Friday, March 26, 2010

Yellow Dust

What time of day would you say this picture was taken?

yellow dust
View from my balcony window

If you said somewhere between 4-6PM, you are wrong. I took this photo at 1:15 in the afternoon, at which point I had my lights on. It's not actually a rainstorm. It's yellow dust, which Koreans call hwangsa (황사).

Yellow dust is a yearly phenomenon that I've had to endure since I came to Korea. Yellow sand blows in from deserts in Mongolia and Kazakhstan, affecting China, both Koreas, and Japan. Sometimes it's so bad that it even makes it to the US. It usually appears around mid-March and won't disappear until the end of June.

If it looks unhealthy, that's because it is.

As you might expect, yellow dust has always caused all kinds of respiratory problems such as asthma. But in recent years it's gotten worse due to all of the pollutants the dust now carries, such as mercury, lead, zinc, asbestos, synthetic hormones etc. The dust is also thicker now due to deforestation in China, which allows more of it to blow southward. Reforestation attempts have not been particularly successful.

I'm lucky in that so far the yellow dust hasn't caused me any health problems that I know of. It does mean I get more easily winded when I go outdoors, and last year it got so bad that I could taste metal pretty much all the time.

What bothers me most about it is that it looks pretty creepy and post-apocalyptic.

Other than the yellow haze through which I must conduct my daily affairs, I don't have much to report. I had the week off school, so I spent my time resting. Next week I should have more to report, since I have Parent/Teacher Interviews on Wednesday and Thursday. Then, on Friday, my friends Lauren, Elias and I are taking a long weekend's trip down to Andong, a tourist town in southeastern Korea. I've never been, but Elias says it's one of his favourite places, and it even has a VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT! Given that vegetarian options are hard to come by in this country, I'm excited to try it. I wonder what traditional Korean vegetarian cuisine is like. Pictures to follow.

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