Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Baby, It's Cold Outside...

This is historically the coldest time of the year in Mongolia. In Ulaanbaatar this week, we’re expecting daytime highs around -10 F and overnight lows around -50 F. I spend at least an hour a day outside, walking to and from work. The cold doesn’t really bother me too much, at least not until it gets around -30 F or so. Then you really begin to notice it, especially when it’s windy (which it rarely is; hence the terrible winter pollution in UB).

In fact, it’s surprising how fast one adjusts to the bitter cold. Back in October, I think, Allyson and I walked home from a restaurant one night when it was -9 F. That felt cold. But now -9 F practically feels balmy.

There are certain precautions that must be taken when spending any time outside here. It goes without saying that every part of your body that can be covered must be covered. Gloves won’t do, you need good insulated mittens. Keep moving and you’re OK. Standing in the cold waiting for a taxi is no fun. Flannel-lined jeans or long underwear are mandatory. Layers are your friend. I bought a fancy down jacket from LL Bean before we came here, but mostly I just wear two lighter jackets, one over the other, and that does the job nicely.

There are certain inconveniences that come with the extreme cold. Bundling up to go out (and unbundling when you get home)… Eyeglasses fogging up… Beard covered with ice… Frozen sidewalks, steps, and streets… Eyes watering...

But on the whole, I prefer extreme cold to extreme heat, and the summers here are really quite lovely!