Monday, June 7, 2010

Swamp Thing

I give you Swamp Thing, with a Lengthy Preamble.

Lengthy Preamble:

Indeed, I am reminded that when I left
Canada, I admonished my friends that if I were to ever complain about the heat, that they were to shoot me, without ceremony, between the eyes.

... such did I write on July 14th, 2006.

Friends, take aim.

It's hot. Stinking hot. So hot that I am on the very cusp of breaking a 5-year self-imposed vow of non-complaint. Yes, I know that most of you are thinking that my ability to not complain about the heat for 5 years is laudable if not absolutely miraculous, but my run is over.

I can't stand it any more.

It's hot. Stinking hot. So hot - daily temperatures have now hit and surpassed 50°C - that I have had to struggle wit
h what heat really means. In terms of my tiny family of two bipedals and one quadruped, heat means that ...

1) Everything that shouldn't be hot, is. Not as obvious as one might think. Toothpaste is hot; liquid soap is hot; shampoo is hot; my hair goop is liquid; my moisturizer is too hot to put on my face. The toilet seat burns. Ice no longer cools down drinks. Tap handles are hot, and since our water comes from a tank on our rooftop, the cold water is hot. We are now taking 'cold' water-only showers, but they are so hot that we are sweating during our ablutions. The towels are hot. Clothes in our closets and drawers come out hot. I am hot. Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad is hot. The dog is very hot.

2) Everything that should be hot, is. A bit of a no-brainer, but I was striving for symmetry in this post. The sun is hot; the pavement is hot; tempers are hot. I imagine that the black-sheathed cocooned women in their
abayas/niqābs/burqas are hotter than usual. I swoon just looking at them. We can no longer drink coffee (should be hot) as it's too hot. After we discovered pots of barely-touched coffee left at the end of three consecutive breakfasts, we made the unprecedented decision to bail on our brewed Brazilian Dark and switch to Greek-style cold frappés.

3) Everything that should work, doesn't. Since just about everyone and his dog - well since this is Erbil, let's make that
everyone and his crimson-winged finch - has that Energy Vampire known as the split air conditioner (the wall mounted thingy) running every goddamn minute of the day, the power is continually going out (for minutes or hours at a stretch), rendering Our One Floor Fan - and every other electrical appliance - completely useless. Having said that, it's too hot to use Our One Floor Fan now as the air flow it generates is unbearably hot. Fun fun fun.

End of Lengthy Preamble.

So, what are our coping m
echanisms? you ask. Well, we're thinking of putting a bar fridge in the bathroom to keep toiletries & cosmetics cold. We've also upped our intake of liquids to about 137 litres of anything a day (= 3 trips to the bathroom/24 hours). But because the whole concept of chilling drinks in this heat has been a big disappointment (the ice melts too quickly and we keep losing electricity which makes the actual freezing process a tad challenging), we have discovered that local shops carry German Weißbier. Yup, a German wheat beer sure helps to take the sting out of 50°+ temperatures. Too bad a bottle only stays cold for about 3 1/2 minutes.

Peachy, but what about Swamp Thing? you cry.

Unable to afford a real air conditioner, Mr. This Cat and I have gone native and introduced Swamp Thing - what our American friends call a swamp cooler - into our home. Our Swamp Thing came direct from Iran, which means that a) there were no instructions in English, and b) our American friends will be prohibited from bringing it back to the States with them. Or so say the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Whatever. If people have a budget for moving, I say bring everything with you.

As I had never heard of
a Swamp Thing swamp cooler before - and I'm certain that I'm not alone in my ignorance - allow me to explain how it works. As seen in the photo (left, with Celeste hogging the camera), they look like pet carriers on wheely-legs. The observant reader might remark that the wheels are missing - and s/he would be correct - but that's only because when we assembled the stand, the weight of the Swamp Thing caused the legs to buckle and shot the wheels out across the floor. We have decided that our Swamp Thing will be content to stay in our living room and will not wander from room to room, as it was intended to do. Besides, we can no longer sleep in our second-floor bedroom because it is too hot and are now sharing the living room with Swamp Thing. We are a happy (or happier) family of two bipedals and two quadrupeds (none of which has wheels).

Anyhoo, starting at about $100 (price being determined by ethnicity of purchaser and temperature outside), this straw-stuffed box will emit cool blasts of air when a)
filled with water from the top, and b) turned on. Working on the principle of evaporation, one motor pumps water into wads of hay while another motor powers a fan that pushes air through said hay which must be replenished with fresh water. The result is moist, non-recycled air which can be up to 30% cooler than non Swamp-Thinged air.

I haven't noticed a 30% decrease in temperature, but I will own up to it being cooler and it has allowed us to get a better night's sleep. The fly in the ointment is the bit about "
said hay which must be replenished with fresh water" which translates into us refilling the reservoir every few hours with about 15 litres of water. This hasn't been so much fun in the middle of the night. Of course, since the power keeps going off, we don't actually get to use it all night along: this morning it crapped out at 5 a.m. for four hours.

I asked my students recently what the Dog Days of summer are like in Iraq. They had no clue what I was talking about, and when I explained it as much as my metereologically-challenged brain could do, they told me they don't suffer under the igneous influence of that fiery Dog Star. Which tells me that they had no clue what I was talking about. Or that they probably aren't able to register the difference in temperature because it's already so freaking hot.

There! I think I got it out of my system. No more complaining about the heat. Boy oh boy, I can't wait for summer.


Cath said...

Hot enough for you??

Anonymous said...

If that is your spring, what is summer and winter like?

Frisco said...

Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad has never had a beer last more than 3 minutes, he now has an excuse to have another and another. Celeste looks very nice in her photo,,, and what about GB? Not a complainer is he,,,we won't be visiting until you get those wheels installed or a second swamp cooler.

Snowflake said...

Here's a trick we used playing softball in the Houston heat - it gets really hot here but NEVER 50 C. Go to your local pharmacy and buy a small bottle of ammonia spirits or whatever it may be called. Prepare a container of ice water and pour a little ammonia in it. The ice water will get and stay really really cold and you can soak a washrag/towel in it and then put it somewhere on your body. You'll be amazed and comforted. We'll put some in your care package in case you can't find it there. Sure, there may be health hazards, so don't drink it or inhale it.

This Cat's Abroad said...

Cath: it *is* hot enough for me.

Anon: oi vey - I don't want to think about summer. Everyone keeps saying: wait for July & August!

Frisco: What you say about Mr. This Cat is true and he is using the heat excuse to replenish his glass more than usual. GB is coping (his bear hair is a short) and he hopes to blog this weekend & shop for a second Swamp Thing.

This Cat's Abroad said...

Snowflake: "Sure, there may be health hazards, so don't drink it or inhale it" ... bwhahahahahaha! Thanks for the tip!