Friday, July 15, 2011

Winter in Botswana

June in the US is a good month. The weather is warm, baseball season is in full swing, and summer is just getting started. In Southern Africa, June is the dead of winter. I drastically underestimated just how cold the winter here would really be. It is easy to conjure up an image of steaming jungles and tropical heat when you think of typical African weather, but it is not always like that. (In fact, there are no jungles in Botswana).

When I was packing to come here, previous volunteers warned me about how cold it was and told me to be sure I packed a sleeping bag, wool socks, and a good sweatshirt or jacket. I felt dumb putting my winter clothing in my bag to carry over but I am so glad I did. This past month has been bitterly cold. The lowest low was around 26 F and it routinely gets below 40 at night. These temperatures wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that my house is not insulated. It is a concrete box that seems to be very efficient at trapping in and amplifying the cold air. (Unfortunately, this effect will reverse in the summer and it will trap in and intensify the heat).

If there is an upside to it being so cold, it is that the sun will come out during the day and quickly warm things up. For most of June the lows were in the 30’s and 40’s but the highs were in the upper 70’s. This made dressing for work a challenge. I would leave my house early in the morning bundled up in a jacket, able to see my breath; then I would come home in the afternoon under an intense sun, sweating while carrying my jacket. It is a small wonder that I haven’t gotten sick from the wild temperature swings.

All during the last summer when I was dripping sweat, I would wish for it to be winter. As the nights began to cool off in May, I became excited for the break in temperature and told everyone that I was looking forward to the cold weather. Now, all I want is for it to warm up enough that I can be inside my house without a jacket and take a bath without shivering.

I might be rethinking that after the first 100 degree day when the only way to cool off is to sit in a cold bath. I guess the grass really is greener on the other side.