Given the doomsday nature of Winter in “Game of Thrones”/A Song of Ice and Fire, it seems extremely appropriate that today, the supposed Mayan apocalypse, is also the first day that the Mongolians consider winter.
The Mongolians are no more immune to the apocalypse frenzy than the Chinese; I’ve heard reports of people from China buying gers and supplies and heading out into the Mongolian countryside, where they’ll be off the grid. I guess they figure it would safer to be out the hudoo and no longer relying on electricity or running water. They wouldn’t be safe rom the cold, though, or the dark; I’ve heard predictions that we’ll have twelve days of complete darkness, or that the temperature will drop to -70˚C. Given the choice between Frost’s options, the Mongolians definitely believe that the world will end in ice.
But the weather so far today is sunny, with a forecast high of -5F/-20C. That’s a lovely improvement over yesterday’s high of -14/-25. When last I wrote of the cold, it was to complain that the Mongolians kept telling me to wear warmer clothes, which I said I would do when it got colder. Well, it’s gotten colder. I acknowledged that the weather was “kind of cold” the first time we had a daily high of 0F. Given that when I checked on Wednesday, the highest temperature we were supposed to see for five days was -2F, I’d like to revise that description to “pretty cold.”
It changes every time I check, but the forecast lows for this weekend have dropped as far as -38, and that, let me tell you, is pretty darn cold. I know I’ve experienced -10 in the states, and maybe even -15, but -20+ (or should that be -?) is a first. Or was. Now it’s a nightly thing.
And it’s only going to get colder. Today is the first day of the есөн ес ([jusən jus] or “yusen yuse” for those of you who read neither Cyrillic nor IPA), the nine nines of the Mongolian winter. Beginning with the winter solstice, their winter is comprised of nine sets of nine days. Each of these is associated with a certain level of cold, the first four being the coldest.
Нэг дүгээр ес: шимжин архи, or Mongolian vodka distilled from milk, freezes
Хоёр дугаар ес: vodka freezes
Горав дугаар ес: the tails of three-year-old yaks/oxen/bulls freeze (I’ve seen all three variations, but they’re all cattle…)
Дөрөв дүгээр ес: the horns of four-year-old yaks/oxen/bulls freeze
Тав дугаар ес: rice no longer freezes
Зургаа дугаар ес: snow melts off of paved roads
Долоо дугаар ес: snow melts off the hills
Найм дугаар ес: the ground becomes damp
Ес дугаар ес: the warmer weather starts
I haven’t tried freezing vodka outside, though I’ve been using the porch as a freezer for almost two months now. We might even exceed the levels of cold traditionally predicted by the есөн ес this year: I’m told it’s already a lot colder than it was at this time last year, and independent of the apocalypse frenzy, those in the know are predicting a colder-than-average winter, or possibly even a zud. (If we do have a zud, I’m hoping it’s the snowy kind).
So while fire is clearly out, ice is still a possibility. But if the apocalypse happens while I’m here, at least I’ll be safe from zombies. With the exception of UB, Mongolia’s population is too sparse for me to imagine the spread of an epidemic, and I think the cold here would kill most viruses. And, for that matter zombies: if you’re dead, or even undead, you are, by definition, cold. And here, cold means frozen.
Unless of course the zombies are White Walkers, in which case I, and the rest of Mongolia and Russia, are screwed. We are, after all, north of the Wall.