Setting the Scene
At the western edge of Arvaikheer lies a set of white stairs winding up the mountains. From the top of the stairs, the entire city can be seen. As you rotate around, away from the city, the mountains come into your peripherals. With your back turned to the city, this is the view you see. The sun sets quickly now. When we started climbing the stairs, the shadowed mountains in the photo were still doused in sunlight. By the time we reached the top, the temperature had dropped drastically without the sun’s warmth, the cold wind had picked up speed, and the snow had turned from a beautiful winter wonderland to this harsh but mesmerizing view. With the snow on the rolling mountains, the landscape appears endless.
Mongolia is a country known for its harsh weather, with temperatures dropping to -40 degrees (Celsius or Fahrenheit, doesn’t matter, they’re the same at -40 degrees) in the coldest parts of the country. Further making the winter months, which make up about 5 or 6 months of the year, even more difficult is the wind that slaps residents in the face. The weather during the month and a half leading up to winter is ever-changing. One day, the temperature will be 50 degrees F, and the next day the weather will drop to 15 degrees F with occasional hail storms. This daily fluctuation makes dressing for the weather difficult, especially when the sun starts to set and residents are caught unaware and unprepared for the now freezing temperatures. Mongolia’s winter weather is perhaps the most difficult aspect of living here for foreigners, as days become shorter and shorter, and darker. I have learned to take multiple layers of gloves. However, while clothing can be adjusted to protect your body, there is no way to protect your mood. For those who are isolated, winter is not a cozy wonderland like we imagine the Christmas season in the States, but rather a frozen, desolate tundra that is unrelenting. Keeping your spirits up and your mental health in good standing is extremely vital to thrive in stark yet beautiful Mongolia.