Monday, May 18, 2009

How to keep cool in Niger - a tutorial

The hot season is on. Well, not like it ever gets turned off here, with the temperate daily average rarely dipping below 30 even in COLD season, but this season, which I think lasts from March-July mostly, is miserably hot before we get some rain the end of July. The daily average in the SHADE these last few months has been 45 degrees Celsius (113F). The house usually seems to sit inside around 36 degrees with the fans running. So with this kind of heat for this long we need options to keep our brains from frying! We have found many different options on how to help keep us cool and active, rather than falling into a sleepy, grumpy, dysfunctional hot mess. Here are our  ideas for "beating the heat!"

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The daily recommended 8 glasses of 8 ounces a day is just over one of these bottles. Paul and I drink about 3 each a day, and the kids one a piece. So this table represents the minimum our family drinks per day around here. I also have 2 or 3 bottles that are half full in the freezer than I top up with water when I go out somewhere to ensure lots of ice cold water in the heat! At least hopefully we won't get heat stroke from being dehydrated. We have three fabric carrier bags with straps that insulate and carry our water everywhere. We even have an extra for visitors (hint hint!)

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In the morning if there is a breeze, we like to sit outside on the terrace to do language study or work. It is still in full shade, and when there is a breeze it makes the heat quite manageable. The same is true for the evening when the sun is down and the air is moving. You can see we are in the middle of screening in a little room here. We hope to be able to sleep outside when it is hot and the power goes out inside, and give us a refuge at night to sit/read/study/visit people or play guitar. We need the screen for bugs and lizards. At night hundreds of bugs are attracted to the lights and drive you crazy, and malaria season is soon upon us, so the screens are a must.

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When inside, the heat and humidity would be intolerable without fans. At least being able to get the air moving around you feels like it drops the temperature by 10 degrees. So if we are in a room, the fans are turned on. Really irritating side effect is that all your papers get blown everywhere. We have lots of little paperweights now.

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This fan below is a new model dual purpose fan/hair dryer. Yes, this is what I actually use 90% of the time to dry my hair, especially in hot season. The normal hair drier isn't strong on its cool setting and the normal air  makes my hair wet with sweat faster than I can dry it! And if I am feeling really hot and sweaty I go stand in front of this fan just to dry off and cool off. I call it the "jet engine" since it is really large, powerful and noisy.  Paul says he feels all proud with this "industrial" fan around.

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Sometimes our power goes out, and when that does, the heat instantly settles in the room, with no fans to chase it away. This is particularly horrendous if it is 3am and you wake up with no power, no fan and a puddle of sweat and wet hair where your pillow used to be. So I made 4 long fabric tubes, with divided partitions, that hold a mix of lavender, corn and beans. These sit in the freezer all day and when the power goes out, we distribute one to each member of the family. At night this means we can fall back asleep and it will keep my head cool for the 30 minutes or so before the power comes back on usually (thankfully we are close to the power plant and come back online near the front of the pack!) In the middle of the day we will get them out and wrap them around our neck while studying, and Bennett especially likes pulling several of them out and laying under them as seen here. Arielle seems to like the heat the most, and Bennett the least. He always wants to be as cold as possible!

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Another option we have here is the swamp cooler, or you may know it by the name "Evaporative cooler". It uses a motor and fan to pull air through a mat/screen of water which cools the air. As you probably already thought, this also adds humidity to the air. So in the really dry part of the year, these work really well for a single room. As the humidity starts to rise, as it is now, they becomes less useful since the air gets too humid so you are dripping with sweat from that too. Sometimes you just can't win! Also, these do wrack up the electricity bills, using about 40%  more power than just running the ceiling fans alone. We have been calculating and keeping track!

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Our final option in the house is two air conditioning units. They are located in the bedrooms for us and the kids (who share a room) during hot season last year we had all four of us in one room. These are only big enough to cool the bedrooms. We try to only use the minimally and only at night. They are the most expensive option and one of our largest expenses every month is electricity. In the cooler season from October to March we didn't use them at all almost, but now in hot season we run them at night so we can sleep.

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And when all else fails - the power is out and we have no escape from the heat, we do what any self-respecting Canadian would do, we head to the closest pool!! (This is a picture of our favorite pool at a local hotel where you can pay $5 per person to come for the day.

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So come to Niger, and beat the heat! We have lots of options. Feel free to share your ideas if you know some others. We are always looking for new ways!

 

Until next time,

Chantelle

4 comments :

Jennifer said...

Hang in there sweetie. It's only 0 here today - a mix of rain and snow... Maybe it's just the "grass looking greener on the other side of the fence", but your heat is sounding pretty good right about now :) lol

Love you!

Jen

Carrien said...

This may be considered a waste of water where you are, but squirt bottles are a fun way to cool off for the kids, especially in the car.

The other thing is to make ice cubes and put cut up straws in the middles while they are freezing, to make holes, and then put them on a string for a freezing necklace. My kids think it's very cool, pun intended. :)

Anonymous said...

I'd be right there with Bennett and the cold packs!

Chad

Beverley McIver said...

I loved your idea of the grain bags with lavender. I think I will try that one here too. We haven't quite hit our hot season like you have but it is 43 degrees here today (109 in American). When our kids were little I used to freeze bananas cut in half with a popsicle stick pushed in and bring those out on a hot afternoon for them to eat. They don't freeze solid like an ice cube but are more the texture of a fudgesicle. Hey, you can dip them in chocolate if you don't mind the kids getting really messy!! I just usually served them plain. A damp, chilled cloth hat helps keep kids heads cooled as well. Mom McIver