The month of May here where I now live in Mexico is not as merry as it’s purported to be in jolly old England, for one. In fact, it’s more like the dog days of August in northern New Jersey, where I grew up.

I remember writhing in perspiration on the top bunk in the bedroom my sisters and I shared, complaining loudly that I couldn’t breathe because the air up there, close to the ceiling, was so hot and thick.

“You’ll live,” my matter-of-fact mother assured me. “September is just around the corner.”

I lived.

The month of May is the hottest month of the year here in San Miguel de Allende where I now live, with afternoon temperatures nearing 90 (F.), but it is not as hot as other places I’ve known. Like Lastoursville, Gabon, for example, where I served two years in the Peace Corps.

Lastoursville, a tiny town nestled in the thick rainforest of this Colorado-size African country, is two degrees off of the Equator. One hundred-degree temps and 100 percent humidity were the norm. Now that was hot. And humid. Walking felt like swimming.

As I wrote in my Peace Corps memoir, How to Cook a Crocodile: “Author Thurston Clarke, who served in the Peace Corps in Tunisia in the late ‘60s, spent three years traveling the earth at its midsection – a grueling 25,000-mile odyssey that spanned three continents—to write his fascinating book Equator. During his stay in Gabon, he reports he ‘felt like a small roast in a large microwave, cooked to the bone.’”

But even Gabon wasn’t as hot as Mali, West Africa, which borders the Sahara Desert, where I lived for nearly three years, from 1998 to 2001, after my Peace Corps service.

Africa’s sun — depicted on Malian fabric

In Mali the sun, in a yearlong loop of endless summer, sizzles everything within its grasp, paralyzing living things with its inhumane heat. Every morning of la saison chaude (the hottest season, when daytime temps hold steady at about 115 degrees F.), as I wrote to my journal, dripping perspiration onto each page, I grappled with my personal discomfort with the heat. Such as in this entry:

“It’s pointless to complain about the weather. What good does it do? People here are so strong. The hardships they withstand, such as this amazing HEAT, are more than most Westerners could imagine. I admire the locals’ awesome strength.” (How to Make an African Quilt, p. 40.)

Still, I tell myself, I much prefer hot weather to cold, so the month of May here in San Miguel where I now live is my annual test of that resolve.

Mexico’s sun — depicted on a plate in San Miguel

Most of the other gringos here choose this month to hit the road. They decide to travel north, to where the lovely, fragrant lilacs are now in bloom, and visit their families. For the entire month, if at all possible.

A few of us diehards remain. Such as my friend and neighbor Nancy, who grew up in hot-steamy Florida in the ‘50s. She learned at an early age how to beat the heat: Only venture outdoors in the cool of the early morning or close to sunset. In between, stay inside with the curtains drawn, in front of a fan.

Air conditioning, you ask? Well, no. Not for the vast majority of us. A few, I’m told, have had A.C. installed in their lavish homes here, in an effort to replicate their U.S. lifestyles in (I’m guessing) Texas. I don’t envy them.

Call me a glutton for punishment. I continue to take my walks in the park in the midday sun.

To paraphrase Sylivia Plath:

What better way to test taut fibre

Than against this onslaught

These casual blasts of heat

That wrestle with us like devils…


I can hear my mother’s voice in my head: “You’ll live.

“June is just around the corner.”

~ ~ ~

Good news for those of you who submitted a completed questionnaire to Retirement Voices: The authors received a sufficient number of submissions to proceed with their book project. Thank you for participating! You should be hearing back from them later this summer. (For more, go to: www.retirementvoices.com .)


8 thoughts on “Heat”

  1. Great description of heat in SMA in May. People just can’t believe what is known as glorious springtime in most of the USA is the worst in SMA and summer actually is cooler (and wet and cloudy).

    1. Thanks for this, Lyn. I see from your photos (on FB) of your trip to Spain that it looks cool and wet there now. Can’t wait to hear all about your travels when you return.

  2. I was born in St. Louis before air conditioning and lived in Missouri until I was 24. Humid, hot summers, which I think made me not mind the heat so much…maybe not, my husband, who grew up in the same time and place HATED the heat. In San Miguel, unlike Missouri, it is cool at night, a real bonus to me…legend has it that my second summer of life in St. Louis, the temperature in our living room never went under 100 degrees F day or night for the month of August…ugh.

    1. Yes, it’s all in our personal conditioning, isn’t it, Pat. I failed to mention in this post that in Mali’s “winters,” when the temperature “plunged” to the mid-80s (F.), the Africans felt so cold they had to wear ski parkas, woollen hats and scarves…. Oh, and I, too, am grateful for the cool May nights here.

  3. Bonnie – Ad fans are wonderful inventions.. Houston in the summer is much hotter than San Miguel. Do you think having these comparisons makes San Miguel less hot? I do. Love your images.

    1. Thanks, Helaine. Yes, comparisons are certainly helpful for putting things in perspective. But gringos here still hit the road in May — as you’ve probably noticed already. 🙂

  4. Nice Bonnie — I love the double reference to your mom’s “consultation.” It’s a good thing I am in Japan, high 60s with a breeze. I am not as heat-tolerant as you are!

    1. By the time you return to SMA — in the summer rainy season — the weather should be much more tolerable, Kim.
      Do you have a return date? Can’t wait to see you and hear all about your Asia trip.

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