Life on the Equator

Aaaarrrrrrrggghhhh!!!!  I’m so hot!!!

I’m not kidding around.  Life on the equator is no joke.

I come from a tropical island in the Caribbean so when I saw that Indonesia is close to the equator, I thought, “No problem.  It’s hot in Jamaica, it’s hot over there, that’s 1 area of life where I won’t need to adjust.”  Ha!  Little did I know.

I remember the good old days, almost 2 months ago, when I just arrived in Banda Aceh.  It was the tail end of the rainy season so it was comfortably cool.  In fact, it was so cool that there were a few nights I slept without a fan.  In those days, it rained almost every afternoon, so much so that our roofer went 2 weeks over his scheduled end date for completing the roof.  Back then we could sit out in the side classroom and work without a fan early into the afternoon.  Then we would turn on 1 fan for all 3 of us and be good until the kids started coming for classes at 2 pm.  All too soon, the rainy season ended.  I’ve been hot and sweaty ever since.

Indonesia is one of only 13 countries in the world that sits on both sides of the equator and is therefore in both the northern and southern hemispheres.  The equator actually runs right through the island of Sumatra, where Banda Aceh is located.  It crosses through West Sumatra and I’m in North Sumatra so it’s only hours away.  I’m almost literally living right on top of the equator.

Before I continue, here are a few relevant things you should know about me:

  1. I don’t drink ice water – room temperature is how I roll.
  2. I shower once a day – living most of my life in air conditioning has helped me develop this habit.
  3. I hate cold showers.  I don’t dislike them or prefer not to have them – I hate them.
  4. I don’t like being hot.  I like being in a cold climate because I can layer up to get warmer but when I’m hot, there’s only so much I can do to cool down.

So, here’s how the heat related portion of the day goes for a bule living right up close and personal with the equator: I start my day with a cold shower – there’s no such thing as a heater around here, and anyway…why?  Then I head out to the side classroom where I set up my laptop to work, but first I set a standing fan directly on where I’ll be sitting and turn it on medium speed.  By the time 10 am rolls around, I turn the fan to high and go grab my water bottle from the freezer, where I put it after breakfast.  By 11 am, I’m in the bathroom splashing water on my face, neck and chest.  Then it’s back to work in front of the fan.  Some time around lunch time, after I’ve done a quick sweep through and tidy up of the common areas and classrooms, I head back to the bathroom to splash my face and neck again.  Before I start my first class at 2 pm, I head back into the bathroom to splash my face again and deposit my re-filled water bottle in the freezer so it’s nice and cold for whenever I can pop into the break room to grab a drink.  After classes end and all the children have gone home, I chug down some more cold water and head back to the bathroom to splash my face, neck, chest and feet before heading out to dinner.  When I get back from dinner, I head to the bathroom, where I have another cold shower before I settle down to wrap up work and chat with my friends online, all while a fan goes full blast on me.

Do you see how much effort I’m now putting into heat management? All this showering and face washing and shifting fans and remembering to cool my water bottle.   My colleague A, who hails from air conditioned California by way of always-overcast and rainy Seattle, has been known to shower 4 or 5 times a day so my 2 times is telling me that my body is doing a better job of regulating for the heat, for which I am truly grateful.  No matter how I sound right now, I know it could be worse!

Still, I now appreciate how air conditioned my western life is, where heat management means cranking up the AC another notch.  In my equatorial life, air conditioning is just a lovely dream , unless it’s during a quick pass through the upscale mall up the road.

Maybe I’ll…ugh!…I’m too hot to even write anymore.  Talk soon.


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