We tend to chuckle a little as our friends wear their heavy winter coats and complain about how bitterly cold it is here in Belo Horizonte when the overnight low only gets down to 51 degrees F. Normally they then inform us that, sure it doesn’t get as cold here as it gets in Iowa, but here the buildings are not insulated and they don't have heaters! So while it might not get as cold here, they reason, the buildings are the same temperature as the outdoors, so you are always surrounded by the cold.
Earlier this week, we were invited over to supper at a friend's apartment. It was one of those cooler nights in BH, so it probably was in the 50's. Since we are in winter/the dry season here though, the sun had been out all day and it got up into the low 80's. We noticed it was a little cool in the apartment, and our friend even put on his winter coat because he was sitting at the table shivering. I would have been a little more sympathetic towards him being so cold, but about half the windows in the place were wide open! He went on to tell us how hard it is to get out of bed in the mornings and take a shower - he said he just freezes! When I went to wash my hands before supper, I noticed the bathroom window was also open - and so yes, it was quite cool in the bathroom!
Given that brick and concrete are the building material of choice here, and the fact that they don't insulate buildings, and the non-existence of double pane windows or doors that seal, I agree that the interior temperature tends to rise and fall with the exterior environment. But no amount of insulation would do a bit of good here with all the windows open! I try to use our windows to my advantage in the "winter" time. I open all the blinds and shutters during the day (except for those in my bedroom) and let the bright sun warm the apartment. I also make sure to keep all the windows shut pretty much all the time. (I am not a big fan of city noise either, so keeping my windows closed also cuts down on the squealing brakes, honking horns, people shouting in the street, and other general noisiness that comes with living right in the middle of the city!) As the sun goes down, so does the temperature in our apartment, but it never actually gets cold in here. On the cooler nights, it still stays in the mid 60's at night - perfect sleeping temperature, I think.
This picture of an apartment across the street from us was taken early this morning. It was 59 degrees F with a very cool breeze blowing right into their open window.
A few other open-window notes from our months here:
- Eric's office has air conditioning, which would be quite nice in the summer. The A/C will be working hard trying to keep the engineering area cool on a hot sunny day, but no matter how hard it works it never quite gets cool thanks to everyone having their windows open.
- Emissions are a real issue here, especially from the diesel trucks and buses. It is pretty unbearable during rush hour with tons of vehicles puking out black stinky fumes. Yet, anytime one of our friends rides with us in our car (which will always have the air running on a warm day), they immediately roll down their window, inundating the car with exhaust fumes. (Which I think totally kills the case for desiring open windows for the sake of "fresh" air!)
- Now that I've got the system figured out, I use the public buses several times per week, often in the evening to go teach English classes in another neighborhood. Quite often I observe people get on the bus, open any window near them if it happens to be shut, and then sit there shivering from being so cold.
- We took a two hour (round trip) day trip in our car with another couple a while back. It was an especially hot and sunny day. Despite having our A/C cranked up the entire trip, Eric still sat in the driver's seat sweating. Our friends were in the backseat with the windows cracked the entire trip. We asked several times if they were too hot or too cold and the response varied from "I'm comfortable" to "I'm a little warm", but the hot breeze continued blowing in from the open windows in the back.
While we're getting quite comfortable in our understanding of most all things here, this open-window business still confuses us to no end! We've always written off the open-windows-when-it's-hot thing as people not being used to having air conditioning and it just being a habit to open windows. But having the windows open when it's cool outside and you're already cold? We're completely befuddled on this one!