The Weather Revisited

The last time we talked about the weather we were dealing with the cold, rain, and snow. As expected, things have changed greatly and now it is hot. While I no longer have to be concerned about cold showers, the heat brings a new set of challenges.

As before, we really get a sense of the seasons from the courtyard behind our apartment building. When we first arrived the entire courtyard was dried, cracked mud and then as the winter settled in, it was transformed into a field of green that at one instance was covered with snow. As the cold and rain disappeared, this grassy area that had gone to seed slowly dried out and became golden. It was actually quite pretty, and at first I was a bit disappointed when people came to cut it all down. Over a period of three or four days in pretty intense heat a group of workers cut down the entire field leaving it very short. We expect by end of the summer that the remaining dried out grass will disappear and we will once again have a expanse of dried, cracked mud.

IMG_0953While the cutting down of the field of gold was a bit disappointing, it was the right thing to do. About a month after they cut it down (about 2 weeks ago), Adam and I were both at home working when we heard a crackling coming from outside our house. We both looked out the window to see what was going on and that is when we first noticed the smoke. We ran downstairs only to find that part of our dried out courtyard was on fire! It wasn’t a small fire either! Adam called the fire department to tell them what was happening, and they said they already knew about it and were sending help. When he finished the call, we saw someone from a different building come out with a pail of water and throw it on the fire so Adam ran upstairs and got our bucket. Since we only had one bucket, there wasn’t much I could do to help. Adam ran up and down the stairs for water about four times (we live on the fourth floor so this is not an easy feat). The other person continued to get water as well but he returned quicker so we think he either lived on a lower floor or there was a faucet outside that he could get water from. Over time, more and more people came out to help. About 5-10 minutes into this, a policeman showed up. At first I thought he was instructing people to stay away from the fire and wait for the professionals, but it turns out that he was directing people where to pour the water. Amazingly all of the people helping were able to put out almost the entire fire by the time the fire department arrived. It took them about 30 minutes. When they arrived they used hoses to douse the area to make sure everything was completely out. It was a pretty large fire; the closest I have ever been to in my life. Imagine how bad it would have been if they hadn’t cut down the field of grass.

The incident with the field best illustrates how dry it gets here in the summer. In terms of the heat, on a good day, temperatures are somewhere in the high 70s or low 80s. On really hot days, it gets up into the mid to high 90s. While it is a dry heat, it can still be pretty oppressive, and we don’t have air conditioning here. It turns out in Israel, window air conditioning units are not a common occurrence. Our best guess for this is there isn’t really a standard size window here and a lot of windows open side to side or like a door rather than up-and-down. If you want to get air conditioning, it is usually a unit that is put into the wall. To help us stay cool we have a fan that the landlord left us. It is helpful but some days, the heat is too much and so we looked for other alternatives. In my travels to different stores, I found an evaporative cooler which we ended up purchasing. An evaporative cooler uses evaporation to cool the air which it then blows out utilizing a fan. It reduces the temperature about 5° or so in the apartment which is enough to make it comfortable. It is actually a very energy efficient way to cool things down, but it only works in places with dry heat so it isn’t something that will work in Connecticut. It was a very good purchase.

The other way to keep things cool is to obviously open the windows. Being in a desert climate, the night is often very cool, and it is wonderful to have the cool nighttime air enter the apartment. Unfortunately we can’t always take advantage of this since this is the time when the mosquitoes are out. I’m sure you all remember our initial experience here with bug bites, so we weren’t going to let that happen again. At this point the most I have had at a given time is 10, so it has been better. To balance the need for cool air with the need to avoid bug bites we had to improvise since our windows don’t have screens. Annoying I know! A lot of apartments don’t have screens, probably because they are expensive. Using our creativity, we went to a fabric store and bought a few meters of fabric that has holes big enough to let the air through but small enough to keep the bugs out. We have put it up on a few of the windows that we want to remain open and it has made a big difference. So far, the bug bites I have gotten were the result of us forgetting to close the windows that don’t have the fabric or opens in the fabric caused by the wind pulling the tape away. We also have a bug zapper that we use to try to get rid of any mosquitoes smart enough to get inside. It isn’t a perfect system, but it has been significantly better.

More and more hot days are likely to occur as we push through June, July, and August, but we seem to have figured out ways to be comfortable. Only time will tell how successful we really are.

Until next time…

Not the most helpful but since we only had one bucket I figured I would take pictures…

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