Coming to the Peace Corps, I always knew that some days it would be a struggle to metaphorically put one foot in front of the other. However, I had no idea how literally true that would turn out to be. And these difficult days do not happen in the season that you would think.
It is now springtime here in Mongolia. Horray! Walking home from work the other day, I discovered that you can actually smell trees. Not the flowers on the trees, but the growing leaves themselves have a warm, lively scent. To my delight, the leaves have continued to fill the air with a pregnant promise of sunny months to come. The warmer weather and the greenery sends a jolt though my body and puts a spring in my step. But sadly, spring here is not all buds and butterflies. The Mongolians have a saying that summarizes this season quite well: The Spring Sky is Jealous. Now if I were pissed at a cheating boyfriend, I can't think of a better way to get revenge on him than to slather him up with lip gloss and bury him in a giant sandbox. And that is exactly what Mongolia has in store for those who reside under her angry sky.
What we are plagued with during the warming months are sandstorms. Awe-inspiring in their power, they can arise from the parched earth at any point. Indeed, Hovd is surrounded by pebbly mountains and less than half of the roads are paved, making this a prime spot for both sandy twisters and monsoons of dust. Sometimes the wind will kick up and blow tornadoes of dirt and dust across the town. They carry off our soccer balls and crash into our apartments. These little tornadoes are completely unpredictable; even on the calmest of days you can get swept up in one and heaven help you if you happen to have your mouth open. They are visible for miles though there is no telling when one will snag you in it's sandy grips. It's not a stretch to imagine Dorthy's poor little prairie house being tossed and turned in these whirling storms, as the Wicked Witch cycles by. Though what is actually visible instead is a rainbow of trash and wrappers tumbling though the wind. During more difficult times, the storms are far more angry and encompassing. Whole days are washed in dust, as layers and layers of sand blanket the air. When these storms hit you literally can't see the sun. But even in the worst of dust storms life must go on. Encompassed by sand I curse my lot because I still must walk to work, though it is certainly a struggle. Head down, constantly being pushed back by the winds, I channel the mighty Leonidas of Sparta who roared "we shall fight in the shade" when faced with an onslaught of arrows. With the dust and sand swirling around me, lifting my hair and invading my nose, I fight in the shade of Mongolia's most fearsome storms. I fight only for a short commute though it feels as if I am battling legions of armed Persians. And indeed, though I make it through the threshold of the library, I am defeated by millions of tiny grains of sand. Without fail, there is sand in every crevice and pore of my exposed skin and even in some places that the sun don't shine. But even though the sandstorms persist, and will for quite some time now, it is far better than the freezing winters we just emerged from. So regardless of these raging storms, I am of the mind that that glass is half full- of sand.