For months, I imagined that I would write a post in the dead of winter describing my sufferings in the bitter cold. It is bitter cold: right now (10:00 am) it's -29°c. But I'm not suffering, at least not anymore.
At first, the cold was a major shock. If you're not dressed properly, you will definitely suffer. I remember walking to a meeting in December. I had a warm hat and a decent coat, but I had forgotten about my legs. In minutes, the cold bit sharply through my trousers, stinging the skin on my thighs until they went numb. I had to keep my hands in my pockets; even with gloves, my fingers turned to ice.
One weekend, it got down to -37°c, almost to the point where Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures are identical (-40°c). I would not leave the house, or go near the windows and doors. I survived on rice and boiled eggs, and interacted with the outside world through text messages and the Internet. Thank goodness for Facebook.
But once you learn to dress properly, the cold actually becomes invigorating. It's a dry cold, so it doesn't creep through your clothes and into your bones. In Ukraine, by contrast, it's much warmer (about -5°c), but it is a wet, slushy cold, and the sun is usually hidden behind dense, grey clouds. In Mongolia, it is bright and sunny almost every day.
This makes it possible to actually embrace winter. The outdoors is just as beautiful in winter as it is in summer, and the hills are great for sledding. The river Tuul, which is a short walk from my house, is frozen solid, so you can go ice skating on it. You can even go dog-sledding or skiing. All you have to do is remember to dress properly, and you can own the winter.
My advice to foreigners in Mongolia is the same as my advice was in Aceh: learn to enjoy what the environment has to offer. I'm glad that I finally took my own advice.