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Brrr…. June 8, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Namibia, Peculiarities, Weather.
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I am currently sat in my office, wearing furry boots, two sweaters and a bodywarmer, a scarf and gloves. I just took off my woolly hat. The girl I share my office with has a fan heater whirring under her desk and today is hugging a luminous yellow hot water bottle. We have the warmest office in the building.

I am also slightly annoyed because she still refuses to open the blinds because the sunlight clouds her computer screen. I beg to differ – a little light reflection is a small price to pay when we could let the sun in and warm the room naturally. But I’ve only just moved into the office so I can’t really start changing things yet.

The lady in the office next door just popped in to “feel the warmth” and tell us that this morning it was -11oC at her farm. I can certainly believe it. Winter has properly arrived here in Namibia and I am struggling to get my head around it. It started a few weeks ago when I realised that I could no longer wear sandals to work as my feet were freezing under the desk. So I went shoe shopping. Next was when I cycled down the hill to work one morning and realised that life would be much better with gloves, scarves and hats. I am now undecided on whether I can justify spending £50 of my meagre allowance on a winter coat, or whether I should get a new duvet instead. Yes, I am still in Namibia, and no, I wasn’t ready for this.

I was warned that it gets cold in Windhoek. At 3000m altitude, in the middle of the desert, in Southern Africa, it’s not really surprising. Cold but gloriously sunny. Everyday I find crisp blue skies; frosty mornings melt into warm days of around 20oC, and then the temperature dramatically drops with the sun around 5pm. I haven’t seen a cloud in weeks, nor rain in months. The strange thing is that people keep saying “Oh it is cold today” like they are surprised. I am surprised, it’s my first winter, and I did not expect it to get like this; but the locals should have caught on already.

And even stranger, not a single house or building seems to be built with any adequate insulation or heating methods. Winter seems to surprise them every year, and they don’t seem to cotton on that some form of insulation in a building would make life a lot more comfortable. For example, my office has no heating system that I have noticed. Our apartment has huge single-glazed sliding doors and ceiling fans in every room. We do have an ineffective under-floor heating system and a fireplace in the living room which is currently being put to good use (Matthias and I have a little bit of fire-making competitiveness between us). But the cold dry air hangs inside every room. I dread washing my hair because it is so damn cold, and getting out of bed in the morning is agony. In addition to all this, the air is so dry that I keep getting nose-bleeds. I left work early the other day because the impromptu popping of nasal blood vessels became too much of an embarrassment and was messing up my desk.

So whilst everyone at home is looking forward to the longest day of the year and some global-warming-induced barmy weather, I am counting down to the shortest day of the year so that it can start getting lighter for longer, and hopefully warmer too. Unlike my years in Edinburgh, where the city is designed for crappy cold weather and refuge can be found by the fireplace of any pub, there are no warm places to be found in this city, public or private, there is no escape.

It really makes me wonder how the informal settlement dwellers are surviving in these conditions, with draughty tin metal shacks, and possibly not enough blankets to go round. I hope at least for the Ovitoto lot that they learnt something at our Shack Insulation Workshop and are keeping that little bit warmer this winter.

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