Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Trying to Survive the Month of May

Well, folks, I have to tell you that May is definitely the worse month in Niger. If you can survive May, you can survive anything. The only word to describe May is HOT!

So, we came back from Niamey on April 30, looking forward to a good night's sleep in our air-conditioned bedroom. But when we turned it on....no cool air. Well, we made it through the night. John slept outside and I slept inside....we each chose the spot we thought we'd most likely get a good night's sleep.

The next day a guy came to fix it. Or should I say night because it was sundown when he came. He discovered holes in the pipe for the coolant, so he soldered them over, but he kept discovering more. Anyway, he gets it fixed, or so we thought, and we had cool air again.

But in a week, all the gas had leaked out again! So we called a different repairman because the first guy had just been in Tera on business and doesn't live there. This guy came and cleaned it up really nice and put in more gas, but didn't do anything to fix it. So guess what? A week went by and no gas, no cool air.

We decided we'd tough it out for the 10 days left before going back to Niamey where we could get the AC fixed. So we decided the best way to do that is to sleep outside because it is cooler outside than in. You can see how
we hung a net from poles that had formerly been an aviary. The first night was horrible. There was a thick dust cover hanging in the air, preventing any cool air from penetrating. In addition to that, it was unbearably humid. We literally rolled around in pools of sweat, absolutely unable to sleep. The 2nd night, Saturday, was better.
John's trick for staying cool is to get a towel really wet and then lay it over himself. Here he is catching a nap one afternoon. This trick is especially effective if you are under a fan or if there is a good breeze blowing. He was down on the floor to be directly under the fan in in line from the air (hot) coming in the window.
Then Sunday afternoon the power went off. Well, that's not terribly unusual, so we waited for it to come back on. We waited all afternoon. It was 110 degrees that day with 40% humidity and the "Heat Index" in the Almanac tells us the temperature in those conditions feels like 130. Here I am wiping the sweat off my fevered brow and fanning myself, drinking tons of liquids. (I wouldn't leave my yard in a sleeveless top like this, but in my own yard it's ok.)
So, anyway, sunset comes and I realize that our neighbors have electricity and we're the only ones who don't. John checks all the fuses and we haven't tripped any. Get this, the power company is right next door to us. John called over the wall to them and told them, they came and looked at everything with flashlights and kept proclaiming, "C'est bizarre". Which we already knew. They said, well, we'd have to wait until morning.
By that time we were so frustrated, so hot, so exhausted. If somebody had given me a ticket to fly back to the US at that point, I would have taken it. John called Chad Winsor, the fix-it man in Niamey, to ask for his advice. Chad asked if he should come up and we said no, especially we didn't want him driving in the dark. We told him we'd let him know in the morning if they could fix the problem or not.
The next morning Nigelec came and found the problem......wires in the meter had melted together and that was the end of our power. They had to replace the meter and the problem was solved. We had been about 18 hours with now power. A storm had come up in the night and we got 18 mm of rain. It cooled the temperature down nicely and probably saved all the stuff in the freezer. I'm not sure it would have stayed cold enough if the intense heat had contined.
In the meantime Chad decided we really needed his help, so he and David Ceton came up. They replaced some of the wiring coming out of the meter with a bigger sized wire so it wouldn't happen again, fixed some other problems we had, worked on solving a dripping problem in our water storage tank (which doesn't have water in it at this time!), and took our AC unit to Niamey to get it fixed. Later in the week they brought it back up and we finished our last four nights up there in a nice cool room. Best of all they were a huge encouragement to us....just to know that they cared enough to put aside what they were doing to come up and help us. Wow!
None too soon, either because I really hadn't been sleeping too well outside. It was the noise more than the heat. Either a place of worship was reading the holy book all night or the neighbors had a casette of the above being done that they played all night. I'm not sure why anybody thinks the whole neighborhood wants to hear it all night.
Guess what lesson I was preparing to teach the ladies that week? Job, of course! Now that puts everything into perspective, doesn't it? I mean, I THINK I have a lot to complain about until I read of all that happened to him!

4 comments:

aunt_gwen said...

about the wet towel trick----when my grandmother was a nursing student in Chicago in 1916 she said the way they cooled off on the hot summer days inside the "oven" (hospital) was to get a sheet really wet, wrap themselves in it, and sit out on the fire escape.....a time-honored tradition it sounds like :o) thank God He created evaporation!

Cindy said...

Oh.........my heart goes out to you guys.....be assured of our prayers EVERY day.....honest! So glad that Dave and Chad could help.
Looking forward to 'face to face' communication!!
We're praying!!

Carrie Yager said...

Ah, I just found your comment in my guestbook from FOREVER ago. Looks like you figured out how to delete that comment from your guestbook on xanga. SO SORRY I'm just now getting back to you. I never check my guestbook. It looks like it's REALLY HOT where you are. I love the pics. God bless you and ya'll's work.

Dusty Penguin said...

It sounds like some really miserable days. I'm glad the electric and AC are now fixed. Now if you just had water! What a story. Never a lack of things to write about, are there? Hope you're enjoying some swimming while you're in town!