By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Do you prefer cold or hot weather?
You and I probably would not vote for summer in the last few days. You would hate the heat if you were one of my staff members. To escape the torture, she booked a hotel room for two nights in order to survive the “monstrous heat of an oven at 100 degrees” last Monday.
“It was already hot, like a steam room, in my apartment on Saturday,” she emailed me. “My skin has rashes because of the heat. Not only that, my laptop is heating up like crazy. I don’t think it can turn on if it keeps heating like that.”
I was raised in really hot sweaty summers in Hong Kong. And I hated it. Every summer, I had many sleepless nights as it was so hot the bed felt like a burning furnace. There were times I preferred to sleep on the floor with a straw mat. Still, it didn’t help much. I remember we had the fan on the whole night. Of course, the fan was useless, blowing around hot air. The only way to have air conditioning was to go to a restaurant, theater, or department store.
Seattle was my pick when I decided to live in the United States. Its summers were lovely and cool. My mom often said Seattle had the best summers, with nice weather and pretty greenery all round. Not anymore.
The heat arrived early this year in June. What are we going to do to counter the rest of the summer in July and August?
With global warming, Seattle has become more like Hong Kong. According to the National Weather Service, Seattle broke a record by having 100 degrees for three consecutive days (last Saturday, Sunday. and Monday). It’s unbelievable that Hong Kong and Hawaii’s temperatures were in the 80s, lower than last Saturday in Seattle.
I gathered tips from friends and my co-workers at the Northwest Asian Weekly and Seattle Chinese Post on how to protect ourselves from the heat. Eating the right foods is not enough. We need to plan our day so heat will have a lesser effect on you and your family.
I start my day with big slices of watermelon for breakfast. Watermelons cool off your body all day long, and contribute to your overall health.
In Asian supermarkets, where there are yellow and red watermelons, pick the red kind. Eating watermelon in the morning can cool you off. Over 70% of watermelon contains water. It will keep you hydrated and feel great. I will not eat watermelons at night. It affects my sleep as I have to visit the toilet in the middle of the night.
Cucumber water with mint and lime
My friend mixes cucumber water with mint and lime to feel refreshed and hydrated. The combined ingredients have a cleansing effect. Health gurus usually suggest drinking this mix for detoxing purposes.
Instead of beer and ice cream, buy coconut water. Coconut water is great for people who sweat a lot. It also possesses electrolytes (minerals such as calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium), and is also low in cholesterol and antioxidants. But don’t drink it at night as you might have to go to the toilet all night.
No beers or ice creams
Some people think those foods can cool them off. Actually, it has the opposite effect. The first few sips and spoonfuls might be cold. However, these foods will soon convert into heat in your body as they are high in calories, making you feel hot.
Eat more veggies and fruits
Forget the steak. Think green.
Meat is great for winter, but not summer. It tends to be higher in calories, which increases body heat. The worst meat to consume during summer is lamb.
Fill your stomach with veggies and fruits when you are hungry.
What to do when you go out?
Besides wearing my hat, I carry an umbrella to keep my head cool. If I don’t have the umbrella, I could suffer a severe headache afterwards.
Another colleague said wrapping a cooling cloth on your head and neck is another way to prevent heat from getting into your system.
My son John said, “We use a spray bottle and spray ourselves with cool water every hour.” I like the idea. But often forget to do so.
Take a cold shower or go for a swim, said the Northwest Asian Weekly editor.
Cook in the morning
Turn off your stove in the evening, one co-worker said. Do all your cooking in the morning. Better yet, get restaurant takeout. Order enough for dinner so you can avoid using the stove as much as possible.
A Chinese proverb says, “Quiet your heart and you will feel cool.” Don’t get upset so easily because it will heat up your body temperature. Face your hot days with calm and peace of mind.
Whatever happens, remember to smile first to face your challenges. Also, try to quiet your mind by staying away from electronics, including watching less television and staying away from computers or cell phones. Electronic gadgets can produce a lot of energy at home.
Ceiling fans and air conditioning
When we first moved to our new home two decades ago, a friend said, “You need to install a ceiling fan, it makes a difference.” I am glad I listened. My ceiling fan’s purpose is to circulate air, not to bring in coolness in the room. It revolves at about 60 turns per minute, which uses little electricity. I have it on, day and night.
If you have installed air conditioning (AC) and a fan, here is how I alternate between the two for energy efficiency. Monday morning, my living room’s temperature was 82 degrees. At 6:30 a.m., I turned on the AC. When the room’s temperature dropped to 73 degrees, I turned off the AC. I would then turn on the AC every 40 minutes for eight minutes. That’s how I keep my home cool.
If you have a standing fan, one of my colleagues suggested you put an ice pack in front of the fan—it will blow cool air around the room.
If your standing fan has been with you for more than a decade, perhaps you should shop for a newer model. They are more innovative in design, energy-saving, and powerful than the older models.
“We bought one AC unit in 2014,” said my employee who lives in a Chinatown apartment. “We noticed a while back that Seattle is getting hotter. Now, So we recently bought two more units for each of my grown kids’ room from Amazon. The new ones can be moved around the apartment.”
If you have the same sets of bed sheets for winter and summer, you need to change it. Cotton sheets make your bed cooler, while sheets made with a percentage of wool will keep you warm during winter.
The same goes for your pajamas. Cotton and silk pajamas are more airy.
If you don’t have AC
If you don’t have AC, it might be too late to get it now as it is sold out almost everywhere. Or if you can find one available, rent a portable air conditioning unit.
You might consider installing central AC later. A friend asked me if he should install air conditioning a few years ago. “Do it,” I urged him. Hot summers will likely be a reality for Seattle, unfortunately.
Another staff member opens up her house windows in the morning to let in the breeze. Then, she closes the windows with shades and curtains so the hot sun doesn’t shine through later.
Shades or curtains
Now that Seattle summer is so sizzling hot, it’s best to have light-colored curtains or shades. Dark colors absorb heat. You may want to change your curtains just for the summer if you have dark ones. Having both shades and curtains can keep hot air from coming into your room. Air
conditioning all the time is unnecessary.
Set up chairs in cool spots
Find out where the cool spots are in your apartment or house. My staff member puts chairs in the cooler corners of her house, so the family can sit. I remember that decades ago, my family moved dinners to the basement during some hot summer nights because it was the coolest part of the house.
Carry a fan
In the olden days, there were no electric fans or air conditioning, people carried paper fans, my friend wrote. I don’t even have a paper fan at home. Sounds like a joke!
I used to love Seattle summers, and bragged to friends who live in southern California, the Midwest, and the East Coast. Now I can barely tolerate it. It’s not the summer I used to know and love.
Still, I am grateful that I can find solutions to cool our home. Our summer is still comfortable compared to other cities, which are close to locations where forest fires break out, or have fewer trees. Seattle has plenty of greenery and is next to water, such as the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and Lake Union. Without those, our climate could be worse.
“I fled to Hawaii,” my editor said. Sounds like a wonderful option if you can travel now.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.