Tuesday, December 22, 2015

It is Winter

As the Canadian philosopher Red Green would say, "It is winter."

 In a lot of ways, winter here in Mongolia reminds me of winter back in Alberta.  Cold weather and snow.  Slippery roads at times and a few days of poor visibility for flying.  This morning when I walked to the office the temperature was -28 degrees Celsius.  That's kinda normal for the last while.  The first time that the temperature dropped down it was a bit of a shock for our systems, as it has been a number of years since our bodies have experienced anything below +18, and the cold weather did hit us a little bit.  It didn't seem to take too long for us to remember how to cope with the cold however.  Back in November we had a couple of really cold weeks where the temperatures were down in the mid-thirties.  -38 was the coldest that I am aware of, but that was a bit of a shock to the system.  That shouldn't happen until January, not in November!

With the cold weather and wintery conditions comes a huge reduction in the amount of flying that we do here in Mongolia.  For the next several months until warm weather returns to the country we will be flying almost exclusively medevac flights.  The last scheduled flight that I flew was a couple of weeks ago when I took a group to the far reaches of western Mongolia.
Flying over mountains in southwestern Mongolia
It was the first time that I had flown into that particular area, and once again I was amazed at the beauty and grandeur of this country.  It still blows my mind that I can be flying over huge sand dunes in the desert one minute, and 10 minutes later be flying over immense mountains with rocky peaks and impressive valleys.

Massive sand dunes
Massive Mountains
There are also places that I fly over (the mountains pictured above) that take me back in time to the basic winter survival training that I was a part of back in my days spent at Prairie.  We did the winter survival training there not primarily to prepare students for the mission field, but because as students left the school to build up their flight hours and experience, they would almost certainly be flying many hours in the Canadian winter.  I never imagined at that time that those survival skills would actually become practical and useful to me once I joined MAF and moved overseas.  MAF flies in warm weather countries, right?  Well, almost right.  There is this one country where MAF flies that isn't too warm, but why would I ever end up flying in the Mongolia program?  Ummm...

I have realized that this Canadian boy likes the winter, even more than I knew before.  I love the feeling of the cold weather biting into my cheeks and making my face numb with cold.  I like the feeling of the top of my legs getting cold as I walk outside, almost to the point of becoming numb, and then the feeling of them warming back up when I come inside.  I love the challenge of doing things with bare hands in extreme cold, like opening padlocks, opening the cargo pod doors on my plane, or various other tasks, pushing myself to do as much I can with my fingers before they stop working properly and I have to warm them up before they move properly again.  I love blowing warm, moist air out of my lungs and watching my breath condense and form a cloud in front of my face while I breathe.  There are a lot of wintery, cold weathery things that many people dislike about winter that I find myself enjoying.

Of course, there are also things that I still don't like.  Entering a warm room and being instantly blind as my glasses fog over still annoys me.  Spending most of the day with mussed up hair because I have to wear a tuque (Canadian word for a knitted winter cap) and it messes the hair up when it is pulled off is also a pain in the heiny.  There are other things, of course.  If we owned a vehicle here there would be the added nuisance of dealing with keeping our vehicle healthy and running well through the cold weather.  Carrying groceries home anywhere from 1/2 mile to 1 1/2 miles away can be mildly annoying, especially if it was a milk run and the backpack is heavy and filled with milk or meat.  For the most part though, carrying groceries ends up keeping you slightly warmer than you would have been otherwise, and the trade off is usually worth it.
When staying overnight in the country, I must also bundle up my plane against the cold weather for the night.

Well, that's my ranting and raving about the winter weather here for now.  Oh, there are a few differences.  Here, the cold weather is a constant.  There are no chinooks.  From the end of November until March?? April?? the weather stays cold, the only difference being the degree of coldness.  We won't see many days in the teens (the negative teens) until spring, but will live consistently in the -20's and 30's for most (or all) of the next few months.  I'm sure that we will miss the occasional chinook flow, but that's just life here and it's really not that bad.  There is also much less snow here.  Streets and roadways are cleared by people with shovels and brooms.  When I see that I try to put that into a northern Albertan context, and I wonder how much of the highway between Sexsmith and Grande Prairie would be cleared before the next snowfall if the highway there was also cleared by people with small shovels.  I imagine that the vast majority of roads would never be cleared in Canada if they were cleared in a similar fashion to here.  Having said that, it works for here.  Less snowfall is just one of the things that happens when you live on the edge of a desert.

Merry Christmas to you wherever you are.  Whether you are enjoying your Christmas out on your green lawn or are looking forward to going skating on the dugout, whether life is great right now or if you are going through a tough time, may you be reminded of the reason we celebrate Christmas.  Jesus came to earth not only to live and die, but then to rise from the dead for us.  May you feel His love for you and be encouraged this Christmas season.

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