I recently had a routine physical with the Peace Corps doctor. When it came time to listen to my breathing, the doctor reached under my shirt with the stethoscope. “Your shirt is soaked. Is that sweat?!?” Yup.
I go to sleep sweating. I wake up sweating. As soon as I’ve finished taking a cold bucket-bath, I resume sweating. This is Benin’s cool season. The real heat, I’m told, starts in January. Yikes. A friend at home used to put his sheets in the freezer in the summer, putting them on the bed at the last possible moment before he went to sleep. I mocked him at the time. Geniuses are frequently mocked by the dimwitted.
Fridges are a luxury item in Benin and though Jen and I could certainly afford to buy one, we’ve decided to go without. For now. Our wonderful host mother gave us a cooler before we moved into our new home which we’ve been using, somewhat successfully, as our fridge.
A nearby neighbor has a freezer. They sell .5 litre bags of ice to the community for $0.10 each. We pay them $0.20 per day to freeze two .5 litre water-filled containers for us. We purchased the four empty plastic containers that we rotate through the cooler at our local market. There is a section of the market devoted to used plastic containers. There isn’t a lot of recycling in Benin but most things get reused again and again. A couple of weeks ago Jen bought a cold drink from a neighbor’s stand. One taste and it was clear the bottle had been previously used to transport gasoline.
As long as we don’t put too many things in our cooler, the food stays relatively cool until the next day. The staples that we keep in it are jam, butter, olives and chocolate. Sometimes we splurge and buy extra ice from the neighbors to break up for a cold drink. I haven’t asked them about putting our sheets in the freezer. Yet.