Work has been extremely busy of late and weekends given over to family time to compensate for the lack thereof during the week so my blog has taken a back seat. Added to that is the fact that life is settling into a familiar routine and I’m not sure my followers want to read about my day to day chores! This time I’ve decided to write about the weather. The weather is a very British thing to discuss and as a Brit abroad I am still looking at my weather app as much here as I was back home. Funny though, because now it’s either cold, cold or very cold. When we were planning our move to Mongolia, people were shocked when we said what the temperatures reach in the winter. We’re not completely in the depths of winter but we have now experienced -30 and I have to say it’s not that bad. Honest. Ask me again when it’s been this cold for 3 months straight and I might say different.
When we arrived in August the temperature was around +30 everyday, the sun shone and we were too hot in our classrooms. Now its -20, the sun shines – if it can get through the pollution and we are still too hot in our classrooms! I still pinch myself at times when I look out of my classroom window and look at the hills, such a beautiful backdrop for the school but how is it living in the freezing conditions? Monday to Friday I tend to take the ‘long’ outdoor walk across the playground to sign in unless the wild dogs happen to be lurking outside the sports hall and I take the indoor route. Going outside takes less than a minute. But that’s enough somedays – it certainly wakes you up at 7 in the morning. In the first 5m you think it’s fine, you are reminded of crisp, frosty winter mornings in the UK, for the next 5m you think, actually maybe it’s a bit colder than the UK – especially seeing as I don’t always have a coat on – and for the rest of the walk you do it pretty fast as it is starting to get to your bones and you realise that it is actually very different to a crisp, frost winter morning in the UK. This cold is fine if you are dressed for it but if you’re not, you won’t last long.
There is a shorter outside route that I can and do take, several times during the day as it’s all of 5 seconds closer to go the outside way to the office and to be honest that blast of exceptionally cold air is needed at times to get away from the stifling heat of indoors. The school is never (fingers crossed so far anyway) cold. But once the children are in and you’ve been working for a few hours the classroom gets too hot and stuffy, I’ve yet to find something substantial enough to balance on my class windowsill so that I can have the window open just a fraction. Usually it blows wide open, we have a 10 second icy blast and then close it again for another hour.
Obviously the Mongolians are prepared for the cold but this does mean that it takes my class 15 minutes to get ready for class in the morning. They have to change from snow boots to school shoes, take off their 2 pairs of leggings, hats, scarves, gloves, thick coats etc and this will be everyday until at least March. They also seem to like things warm though, because while I am still not wearing tights or socks with my shoes and wear lightweight jumpers or tops in what I think is a hot classroom, they all wear tights/leggings under their trousers and long sleeved vests under their shirts and blazers. They rarely complain that class is too hot and usually ask me to shut the window pretty soon after I open it.
My commute across the play area is the only ‘fresh’ air I get during the week. Living on campus has alot of pros but sometimes you just want to get out, so a week or so ago, I said I’d do the mid week supermarket shop.
I set off later than I wanted so I knew it would be dark on the way home, oh and that was the week that temperatures didn’t rise above -20 during the day. So as I set off I knew it was about -25. The walk is a good 15 minutes down one straight main road. I was dressed with my thermals, snow boots and a minimum of 3 layers. As soon as you go outside in that temperature, you feel the cold go up your nose and freeze it from the bottom to the top. Within 5 minutes, I knew that my eyelashes were starting to freeze and within another 5 I had to take a quick selfie before my phone switched off – they don’t really like the cold. Some of you may think I am crazy or doesn’t it hurt but the thing is, when you’ve had a tough day at work, going for a walk like that clears your mind of everything because all you are focussed on is getting to the supermarket as fast as possible.
The funniest part is when you then walk around the supermarket and your eyelashes start to defrost, I didn’t realise that waterproof mascara was going to be an essential piece of kit. At no point on that walk, there or back, was I actually cold except my face and the bonus is you don’t need to worry about your fridge and freezer items. !
I like the cold at the moment, it’s all part of the adventure. One of the upsides is that we can go sledging any time we like just behind the school but one downside is how long it takes to get out the door as a family. A colleague who was working in the UAE until this summer said it used to take him 20 seconds to put on his flip flops and walk out the door, here it’s at least 10 minutes. The apartments are so warm, you can’t wear thermals all the time so you have to get undressed in order to get redressed before you go out. Thermals, trousers, snow boots, vest top, t shirt, jumper, coat, hat, gloves, scarves x5 takes a while. And once you have it all on, you have to get outside fast or you all get very grumpy because you are majorly overheating.
We have had quite a bit of snow but they don’t grit the roads, eventually it clears but at times we have seen cars and buses just slide round corners. People are employed by the government when it snows to clear some of the roads and they use metal poles to break the snow and ice, and then just brush it into piles on the verges, a back breaking, labour intensive, dangerous job.
I am still positive about the cold but I do have the appeal of 10 days in Hong Kong as respite from the long and cold winter. Apparently Mongolia hasn’t had a particularly harsh winter for quite a few years and everyone is predicting that this year will be the one. I’m just hoping it’s a bit like the weather reports in the UK that say ‘we’ll have snow for 3 months’ or ‘coldest winter for 50 years’ and they never actually come to fruition. Fingers crossed anyway.
The Blue Sky Tower and the view from the top.