Monday, March 10, 2014

Blowing Hot Blowing Cold

While sitting here growing old.

Winter is a hunting beast, stalking dark streets in search of heat. It patiently treads on silent feet, padding from home to home, sniffing for that first hint of escaping warmth, that initial taste of what it seeks, before it begins to gnaw at a loose shingle, pull at a weak window-frame, rip at a crooked door, hoping to gain entry and have its prey.

Things are not like that here.

I arrived on December 5, sixteen days before summer began, if I can imagine summer or winter here. The city is 2° 53' 57" south of the equator, and seasons are opposite those of the northern hemisphere, but on the other hand — what seasons?

There is a time when there is more rain, and another time when there is less, and sunrise and sunset times oscillate by a few seconds per month, and some days are sunny and some are not, but winter? No winter. No spring, summer or fall either, only minor variations.

Probably the most amazing thing is how hot the sun is. I left at the end of last April, and walked out into the sun of northern Washington state on the first day of May, 2013, and was shocked. The day was bright and clear and nearly perfect, but the sun did not pound against me with its raging hot hammer. I immediately missed it. And kept missing it until I returned here seven months later.

In every practical sense, I am on the equator. But I am also over a mile and a half high, above 7710 feet (2350 m). This makes a difference. I have spent time in Guayaquill, at 2° 11' south, and an elevation of 13.2 feet (4 m). Guayaquill is tropical. Cuenca is not. Cuenca is nearly perfect that way.

The average high is 68.5° F (20.3° C). Pleasant. Hot if the sun is shining. Stinking hot at times, but then, to deal with it, you cross the street and walk on the shady side, and it is as cool there as you need it to be.

The average low here is 48.6° F (9.2° C). This is overnight, of course, so you don't much notice. Unless it's one of those cloudy mornings following a clear night, and especially so given a breeze. Breezes are light here, but they are breezes. When this happens you have a chilly day. When this repeats for a second day, you have an annoyingly chilly day.

Not outdoors, but indoors.

Outdoors you are moving. Most people walk a lot. Everyone walks, even the rich who have cars. They still have to walk, and the rest of us have to walk more than that. We wear sweatshirts or sweaters, or a windbreaker over the top of whatever, and walk, and a bit of walking is enough to deal with a cool day.

But that doesn't work indoors. Being indoors here is like patio time in Wisconsin. Many buildings are always open to the sky, and windows close fitfully and imperfectly, and none of them even have screening to buffer puffs of air. No residence has a heating system. North sides of buildings never see any sun.

Take a building, warm it in the sun, and still, overnight, the next morning, it is comfortable. Let that building cool for a day, or for two days, or longer, and all of it, inside and out, reaches ambient air temperature. If that temperature is 55° F (31° C), then you are not comfortable inside your home, and there is not much you can do about it except to put on all your clothes and wait.

This is surprisingly unpleasant. Even for me, and I lived almost 20 years in an apartment that I did not heat, winters. I ought to be used to temperatures between 55° and 65° F. But I'm not, somehow.

I guess that I'm used to my friend the sun, which thumps me most days with its large glad hands, and keeps me feeling young and fluid and welcome.

It's a beating I always welcome.


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