I adored summer when I was a child. Long sunny days with no school were spent at our beach house, or swimming in the neighbor’s or the community pool; playing ditch’ em, softball or other games with the neighborhood kids; or riding bikes to the park or to the library to get more books. I don’t think I ever wore shoes during the summer, or even flip-flops. I never gave a thought to the temperature, and southern California summers were hot.
I sure don’t enjoy summer that much any more. Why? Because it’s hot, and here in Hawai’i it also can get very humid. My body doesn’t enjoy the heat like it did when I was child, and it definitely dislikes the increased humidity. I get cross more easily when I’m hot and I feel sluggish a great deal of the time. I’m also the one responsible these days for chores and such that I’m sure my parents and other adults probably hated having to do in the summer heat.
Most houses in Hawai’i don’t have air-conditioning. It’s expensive to operate here due to high utility costs, but the islands are also blessed with trade winds that blow nearly year round, usually keeping the temperature reasonable. However, as the earth heats up, that’s changing too. We’ve gone through two summers now where the trade winds have come to a halt for more than a month in late summer, and temperatures have sometimes climbed above 90°. Long-time residents also say that the trades are not as strong and cooling as they were in the past. We’re keeping our fingers crossed though that the past two years have been an anomaly rather than a trend.
We rely on several things to stay comfortable during the hot summer days here:
- Running the ceiling fans: Unlike the house we started out in, our current house has plenty of BIG ceiling fans placed strategically throughout the house, including one in the kitchen. The bedroom fans do a fabulous job of keeping the bedrooms cool at night, and the big fan in the bathroom makes short work of the steam and humidity that build during a shower.
- Opening windows: Although we shut the windows at the front of the house at night, Brett gets up early in the morning and opens them and the front door, which allow the morning trades to flow through the house, keeping things nice and cool until early evening, when the trades seem to die off for a while, and the western sun beats down. Our house is situated though to avoid most of the late afternoon sun, unlike our old house with its big windows on the west side which caught the afternoon sun and heated up the entire house, especially the dining room and kitchen (it didn’t help either that our house was on the second floor, with the heat from below rising up and hanging around).
- Turning on the stove as little as possible: How I cook is definitely different these days than it was back on the mainland. Mainly, I try to avoid turning on either the oven or the stove if at all possible. If I do have to turn on the oven, I try for early in the day, and I leave the ceiling fan on. I avoid recipes these days that require long cooking times on the stove top, and let the girls handle stir-fries and such because they can tolerate the heat better than I can. We grill and use the slow cooker and rice cooker a lot as well to keep the kitchen area cooler.
- Saving chores until night: I do many of my cleaning chores after everyone else has gone to bed, like the dishes, the bathrooms, the floors and such. During the day just lightly pushing a broom around can cause me to sweat heavily. However, at night the temperature and humidity usually have dropped to more comfortable levels. Some things though, like the laundry, still have to be done during the heat of the day – ugh.
- Dressing appropriately: One of the things I love about living on Kaua’i is that no one here cares what you wear. So, I dress in my baggy linen pants every day with a loose, sleeveless linen or cotton top or t-shirt. It’s not the most flattering look for me, but it’s very comfortable in the heat. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a pair of close-toed shoes here. I’m not sure if Brett even own a pair of long pants any more ;-).
- Staying hydrated: I drink from the moment I get up in the morning until I go to bed at night. I start with a cup of coffee and move on to a couple of glasses of iced tea, and then water and non-caffeinated drinks after 1:00 in the afternoon (so I can sleep at night). We stop for shave ice more frequently during the summer, and Brett and I enjoy refreshing gin & tonics and mojitos for our weekend drinks rather than sticking to wine.
- Getting outside: One of the reasons we grew to dislike our old house was that we had no outside space to use when it got hot. Due to the stream running behind the house, and other drainage issues, the lawn was filled with mosquitos and other bugs, and our icky downstairs neighbors claimed all the patio area as theirs. We now have a lovely, large, private covered lanai in front that we can enjoy, especially in the morning and evening. We also live closer, and get ourselves to the beach more frequently than we did at the old house.
Brett and I both swore we were never going to live in a humid area again after finishing a two year tour in southern Maryland followed by two years in Key West, Florida – and we had A/C in both places! Of course, we left Key West to go back to Japan, where the humidity in the U.S. is mere child’s play compared to what they experience there every summer. Our last Japan tour helped us decide where we would settle after Brett retired: Portland got wet, but it didn’t get humid.
And yet, here we are on Kaua’i, where it’s humid year round, and we’re loving it. We found that when we were in Oahu last month that we didn’t enjoy the air-conditioning as much as we thought we would – we spent a lot of time out on the lanai, or heading somewhere else outside.
We know the summer’s heat and humidity here are only temporary, and that in early fall cooler temperatures and stronger trade winds will return (thank goodness), bringing back Hawaii’s beautiful, temperate weather. But for now, times are hot.