If you’ve been keeping up with my Twitter, Gchat and Facebook updates, you’re probably aware that Seoul is experiencing a meteorological phenomenon known as yellow dust.  Basically, sand form the Gobi Desert gets picked up and carried east, affecting the air quality of nearby regions.  You can’t stick out your hand and see the dust, or hwangsa in Korean, but you can definitely tell it is there.  The sky turns cloudy, gray and hazy and all of the Koreans don face masks.  I even bought one last week and have been wearing it outside on occasion over the past few days.  If I’m outside for extended periods without it, my throat gets scratchy and sore.

Today during our lunch break, Heather, Jeanette, James and I went up to the sports field to enjoy the warm weather and toss around a frisbee.  And all of us, save for Heather, wore our masks the entire time.  I’m telling you, few things are more difficult than throwing a frisbee when your sunglasses keep fogging up from exhaling into the mask.

Other teachers have reported sleeping poorly and waking up congested since the storm hit the other day. (Just as I typed that, Erin sent me a message telling me that her throat hurts from having her door open this afternoon.)  Today during lunch, I went to sit outside, and my Korean friend Chloe gasped and said, “Melissa!  You cannot eat out here!  The yellow sand is very bad today.”

According to the Yellow Sand/Asian Dust Monitor System, which can also be found on Erin’s blog, we’re at about 300 right now, which falls into the blue section, or “Unhealthy.”  The site advises people not to do any outdoor sports or lawn mowing.  What I find curious is that even though Koreans tend to be a little nutso when it comes to their health, we are still holding some classes outside.  Case in point: Ultimate Frisbee, which I’m watching James teach at the moment.  And nobody is wearing a mask!

All I know is that I’m eager for the yellow dust to pass so that I can enjoy the beautiful spring weather that’s finally bringing us all out of this long, bitter winter.