Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Keeping cool

Power where there is no power

When my Burkinabè son saw me studying with LED flashlights at night he told me I needed to get a battery and small florescent light. I knew people sometimes use car batteries for such things, but it seemed to me that, if I bought one, it would be hard to take it to a place to get it charged. He explained that there was a smaller one that would work and that, if I bought one, he would happily charge for me with his solar panel. All I would need to do is let him know when it needed charging and he would send one of his girls over to pick it up in the morning and return it in the evening. We went shopping and got the battery and light, which you can see in the pictures below. The battery also works well for charging my cell phone, which you can see happening on the table.

Beating the heat
Yes, it does get hot here. Most days since the middle of March it has been about 100 degrees in the middle of the day. One of the other things that the battery can run is this little fan. It actually puts out a fair breeze.

If I am really hot and want to get cooled off I use the squirt bottle you see next to it to get my face wet and let the fan evaporate the water. It gets almost cold, which is surprising when it is 100 degrees in the house! Another trick I heard about is getting pagne wet and putting it over you. The first time I tried it I was really surprised how cool this is. If I want to take a nap after lunch, as most Burkinabè do, this is a great way to get comfortable. A small cloth dipped in water and waved in the air for a few seconds is also pretty refreshing on the face.

The best thing, however, is putting a long sleeved blouse in a bucket of water, wring it out and putting it on. I call this trick my village air conditioning system. I dip the long sleeved shirt you see on the chair in water every 20 minutes or so. By the evening my t-shirt or blouse is wet and cool, and I think, this is a pretty comfortable temperature. But if I stop wetting to top layer I am suddenly hot again. I was really worried about getting through the hot season, but for now, these things are making it quite bearable. The heat lasts through May, however, so this is just the beginning.


First of all, here is the bed I normally sleep it. You saw a corner of the mosquito net in the pictures showing water damage before and after painting. The mosquito net was supposed to hang from the pieces of wood you see at each corner of the bed. I felt a bit confined by the thing and decided to suspend it from the ceiling.

I had to get two mattresses for the bed because, with only one, I felt the bed slats. I think of it as a box spring and mattress set without the springs. I do always sleep under the mosquito net even though I have not seen a mosquito in my village since the end of the rainy season. Even though I take anti malaria medication I am told there will be malaria in my system when I leave here. Less is better than more, however, and mosquito bites are itchy.

Sleeping out under the stars

When it is 100 degrees or more in the house at bed time and cooler outdoors, I am glad I bought this screen tent and 4 inch think self inflating sleeping pad. The stripped thing on the sleeping pad is beach towel that I put on there to absorb the sweat. Sometimes in the middle of the night it is cool enough that crawl under it and use it as a light blanket instead.

The Moon
Shortly after I arrived I glanced out one of the windows after dark and the thought “How can there be street lights out there? There is no electricity here!” flashed through my mind. Of course that was just the instant reaction, but I was surprised at how much light there is from a full moon. It is quite possible to walk around outdoors and pretty well see where you are going, although I am not likely to try to ride my bike by moon light.

And stars
When I am sleeping outside and the moon is not up, I can see lots of stars. The constellations, of course, are displaced compared to where I am used to seeing them at home, but the familiar ones are there. (No, I don’t think you can see the Southern Cross from here.) When the moon is full, you can hardly see any stars at all. All of this may not be surprising to those of you who camp out a lot, but as a long time city dweller it is something I had not realized before.

The yard
You will notice that the screen tent is sitting on bare ground. That is the way you keep a tidy courtyard here. You chop out any plants that try to grow there with a daba, a hand held hoe. Then people sweep their courtyards every day, to gather all the trash they have dropped around during the day. I have hired one of the village women to wash my clothes for me and, when she comes, she sweeps the yard, too. That gets up all the leaves and makes it look like a good Burkinabè yard.

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