their heels; while I'm more of a practical gal in that department. Just last week I had a second grader ask me if I was wearing "boy shoes." Gotta love them for their lack of filters. 

From bus, see the power plant expelling smoke in the distance?
More than the cold, my worst fear of making a new life here in UB is in regards to the impact of pollution. Air pollution, specifically. It is ranked as one of the most polluted cities in the world, despite it's population being just around 1.5M in UB, and 3M country-wide. Since I arrived in July, it hasn't been all that bad; news articles from the past indicate that winter is the worst time for air pollution with the increased burning of coal. You can keep an eye on the AQI (Air Quality Index) in Ulaanbaatar through this handy website. (If you zoom in on the map, I am a few blocks west of the Chinggis Khaan Square near the Baruun 4 Zam station.) I'm still learning what all the various numbers mean, but use this site to monitor overall air quality, as well as an app on my phone called Global Air Quality. One of my friends recently gifted me a disposable face mask which I'll carry for use on days when it gets bad. That would need to be changed once a month (I'm adding it to my list of what to get from Amazon before my next shipment from the U.S.). Some of the teachers I work with are coming from locations in China; living with air pollution is something they've been doing for a while and I'm glad to have them share their experiences/knowledge with me. 

I confess the mask feels strange on my face. I have yet to wear it, but I do see people every day wearing masks. Some may be wearing one to avoid spread of illness, others to filter out pollution. I suspect I'll get over my feelings of self-consciousness when the time comes, just as I did about going running and doing exercises on the street. At some point you do what you must and let go of what others may think of you. 

Today it will be 64 degrees and sunny! I have just today and tomorrow to work, then I can enjoy a week off for my Fall Break. Zorig and I are planning to head out of UB and into the countryside for some adventures. 


  1. I would love to connect with you on FB now, and in UB in 10 months or so! Cheryl A. Elliott

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