Wednesday, August 21, 2013

No heat, no air conditioning, no walls, no problem

About a week ago I wrote a blog post about a most unwelcome visitor which I killed.  If you missed that narrative feel free to read it here. In that entry I spoke about how very few buildings here have heat or air conditioning.  Shortly after posting that comment my brother-in-law sent me a message asking whether we “sweat all the time.”  At this point it’s really not a problem because it is winter.  During the day temperatures reach 80F(30C), but in the evening it drops down to about 40F(4C).  However, I will gladly provide you with a follow up report regarding the heat and the sweating in a few months.

The reason for lack of heat and air conditioning is quite simple.  Botswana, as with most of Africa, has rather inconsistent electricity.  Last night I had an important Skype appointment and in the hours leading up to that and during I just kept my fingers crossed and was using all my positive thinking to “will” the power to remain on.  Fortunately it did.  Now, I will say that we haven’t had a blackout in a while and Botswana is definitely much more consistent with power compared to some other countries I’ve visited, such as Sierra Leone.  But if you have difficulty providing electricity to the masses then central cooling and heating systems simply are not feasible.
Due to the lack of heat and air conditioning, buildings are designed in such a way to be relatively cool.  This is a great concept during the summertime, but as we are still in winter this can make for a frigid night’s sleep.  Similar to the lanai in Hawaii, construction here tends to encourage indoor/outdoor living.  This is also true in our classrooms.

Directly behind my building on campus is a large outdoor amphitheater.  The amphitheater does have a kind of tarp roof to protect students and the professor from the elements, but there is no heat, no air conditioning, no walls, no blackboard, and no technology available.  I teach in this “classroom” once a week.  And I love it.
Here are a few pictures of a class being held in the amphitheater:

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