Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Eat My (Yellow) Dust!

In spring, when the skies turn yellowishly hazy and the air smells metallic, it's time to stay indoors! 

Why? It's the abominable yellow dust!

And last weekend, when I opened my windows eager to take in the coolness of the fresh spring air, I was suddenly taken aback! What the f-ck?!

There was something in the air!  

There was no cool spring air when I opened my window. Only that acrid smell of a junk yard and the blurred view of my Hannam-dong neighborhood. Yikes! It's here again!

This irritating yellow dust, or yellow sand (hwang-sa in Korean), comes from the Gobi Dessert in China and lower Mongolia. These sands are carried by strong surface winds which blow around East Asia, scattering them over China, the Korean peninsula and Japan. And these micro-sized elements of iron, silicon and aluminum and calcium can cause sore throat, eye irritation and lung problems.

I learned a very itchy lesson a couple of years ago when I ventured outdoors not knowing it was one of the worst days of yellow dust concentration in the air. That night, I developed a sore throat which, even with lozenges, didn't go away for three days.

So this spring, learning my lesson, I carry a mask in my pocket and always check the Korea Meteorological Administration's website for yellow dust warnings before I hit the outdoors and sniff through my nose a kilo of these metallic dusts, which may now also carry some radioactive particles from Japan. In that case, I may not just develop an itchy throat, I may also develop a radioactive lungs. Ha-ha-ha!

And if you compare the two photos I took of Nam-san, you can clearly tell which one is a colorful autumn day, and which one is a hwang-sa day.

Gaaad, I hate yellow dust!

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