Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I had the privilege of growing up in what I believe is the most ideal climate possible. Nairobi has average temperatures in the sixties and seventies. I wore flip-flops almost every day and had my window open year-round, allowing for breezes in the dry season and sound of heavy rain in the wet months. It never got too hot, cold or humid. I might need a jacket in July and August, but otherwise my wardrobe didn't vary throughout the year.

Seasons have been an adjustment. Four years in Chicago and one of the snowiest New York winters on record mean I think I've got winter figured out (although that doesn't mean I enjoy it). And now, in New York City without AC, I'm having to figure out how to do summer.

A few of the things I've learned to do in the last couple weeks:

1. Move outside. The sidewalks and stoops in my neighborhood are now host to domino games, family gatherings, and impromptu water fights made possible by open fire hydrants (I saw three on my walk home from work today and it was only 85 degrees). In one apartment building I noticed two older ladies with pillows permanently placed on their window sills so they have a soft spot for their elbows while they watch the street and try to catch the breeze. I've taken to hanging out on the roof of my building, which has the added bonus of a great view of the entire Manhattan skyline.

2. Eat cold stuff. My roommates and I are avoiding anything that adds any extra heat to the apartment, so that means the stove and oven. I've started looking for the coolest days of the week and doing all my cooking then, and even so I'm switching to lots of raw or mostly raw recipes.

Dinner of apples, celery, cucumber, broccoli and avocado with tahini lemon yogurt sauce.

Other recent creations include cucumber salad with peanuts and lime, raita, dilly potato salad, and I'm looking forward to experimenting with different types of gazpacho. I've also started making cold-brewed coffee in my french press. It's great because it makes a concentrate that I refrigerate and dilute in the mornings with cold water and ice for iced coffee.

3. Wear less. The first thing I do when I get home in the evening is change into a tank top and shorts. Unfortunately this doesn't qualify as business casual, and it's been tough figuring out clothes that are both cool enough to allow me to walk to work, and warm enough to keep me from freezing in my way over air-conditioned office. One of the things I love about thrift shopping for clothes is how finding things I like that fit me is like getting a little gift from the universe. I knew I needed a black skirt for work, and within 2 weeks I had 4 (although this did nothing to address the fact that 95% of my wardrobe is black, gray or brown).

4. Ventilate. I love my apartment. I love the big windows and all the light and space.

Why yes, that is a hammock swing.

However, only one pane of the beautiful old factory windows opens. And the size of the space means it would be too expensive to cool the whole place (if we had a functioning air conditioner). And we just so happen to be on the top (and therefore warmest) floor of the building.

I live at the top of that ladder, on the opposite side of the apartment from the windows. My room gets really stuffy. So I have a large fan to point at myself, and a small one in the little space between my wall and the ceiling that is sucking some of the hot air out of my room (I hope).

But do I feel ready for the first 90+ degree day tomorrow?

Not so much.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Sarah, I can totally relate. Last summer in my non-A/C apartment in Pasadena was total insanity. Cold food, multiple fans, wearing less (i.e. nakedness, as I lived alone!)... yes, all great methods. One thing I did a lot was place my t-shirts in the freezer for a little while before putting them on. The coldness only lasts a few mins, but it's better than nothing! Also, if you put a bowl of ice cubes in front of the fans, it'll make the air blowing in your direction feel a bit cooler. Good luck in coping with the heat! :) I admire your fortitude. xoxo