Well, it's official. Spain has seen it's worst July in recorded history. The heat has been off the charts. In our area, it has routinely hit 100-104 each day. Very near to us, they have recorded temps of 114 on several occasions.
Now, to some of my Texas friends, this doesn't sound too terrible. I can hear you saying right now, "We see 100+ temps all the time in Texas. Why is this so terrible?"
Well, we do not have air conditioning. Nope... most Spaniards do not have AC. We have one room (our living room) that has a small cooling unit, but it cannot make a dent in the heat for the size of the room. Most Spanish homes in our area have one room that has a cooling unit. And electricity is expensive. We all have box fans. And Spanish hand fans. Ever wonder why Spanish women are always carrying fans? Read on.
So, our days look like this...
Wake up and give thanks for the one or two hours of decent sleep you got when the air cooled off enough in the bedroom to allow you to rest (at about 4am).
Shut all the blinds upstairs to keep the sun out during the day. If there is any breeze, leave the windows open to allow for cross ventilation. If there is no breeze, pray for mercy on this day.
Go downstairs and open all downstairs windows to capture the couple of hours of decent temperature. Enjoy the morning, because noon is approaching. If you need to do anything, do it now.
Somewhere around noon, start the window dance... where is the sun entering the house? Close those blinds. Is the wind coming from the South? Danger! Close all windows that allow the Sahara wind to come into the house. Sahara wind is like living in a convection oven.
Start up the box fans in the living room and office. Position yourself so as to avail yourself of a little moving air, but so as not to hog the air from the others in the house. Get out your hand fan. Start waving.
At about 2 or 3pm, as the sweat begins to bead on your face and trickle down your neck and back, turn on the cooling unit and position yourself in the living room for siesta. Siesta is the ONLY way to survive the next couple of hours! Be still. Exert no effort. "Bump on a log" is the only cool-ish position. Don't move and cause heat to build in your muscles. Under no circumstances should you go upstairs unless you have a death wish.
Somewhere around 4 or 5, pray that spontaneous human combustion is a myth.
In the late afternoon / early evening, you can start moving again. If you need to water the yard or wash the car or the dog, do it now and give yourself some heat relief. Spend the rest of the evening outside, as it is exponentially cooler (relatively speaking) than the inside of the furnace - um, I mean, house.
At about 8pm, the temperature is becoming better. Still not good in the house, but you can actually breathe again.
Under no circumstances should you cook anything. Do not heat up the house! This is why Spaniards eat cold tapas and gazpacho (cold tomato soup) in the summer! If you absoultely must cook, do it outside. Many Spaniards have a small electric grill or griddle that they use on their patio in the summer.
At 11pm or midnight... you can think about going to bed. TAKE A COOL SHOWER FIRST!!! I don't care how clean you think you are, a shower is a must! It will cool you down and you will go to bed with wet hair and moist skin... good cooling agents! Open all upstairs windows and place box fans in them to suck in the cooler air from outside. Position yourself so that the fans blow directly on the bed and your cool, wet skin.
If it is still unbearable (which is most nights), sleep with a wet washrag on your face or chest. The fan will blow over the rag and keep it cool enough to allow you to fall asleep.
And that's how our days go...lather, rinse, repeat... every day. Don't believe me? Just ask the visitors we have had this summer! The only visitors who thought it wasn't miserable are the missionaries who visited us from a country where they routinely live in 120F+. They thought is was lovely! The ones who visited from Texas thought they might die and decided that AC was something that they take for granted...they are now forever grateful for AC!
July is usually NOT our hottest month. August is. What will August look like??? Who knows. I'm just going to keep fanning myself and dressing in wet washrags.
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!