Imagine if you could design your ideal climate. What would it be like? For me, it would be like this: Partly cloudy and mid-70’s °F (low 20’s °C) nearly every day of the year. Beautiful blue skies. The warmest days accompanied by a nice breeze. Cool evenings, but never cold. Very little humidity. And just when things get a little too dry, a rainy season begins. But it is short, and the showers come and go delicately.
That is perfection. And lucky for me, I have just described Nairobi. National Geographic once said Nairobi has the world’s “most perfect climate” and I can’t help but agree. People back in the U.S.A. often ask me what the weather is like here, and most of them assume it is beastly hot and harsh. I made the same assumption because Nairobi is very near to the equator, but because of the city’s elevation (5,889 feet or 1,795 metres above sea level), extreme weather conditions are prevented. I have yet to enter a building with air conditioning or heat, simply because there is no need for either.
I have tried to explain to my Kenyan friends the type of weather I experienced growing up in Minnesota. Unfortunately, the weather in Minnesota cannot be adequately understood unless you experience it for yourself, but I will try to explain it in mere words. Winter is cold. According to Wikipedia (and my own life experience) “temperatures as low as −60 °F (−51 °C) have occurred during Minnesota winters.” Those are extreme cases, but temperatures regularly hit 0 °F (−18 °C). Imagine this: if you wash your hair and venture outside before it is completely dry, it freezes and becomes hard instantly. The boogars freeze inside your nose. Your body parts literally go numb because they are so cold. School gets cancelled some days because kids could actually DIE waiting for their busses to arrive. Then there is snow, which can pile up so high you can’t even open your front door; and freezing rain, which makes you fall on your butt when you try to walk. And the worst part…winter can last for a solid six months of the year! Springtime bursts with life as the snow melts, but can cause major flooding. Summers are lovely, though very hot and humid, causing regular droughts. Autumn is vibrant and colorful as leaves change colors and the air turns cold once again, giving way to violent thunderstorms and tornados. In Minnesota, you can never predict the weather.
The funny thing is, if you ask most Kenyans, they will not describe Nairobi’s weather like I have described it at the beginning of this post. They might talk about the extreme heat of January (80 °F, 26 °C) and the freezing cold nights in July (60 °F, 15 °C). They might say things like, “The weather in Nairobi is so unpredictable!” or “I’m sure you’ve never experienced heat like this in the U.S.!” But hey, if you grew up in the world’s most perfect climate, wouldn’t you react this way too? I would!
For the record, I have almost completely lost my Minnesota “thick skin.” Like my fellow Kenyans, now 60 degrees feels dreadfully cold and 80 feels painfully hot. That could be very problematic when I return to Minnesota…