I awoke at dawn Thursday morning, April 24, to the sound of high winds blowing on different notes through every opening and crack in the building where I live. There were many kinds of sounds: whistling through crevices, hollow-open sounds, ghost-like, and a bit of window-rattling for percussion. It was a chorus! I looked outside, and couldn’t see very far into the distance. Snow was flying almost horizontally ahead of a strong wind. The day before had been warm and soft, perhaps even reaching 60F. Looking around then, contemplating the forecast I’d read, I found it unbelievable on such a beautiful day that it would be snowing in 12 hours. But it moved in quickly. It didn’t take long for the ground to be covered with drifts. It was lovely to be inside that morning with nowhere to be until mid-afternoon, and then, only next door.
The Raven’s nest near the top of the lightening rod held firm through the storm.
This snow wasn’t sloppy until the second day, and it was surprising to me how the cold held, after we’d had spring weather for weeks. It stayed below freezing until the afternoon of the second day.
It’s been an unseasonably warm winter, by all accounts. I kept bracing for the long haul of subzero weather without end, and it didn’t really come. Subzero came, but not deep into the negative for months, as most years, and it didn’t snow as much as usual. I would bet that the majority of days this winter warmed up to at least zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Spring here brings burning. Mongolians love to burn things – trash, dead grass, old clothing. (There’s a superstition here that if you wear something that someone else wore, you take on their energy.) The smell is sometimes overpowering. Only occasionally do I see anyone tending these fires, though I don’t know of any buildings that have burned from untended fires.
Spring also brings the brutal cutting of the trees. I had been observing some birds in the tops of the trees in front of my building, and I was anticipating the leafing out. Trees are rare here, and I consider myself very lucky to live in a part of town that has trees, with a concentration of them outside my building. Then one day, men came with chain saws and cut all the branches off them, leaving trunks standing naked anywhere from 5 to 12 feet high. They have done this all over my neighborhood, and it’s heartbreaking to me! I was reassured by a Mongolian friend that in June the trees would look beautiful again. I asked a counterpart if there were arborists here, and she quickly said, no. No one would pay for something like that.
The trees before
The trees after
During the winter, I saw few dogs in the city. But when spring arrived, so did a handful of dogs and a few puppies that survived the winter. I’ve heard there’s a bounty on them, yet I continue to see the same ones week after week. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen them for a few days . . .
And then there are the cows that periodically delight me by grazing in the city.
There are signs of hope here now. I’m seeing green sprouting on the ground. I saw 2 dandelions today. And a few birds have returned, one being a hawk I hadn’t seen since fall. People say this is a migration path, and I eagerly await my feathered friends.
Every dawn, except on snow days, I find a spectacularly lit sky that casts a glow into my living room and bedroom. What a wonderful way to start the day!
And here, in contrast to my rather myopic post, is a post written by fellow PCV, Adam Garnica, about an inspiring fellow PCV here: