The last week or so, daytime highs have been hovering in the 42-43 range (108-110 F). That’s darn hot, even if the humidity is a bone-dry 15% or less. Here’s what the street outside looked like at noon today:
Worse, nighttime lows are no lower than 30 (86 F). I haven’t been sleeping well, getting up three or four times a night to pour water over my head to try to cool off. Water pressure is very low, so I fill a bucket instead of counting on the shower. I have a ceiling fan, but its efficiency is compromised by the fact that I sleep under a mosquito net, not wanting to catch malaria, and so the force of the fan is cut somewhat. Ever since I got here, this has been on the wall of my room above the window
but mostly it served a decorative function as I could never get any actual cold air to come out of it. My landlady is a notorious cheapskate who has never sent a repair person to the house for any purpose. The roof leaks on the south side of the house, which I called to her attention last rainy season, and her response was “have your yard boy clean the roof drainage holes out better”. Don’t have a yard boy and I’m not planning on climbing up on the roof myself. Now, with the “mango rains” of earlier this month, water is coming down inside again and the plaster in the guest bedroom is beginning to decay. Not my problem. However, the air conditioning has finally become my problem.
After hearing me bitch about how darn hot it is once too many times, last night my friend Harouna Gouem at the neighborhood drinking establishment called his electrician. Ishmael stopped by right away, came to my house about 10 pm, and managed to make the unit in my room work at least a little bit. I slept through the night last night for the first time in at least a month. This morning he was back, cleaning and restoring the units.
That’s him, buried in the mango tree, working on the compressor of the unit in the guest bedroom. Soon, both the unit in my room and the unit in the larger guest room will work properly. And apparently you can have both of them working at the same time – the fact that the main breaker would trip before when we tried this was a result of a compressor problem. He had them both running this morning, no problem. I’m still a little dubious about this part, I should say. I think my water distiller also consumes a bunch of electricity and perhaps could be causing the breaker to trip. But anyway, he’s off now as I write to buy me some more freon (bloody expensive stuff) and he will have the two tanked up and ready to go.
I complained about the price when he first quoted it to me – 48,000 CFA or $82.50 – until I thought about what it would cost to have the A/C repair guy come to your house in Oregon. A hundred bucks just to get him in the door. And Ishmael cut his final price to 40,000 after some haggling. Money’s always tight if you’re an academic but cheap labor in the third world is always pleasant. (…excuse me while I grind the faces of the poor in the dirt a little…)
By the way, one of the compensating pleasures of the dry season is ripe mangoes off your own trees. That nice big one hanging next to the ladder is on the breakfast menu next week or so.
I was priding myself on my ability to survive the hot season without air conditioning, but I have to say I’ve got a lot more energy this morning than I have had in awhile. I skipped out on my friends the Thiams yesterday – I normally have Sunday dinner with them – because I couldn’t face the 10 km bike ride in 100+ degree heat. Today, I think I could do it. Except that they are at work. Anyway, next week.
My neighbors say that the fact that it is getting so hot now means that the rains will come early. I suspect they are trying to encourage me; the Wikipedia entry for Ouaga’s climate shows that rainfall totals don’t really start to rise until May. We have already had well over 23 mm of rain this month. However, this is a big El Niño year, so all bets are off. Last big El Niño, there was copious rain in the northern hemisphere tropics, apparently. So here’s hoping.
When we sing that Toto song “Africa” at the choir concert, I imagine there’ll be a lot of pleasure in singing about the “rains down in Africa”. Assuming the rains have started by then.