We were lucky enough to return to Haiti during the hottest time of the year. Haiti in August is not for the faint of heart. I was especially worried about the heat because we spent so much time in the States. Would I be able to adjust? Or would I just melt into a pile of sweat and tears cursing weather.com, global warming, and El Nino? (Not that I've done those things in the past or anything.)
But fortunately, four years in Haiti has given me some good tricks to pull out when the heat starts to get me down, and I thought I'd share.
1. Boob Cubes.
Yes, you read that right, Boob Cubes. These little handmade miracles are well named. They are cubes of gel encapsulated in plastic with a silk cover that you throw in your freezer until frozen and then throw in your bra when you're hot. These little handmade cubes of delight were created in the mind of my my friend Christy's mother. She sells them at sporting events for runners and bicyclers. They are also good for people in menopause who have hot flashes. Once they thaw, just throw them back in the freezer to refreeze. These things are amazing. Each one provides about 20-30 minutes of coolness before thawing. Quite lovely. Unfortunately, I don't think Christy's mom sells them online or anything, so I would advise you AGAINST searching the term "Boob Cubes" in an effort to procure them. I think that I might learn how to make said Boob Cubes and then sell them at an exorbitant rate to missionaries, tourists, and short-term teams.
2. Frogg Toggs
This is a towel (about the size of a large kitchen towel), that you wet and then just lay on your skin. Put it around your neck. Drape it across your chest. Wrap it around your legs while reclining on the computer. Or, according to my friend Tara, you could also (and I quote) "throw that thing on your stomach between the two of you- bam- slightly less sweaty sexy time. (A tagline they are considering using in their future marketing.)" I cannot personally vouch for the experiences Tara speaks of, but that could also be a benefit in a place like Haiti. I don't have any idea how Frogg Toggs work, but they do. It's probably voudou or something. Now, I don't want to deceive you-- it's not like the thing is cold. But it is a good several degrees cooler than they air temperature.
3. The fan and the powder.
Now, I realize this is an old suggestion. But bear with me here. It's not just any fan and any powder.
It's THIS fan...
And this powder...
The fan is a Lasko industrial high velocity fan. It was sold to us by our friends Shane Mattenly. When he handed it over he said, "I am selling you my most favorite thing I have ever had in Haiti." Dude wasn't joking. This thing can blow some air. It's like hurricane strength wind. Now. That's one part of the equation. The other is Gold Bond powder (or a generic medicated powder.) Take a quick shower (it only has to be a rinse) and then while you are still wet, BATTER yourself in Gold Bond. (You want it to stick to you.) Then go sit in front of the hurricane fan. It's almost as good as air conditioning. (Well, it is almost like AC if you haven't been in real AC for a while.)
But there's another piece to this equation. You need some battery back-up on that fan. For about $100 you can buy a small, automatic power inverter/battery charger and then for another $100 you can buy a deep cycle battery. Hook your battery and the fan up to the charger/inverter and then even if you don't have city power, you have some power squirreled away for the hottest times of day or night. Since ours switches automatically, our fan stays on when the rest of the power goes off in the middle of the night, giving us a full night with a fan.
4. The AC Tent.
I saved the best for last. This is a custom-made amazeballs creation. Here's the story. Two years ago (or was it three?) I got tired of how grumpy I got because of the heat. So one day, Nick and I went to Port Au Prince and bought a portable air conditioner. We thought our problems were solved. They were not. Our power wasn't clean enough to support the unit, which made it shut off all the time. It could run on our big generator (when we used to have one big enough for it), but unfortunately, the generator died and also, the room was so big that even if it was working well, it hardly cooled the room down. But still it was better than nothing. Marginally. Then one day I put a fan over the output part of the unit and laid under it. It was SUPER cold. That gave Nick and I an idea. What if we could make a smaller "room" just for the bed that would hold in the cool. We made a prototype out of bedsheets that we used for a while, and then had Nick's mom sew an actual model for us. And (like everything she makes) it was beautiful and worked great. Well... it WOULD have worked great if we had an operational generator.
This year, we invested just over $200 in a voltage regulator that cleans the power coming into the house so that it outputs at a steady rate. With this in place, the AC tent we've been working on for years is now a reality when we have city power! Nick built a simple PVC frame that hangs from our ceiling, holding the tent.
This is what our room looks like when the tent is not in use--
And this is what it looks like in our room when the tent IS in use. (See my feet?)
Our little air conditioner makes it ICE COLD in the tent. We need BLANKETS when we're in there. And we don't use it every night, because the hurricane fan works so great. Only when it's really hot. We have a place to go if we get too hot or grumpy (as long as we have city power) or if we just need to decompress for a bit. It's pretty amazing.
Our hope is that by summer #5 in Haiti, we will have a functional generator that can run our whole house (including our little AC unit) so we could. theoretically, have a cool place to relax at any point during the day if we needed it. All in good time, all in good time.
How about you? What are your best suggestions for beating the heat?
****Disclaimer: There are probably going to be people who read this post and feel like criticizing me for putting so much time/effort/funds into solutions for managing the heat. There's this unspoken belief among missionaries that whoever can go the most native wins. (Well actually, it is spoken of, it's just spoken of behind people's backs, not to their faces.) To which I tell you, that's A-okay with me. I say with delight, "You WIN!" Longevity in Haiti is important to me and for ME (not you perhaps, but ME) to achieve that, things like a comfortable place to relax is a must.