Now today was a pretty darn hot day. I spent a fair share of it submerged in water at a local water park. Yes, I know it’s Monday and all but temperatures over 90 degrees activate my special summer work rules roughly summarized as skip it or screw it. My home isn’t air conditioned so I know hot. But it’s not as hot as it could be.
This is hot. Baby in Managua with the temperature in the stratosphere, laying on a plastic sheet in a room at the Rolando Carazo Orphanage. So hot, he stuck to the plastic. So hot, laying on the mattress had rubbed away the hair on the back of his head. You want hot. That’s hot.
I’m terrible in the heat. My husband says there’s a special Jan heat index so when it’s 80 degrees, it’s actually 120 degrees to me. Heat makes me feel ill and panicky even when the predicted heat wave is several days’ away. I go on red alert because I know I’m going to fold in the heat. I just don’t have what it takes to soldier through.
Not the right person to send to Managua in July to pick up said sweaty, stuck to the plastic little boy. I got off the plane and I couldn’t believe it. I was so freaked by the heat that I immediately bought a pack of Marlboros from a boy on the street, ending six months of nicotine abstinence. At the little rooming house where we stayed, Casa Bolonia, the children of the Russian families who stayed there played in the courtyard while their mothers shuffled from one room to the next carrying frying pans of sausages.
The heat was unrelenting. I was bucked up only by my 15-year old daughter who seemed to bring cool with her and rum that we drank with the juice of limes plucked from a tree in the rooming house’s courtyard. At night we went to sleep in our room, a weak air-conditioner shared by our room and the next, with drywall apportioning half the air to each side. I remember sitting on the toilet in the dead heat of the night, looking over and seeing the antenna of a preposterously large insect waving at me from the drain.
The days were filled with trips to doctors and to the U.S. Embassy – all in a five-passenger Toyota holding eight people. I wish I could look back and think I was heroic but I was really like this.
But you do hard things because other people expect that you will. I learned that much. My tougher comrades soldiered through – including my own 15-year old daughter. I had to let go of the heat and hold on to the boy. And so he slept on my chest in that horrible, hot room, while the meaningless air conditioner droned and the insect in the bathroom waved its antennae and in the morning we ate instant oatmeal that we brought from home and then we got dressed and we went to the next hot place.