Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Winter Blues

I would like to take a moment to apologize to those of you that have been our constant readers on this Mongolian Adventure. The past month or so we have failed to post updates on our lives. The reason for this is a combination of work and winter.

It is hard to convey what a long winter is like to people who have never experienced it before. This winter set in with snow falls in mid-September and permanent snow in early October. By the end of October the temperature was permanently below freezing and has stayed there ever since. The long months of winter are ones where we can’t go outside for any length of time.  November was bitterly cold. December wasn’t too bad, but January was quite cold with a number of days where the temperature didn’t rise above zero degrees Fahrenheit. 

By the time February rolled around, I found myself excited about the prospect of setting aside winter parkas in a month and optimistic about the snow melting hopefully by March. Yet even then we are not at the end of winter. I consider the growth of things that are green to be the end of winter. This doesn’t happen until the middle of May. So much of March and April, while above freezing, are barren brown months.

How does one cope with this kind of oppressing cold that lasts for a solid 6 months? For me, life becomes a rhythm. I start just going through the motions. Days and weeks pass quickly, sometimes without much happening to separate one day from the next. I become accustomed to the cold, and the prospect of always being indoors doesn’t seem so bad because walking between buildings is a constant reminder of the cold that is uninhabitable.

Time passes, and when spring does finally come and I can stand outside basking in the warmth of sun that is not bitter, then it is like waking from a deep sleep. Everything comes to life and I realize that I had only been half-living in a conscious hibernation for months.

I realize that to the analytical mind this might seem like a state of depression or seasonal effect disorder, but it is not for me an intense time of sadness. It is merely a time of waiting. It is as if my biology is telling me that the world is asleep and I must wait for it to wake up again. When it finally does, it is profoundly beautiful.

View from the Sky Lounge, my school is in this direction. 

View in the direction of our apartment and Sally's school

This is also not to say that our winter has been uneventful. We have been quite busy with work and other activities. In January, Sally and I went to eat at a new restaurant in town that is at the top of the city’s tallest tower (16 floors). The Sky Lounge offers a great view of our city and feels like a rite of passage because we have been watching the building being built for the entirety of our service.
Also in January was a regional language training that brought the PCVs from the eastern provinces to our city. For three days, those of us that attended underwent intensive Mongolian training and refreshing. It was fun to see our friends that live in our border provinces. 
I started an advanced speaking club that is for all of the advanced English students in our aimag center, thus facilitating an activity that crosses communities and schools.
Sally and I have also been teaching a number of community English classes. On a busy Monday, we can end up teaching 6 different classes to adults in the community.

Sally is working hard on her creative writing master’s as well. We are fortunate that this is something she can do while we are here in Mongolia. This takes up a lot of her writing time and is why I have been the main contributor on the blog for the last season or so.

On a final note, I think it is important to stress that even though the winter is long and oppressing, it is still beautiful in Mongolia. Most days are bright and sunny with a light that creates the illusion of warmth. Also, this winter has been much easier for us. I honestly have not felt very cold this winter. I think a part of this is that we are used to the cold.


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