Summer in Central America

Trip Start Feb 24, 2012
Trip End Aug 04, 2012

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Where I stayed
Racho Cecilia

Flag of Nicaragua  , Rivas,
Monday, April 9, 2012

In the north we all think of summer as June, July, and August. In the south it is December, January, and February.  I have taught science classes teaching about why this phenomenon works with the tilt of the earth and the position of the sun. 

Growing up in the north, I instinctively think of summer as hot, humid, green, and full of sunshine late into the night.  These were the times when everything was in bloom.  There was no school and lots of outdoor playtime.  Even though it was hot, as a kid I never noticed it because we could go swimming, throw water balloons, or run through the sprinkler.  And at night we either had fans or air conditioning.

Central America is in the tropics and does not follow the typical rules that we in the north expect.  Summer here is March and April.  In reality there are two seasons the wet season and the dry season.  The wet season is from May to October in most places. The dry season is November to April.  In some places it is really clear distinction and not a drop of rain will fall in the dry season.  So that means after 4 or 5 months of no rain from November to February that the land is very dry.

Driving through Central America in March and April is like driving through a desert.  The land is parched.  The temperatures are the highest they will be in the whole year.  The land, the people, and the animals are all just trying to make it through the hottest months until the rain finally comes and cools everything down.

In Guatemala, I lived in the highlands at a mile (1600 m) above sea level and thought that March and April were the most beautiful months.  It wasn't cold at night and finally felt like I was living in the tropics. 

For the past four weeks we have been driving in the lowlands of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.  The temperature is constantly between 90 and 100 F, even at night.  In the car we are constantly sweating because we don’t have air conditioning.  Stopping the car is worse because the heat hits you.  But then it goes against my idea of hot summer because the land is dry.  Most of the trees don’t have leaves, and all of the crops are brown and withered.  Also the sun sets around 6:00 or 6:30.

So for the past month we have stayed as close to the coast as we can and to be in the ocean as much as possible.  Due to our desire to try and stay cool and play in the water we have started surfing and body boarding.  It is a great way to play at the beach and not notice the 100 weather.  When we are not sweating or surfing we have hardly moved - although we have had the great fortune to go to two circuses, see a couple of processions for Easter, hike with police men, shop in many local markets, and ride bikes around a colonial town. 

Even though I complain about the heat a little, it has been a great month.  I have grown to love the dry summer that looks like winter.  I now am able to notice the small flowers blossoming on a tree with a couple of leaves on it.  And most importantly we now have an innovative "air conditioning" system involving a cooler of ice and six cloth diapers which we tie on our heads and wrists to keep us cool as we keep on driving farther south into summer.

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