Lindsay here again. Sorry to hog the blog from Whit but I just gotta tell you about spring in Korea.
Are you picturing spring? Cherry blossoms and cotton-candy colored dogwood blooms, blue skies, occasional spring showers, warmer weather, clean, fresh air?
Daang! (That’s what the kids say for WRONG!)
As beautiful as a day Saturday was for our Gwangju half marathon was as ugly and yellow of a day as it was on Sunday. I walked out mid-afternoon after sleeping late and a nice creamed-eggs-on-toast brunch to what looked like Armageddon.
I was scared. No one was out. Which might sound normal for Bakewell, Tennessee. But not Korea. Never. Not even those crazy arm-swinging women with face masks and hot pink jogging suits. I started worrying that the buses weren’t running, which would definitely be a first.
Everything was gray. And yellow. Not foggy gray, mind you. But scary Armageddon gray with some-kind-a-scary yellow particles in the air.
My bus eventually came and I looked around at the brave few to see if these were in fact going to be my last moments on earth. I sure would hate Armageddon to come on a bus with ten Koreans and their bad breath mixing with the lingering smells of dried fish and diesel and scary yellow particles.
I was on my way to book club, too. Wouldn’t that be ironic to spend my last moments on Earth on my way to talk about “My Best Year Yet!!” God. He’s such a jokester.
But no worries. I am still alive. All my goal-setting for the coming year was not in vain. I was informed by my friend Catie and later Whit that the scary yellow dust particles that seemed to be closing in on my throat and settling into my skin was sand from the Gobi Desert mixed with a little good ol’ fashioned Chinese factory pollution.
See, they don’t exactly write about that in the brochures. Or it would have to read something like this: “Oh! And in Spring, we always have a lovely yellow-grayish sand windstorm, straight from China’s Gobi Desert! It looks like fog, but scarier! And for goodness sake. Don’t breathe it!”
After reading about this first round of yellow sands to hit Korea this spring in today’s newspapers, I see that this happens throughout the normally flowery season.
Here is more from another article I read:
The sand storms have been growing in frequency and toxicity over the years because of China’s rapid economic growth and has added to increased tensions with neighbours South Korea and Japan over recent years.
The dust picks up heavy metals and carcinogens such as dioxin as it passes over Chinese industrial regions, before hitting North and South Korea and Japan, meteorologists say.
Dry weather and seasonal winds in China hurl millions of tonnes of sand at the Korean peninsula and Japan from late February through April or May, turning the skies to a jaundiced hue.
The state-sponsored Korea Environment Institute said the dust kills up to 165 South Koreans a year, mostly the elderly or those with respiratory ailments, and makes as many as 1.8 million ill.
But it is spring. So I’m looking at the bright side here: this storm moved through in a day. And next time, at least, I will know I am not dying. (Unless I am one of the 165 unlucky few….)