I was born and raised in Minnesota. Depending on how much you know about the place, it may conjure up images of beautiful lakes, fields of corn and wheat and pine forests. Which there are plenty of, and I have pictures to prove it. But you will more likely think of snow covered houses, frozen lakes, winter coats in July, hockey and arctic temperatures that are so cold you can’t imagine unless you experience them. Like the Christmas it was -50 Fahrenheit. That’s 50 below 0! And no, that’s not with the windchill. With that factored in it was -100! No kidding! When you stepped outside, breathing became difficult -even painful. It felt as if your eyes would either freeze open or shut. And woe to the bloke with a runny nose. He would be sporting ‘nose-cicles’. Schools closed as often for the cold as for snow – maybe even more often because of the cold. You get the idea. I also remember when it started to ‘warm-up’. After a few days of what could be considered ungodly cold, the temps reached a new high. 3 degrees. That’s ABOVE 0. And do you know I almost considered shedding my winter coat it felt so much warmer? How’s that for perspective? But the subject of this post was supposed to be about the heat…
Let’s just keep that thought – but jump to the other extreme. Have you ever walked into a room that is 92 degrees and said something like, “This feels so good – it is hot out there!” (referring to anywhere outside of said room). That’s what hot season in Niger is like. We’ve had lots of people visit over the years, though not many during hot season. (Feb/March – April/May). Most all of our visitors comment on the heat – no matter what time of year it is. We knowingly explain that yes, we do understand that they feel hot when it is a very dry 90 or 95 degrees, but that this isn’t really hot – at least not the kind of heat that Niger is famous for. In fact I recently heard a couple of weeks ago that the Washington Post reported Niger as the hottest place on the earth – probably on a particular day. I didn’t see the article myself, but I certainly had no trouble believing it. We try to explain the heat to people but always fall short of being able to describe what it is like. Kind of like not being able to relate to -50 if you’ve never experienced it.
I’m not talking about a record breaking temperature hot day or series of days that one may find in the South or even the Midwest. I know that those temps can be hot, but I’m talking about the kind of heat that makes one glad they will not spend eternity in Hades. One reason the heat gets so intense in our house is because the walls are all made of cement. Yes, cement walls are cold to the touch when it is cold outside. But have you ever touched a cement wall that has been baking in mostly 100 plus temps for days and even weeks or months? It’s too hot to touch! Imagine if you will the heat that then radiates from those walls, filling the rooms with it’s (unwelcome) warmth. And though the temps drop into the 90’s at night, it’s not enough to cool the house down before another round of record breaking, sun baking temps hit.
Here are some of the things I have observed when we are in hot season. They are not exaggerations…
1. Cold showers are not possible. Tap water is hot and must be run first so as to not get burned. (at least we have tap water!)
2. Pots and pans are hot, right out of the cabinet (requires less gas to heat them up!)
3. Dishes, glasses and silverware are too. Like they’ve been in a warmer. Imagine putting your salad in a warm bowl!
4. Clothes come out of your dresser feeling like they’ve just come out of the dryer.
5. Ever washed your hair with heated shampoo?
6. Taper candles in the house bend over forming an upside down U, whether they’ve been lit or not.
7. 120+ degree days are common.
8. Pillar candles in the house just kind of melt/flatten out.
9. You’re happy when the temperature drops below 100
10. Our fridge, which usually partially freezes our drinking water during other times of the year, is doing good to keep the water semi-cold.
11. You live in a state of perpetual sweat (I am proof that sweating does NOT promote weight loss).
12. It’s not possible to ‘cool’ a cake after it’s been baked. It remains hot.
13. The tile floor is warm enough to feel like it is heated.
14. The air conditioner can cool the room to 92 degrees in the heat of the day.
I’m sure that those that live here would be able to add their own experiences with the heat as well…
Why, you ask, do we not just air condition our home? Well, the biggest reason is the cost of electricity. We use the AC’s in our bedrooms at night, because we made a decision that a good night’s sleep is worth about any cost if it will help us be more effective in what we’re doing. Trae, Tanika & Tobi also have AC’s in their rooms that they use at night. Trae moves Tobi into his room when he goes to sleep so we only have 3 AC’s running all night instead of 4. During the worst of the heat, we use the AC we have in our office in the afternoon, otherwise we’re kind of worthless getting any work done. We also use 1 AC in the evenings when we are relaxing, etc. We feel we are relatively conservative in our AC use, but our electric bill is still about $400-$500/month. So imagine what it would be if we used more! Enough said!
One of the benefits in living in these temperatures is that it doesn’t take much to cool us down. I am ready to pull out a sweatshirt when the temp drops to 75. No fooling! And look at the experiences I’ve had. I can live in extreme cold and I can live in extreme heat. And I can be happy in both places! Really, it’s all about where God wants you to be. He gives the grace to have joy in it all.