When people talk about weather in Lusaka they usually brag about how beautiful it is. But then, they add, there’s October. Ever since we moved here in January everyone warned me about how miserably hot October would be. So, when October came and it warmed up only to the 80s or so, I thought, this is no big deal. For about a week it even went down to the 70s as the high and in the 50s as the low — I had to dig out a sweatshirt.
Is this normal I asked? Yes, said Danny the gardener, but Danny says yes to everything. Yes, it’s normal to have power go out this long. Yes, it’s normal to have the pool turn green like that. Yes, it’s normal to have to repair the water pump once a week. Uh-huh.
Others said we were lucky, that two summers ago the month of October was unbearable, that people looked for excuses to flee the country (a conference on world peace? I’m there!). I should have known better than to taunt the gods when last week I smugly said, looks like October skipped us this year, huh?
The first hint of a “regular” Zambian October occurred during our trip last week to South Luangwa (more on that soon!). The days were miserable — 108-111 degrees. For the first time I could see why people died in heat waves. From 11.30 am to about 4 pm not even fans helped. (No air conditioning anywhere.) We laid in our bed reading and tried not to move. The fan was like an open oven blowing super-heated air onto you. Thom took to taking showers every hour; I just poured bottles of water over me (right onto our mattress and sheets; they dried within an hour). On our departure day we tried to change our flight to a morning instead of mid-day flight but the change fee was too high. This time we suffered in the airport lounge, watching Al Jazeera report on Gaddafi’s death.
When we arrived late afternoon in Lusaka it was about 85 degrees — positively balmy! Instantly my mood improved. I turned to Thom and said, it’s amazing how much less cranky you are when I’m not hot. Wisely, he just nodded.
Well, we must have brought the heat back with us from South Luangwa because this week it’s been getting up to about 100 degrees every day. The low is only about 70! (Remember, this is a block house, no insulation, when it’s hot outside it’s hotter inside; when it’s cold outside it’s colder inside!) Those who know me know I like to sleep cold (i.e., window open in the winter and snuggled under a big heavy quilt) and that I’m a runner (I run at least a mile a day, every day). Right now it’s already hot at 8 am (like 80 degrees) so at this point it’s all I can do to eke out a mere mile (“I can do anything for 15 minutes, I can do anything for 15 minutes”). The days of 5k or more runs are distant memories.
Right now it’s 8 pm and my kitchen is 93 degrees. A cooked dinner? Hah! Looks like that’ll have to wait until November, when it’s supposed to cool down. The weather forecast is basically the same between now and November 5 — high ~99 degrees, low ~70 degrees. (See this.)
I seemed to recall that hot weather made people crabby and uncharitable; that it wasn’t just me who wanted to ram cars that ran stop signs or aim for pedestrians when they jaywalked when I was hot. Sure enough, a quick Google search revealed boatloads of studies associating hot weather with violent behavior, mental distress and increased crime. Seems we lose our minds when it’s too hot.
This article says it all: The truth is that warm weather makes us irritable, violent and depressed.
Here are some other factoids about what hot weather does to people:
Serious mental conditions such as schizophrenia and manic depression are said to worsen with changes in the weather, and suicide rates are affected too. Hot weather is also linked with higher levels of street violence and attacks, as well as rioting and unrest. The hot dry Fohn and Scirocco winds are said to damage the health - in Germany the accident, crime and suicide rates rise during the Fohn, whilst the Scirocco is said to cause madness. http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/weatherwise/living/effects/morale.shtml In heatwaves, where the temperature is significantly higher than expected for the time of year, people tend to behave more irrationally. New York City sees regular summer crime waves, which are believed to be as a result of the hot weather. http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/features/health_culture/behaviour.shtml