Friday, March 28, 2008

A yellow spring

Surgical masks seem to be a mainstay of Korean fashion, a trend I noticed immediately upon arriving in Seoul. The accessory transcends seasons as well as generations, with Koreans young and old sporting masks as they go about a myriad of daily activities. Okay, perhaps the pursuit of fashion doesn't really enter the equation, but regardless of their mission, many Koreans strap on white masks whenever they step outdoors. I expected to see an exodus of masks after cold season had subsided, but on the contrary, I've been seeing more of them in recent weeks. And not only has the sheer number of sightings increased, but so has the variety of colors, fabrics, and styles. The other noticeable change around Seoul these days is the air; it's become hazier, and some days it's so thick you consider chewing before taking it into your lungs. The culprit is yellow dust (a.k.a. Asian dust) which journeys from the Gobi Desert in China and Mongolia and Kazakhstan to eastern Asia every spring via surface winds. Seoul has been spared the three significant sand storms so far this year, but is likely to see a powdering of the yellow stuff before spring fades into summer.

I snagged the above photo from the Grace Travel website.
Below, a man protects himself from yellow dust during a weekend stroll through Itaewon.

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