Hope everyone is doing well! Its been a bit of a slow week here, mostly due to excess pollution making it hard to be outside, so sorry its been a while since I’ve posted. This week has been a bit next level with having to deal with air quality, so I figured I would tell you a little bit about my experience of it.
After we found out that we were coming to Korea, I started diving into research to find out what to expect. The biggest thing that came out of that research aside from culture differences, was the air quality. Because of the way the jet stream runs in this part of the world, it picks up dust from the Gobi Desert, and then passes through China, where those dust particles pick up pollution, and then get pushed to Korea. According to what I read initially, air quality wasn’t something we really had to worry about until the Spring. So I was completely surprised to learn that air quality is pretty much an issue year around except for in the summer, and then the humidity and heat pick up the slack for making going outside awful. In order for me to come along with Zach, I had to be medially screened in order to be deemed healthy enough to make the journey. I remember that doctor asking me like 5 different times if I suffered from asthma, which at the time I thought was a little over kill. Plus, he was looking at my medical file and there is no instance of me being treated for asthma ever, but you know, I guess captain obvious didn’t have room in that screening! haha. After the last week here though, I get it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m going to die immediately from breathing the air, since I am a healthy individual. But even with wearing an air mask this week, my throat still burns. If you are a runner and have ever run outside during the winter and get that burning sensation in your chest, that’s how I feel right now. There are reports of pink eye going around because of the gunk in the air, and people who have respiratory issues to begin with really suffer under these conditions. The air quality was so bad on Wednesday that Seoul mandated that only cars with license plates ending in odd numbers could be on the road, public parking lots were closed as a deterrent to keep cars off the road, diesel engine vehicles were banned for the day, and public transportation was free to help people get around in an effort to not make the air quality worse. I have two apps that help me keep track of air quality, one that rates the quality from green, yellow, orange, then red (red is no good), and another one that mathematically calculates how bad the air the air is by equating it to cigarettes smoked if you breathe the air without a mask. Wednesday was the equivalent of 8.5 cigarettes. Hooray pollution (don’t I make that air mask look good??? HAHAHA)
Those of you who know me, know that I am a tree hugger through and through (captain planet was most definitely one of my favorite childhood cartoons! See, it started early). I will give you side eye for using plastic bags for your produce in the grocery store (yes, I openly judge you EVERY TIME, but here is a great solution that won’t hurt your wallet), I have been known to take all the empty wine bottles after wine club to make sure they get recycled, though I’m sure we could apply and get a second car here, I am enjoying my lessened carbon footprint on the world by going carless these next two years, and I most definitely will say something to you if I witness you littering (especially if you are in a national park…get it together!). I’ve always believed that humans can most certainly have a negative impact on Mother Earth, and living in Korea has really opened my eyes to the reality of that fact. For all of you that may have been annoyed with my tree hugging ways, I’m here to tell you that my experience here in Korea has only amplified this for me. When you have to plan your week around air quality so you don’t feel like crap, you start to look up the reasons why air quality is so bad and how it can be prevented. When I see news articles about our President dismissing the fact that human activity has an affect on the environment, it pisses me off. If you are one of those who doesn’t think we as humans make a difference in the environment, I dare you to come over here to Korea on a bad air day without an air mask and talk to me about your beliefs and see if you don’t feel like a liar. Seriously. I dare you. Its easy to write it off when it doesn’t necessarily impact you at the moment (believe me, I am guilty of that, then I witnessed smog in Korea and changed my mind). I get it, making companies be environmentally responsible is not cheap and it raises the costs of goods and services. But I’ve said it once, and I will say it again, I’m ok with paying a little more for goods and services if it means manufacturers can limit their footprint on the air and water that I breath and drink. I guess at the end of the day, it comes down to how much you value clean air and water. Before moving here, I would say that I wasn’t overly concerned about regulating companies for the purpose of clean air and water….I mean, logically it makes sense, but is it really necessary in the United States? But after the past week of continuous bad air (thanks everything made in China), I am know for a fact I am more than ok to pay a pretty penny to breathe fresh air. Because breathing sucky air just sucks. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it once it’s bad except wait for it to pass or hope for rain. And thank God its raining today. I literally went for a walk today in the rain to get fresh air. So have I changed my mind about regulating manufacturers???? HELL YES I HAVE. Take all my money.
Other big thing going on right now is USFK is having a change of command today, and with that has come elevated protest activity among those who are not happy that we are here in Korea. Most of these protests are peaceful, and countered with pro America groups, but over the weekend one group got a little over zealous and were throwing objects, resulting in a gate to close until authorities could get the situation under control. Its been interesting to sit back and watch and at the same time kind of sad to see the stereotype of how some Koreans see us as a whole. The Pro-America group was blasting “beer for my horses” as their theme song today as they counter protested the anti-USFK group near the main gate today. Yikes. But don’t worry, we usually get plenty of notice of these protests and for the most part they are mostly just entertaining and not violent, but its definitely been a spotlight in the events of this past week.
Otherwise, its going to be a pretty low key week and a half, but then we will be spending Thanksgiving in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. I’m so excited to get to explore somewhere completely new and get away from the air pollution, even if for a few days.
So until next time, breathe easy my friends.