BERN, Switzerland (MindaNews / 06 July) — What to do when my adopted place Bern is as hot in summer as my hometown Surigao?
That was the unlikely problem I faced together with the rest of Europe which baked last week in a heat wave, with the highest temperature in Switzerland of 36.6 degrees Celsius recorded in Sion, canton Valais, in southern Switzerland. The federal office reported that temperature records were broken at 27 locations in Switzerland.
I swear the thermometer in my balcony even reached 40 degrees (!). I could have easily made homecooked beef tapa on the railing there if not for the flies it would certainly bring.
In Surigao I could have easily turned on the aircon. But not here, we don’t have aircons in homes here. And for that matter, neither do the moviehouses have aircons here. Why, you might ask. You forget that we are in alpine Switzerland, where the elevation above sea-level ranges from 193 to 4,634 metres and so it is mostly cool. Until the heat wave came, that is.
So we turned on our electric fans. Our fans here are not the massive industrial-strength fans used in the Philippines, just the desk or stand fans that fit the 20- 25 degree C summers that usually come. But we had no choice – even if our puny fans only succeeded in transferring sweltering air from corner to corner.
And how did the Swiss survive the crippling heat? They flocked to the riverbanks and to the public swimming pools which offered relief from the heat. They closed their window shutters in the day to keep out the heat, but opened their windows at night to collect whatever coolness the night air gave. They rode airconditioned public transport, even if some train and tram trips were delayed by the expanding metal rails in the day.
There were even urgent proposals to paint portions of the exposed rails white, because white and light colors repel the rays of the sun and might help keep the tracks cooler, and therefore help prevent trains from accidentally jumping off the tracks.
In some cantons or gemeindes, schools were advised to keep outdoor activities of children to the minimum, although classes went on as usual. And from the work places came an unusual debate: could employees be exempted from working on account of the severe heat? The answer was no, although employers were enjoined to provide free water and also cooling equipment in the work place, or to slow down production or work if needed (to avoid people from overheating, I supposed).
In public in that heat, out came the cold beer in hand for the men; for the women, out came the skimpy shorts and the halter tops. I imagine the Aare river got its highest attendance that weekend, with bathers floating the whole day from upriver sites like Thun down to Bern.
So there we were that terrible week, suffering from the heat but not able to sweat and cool off, because unlike the humid Philippines, summer air here is dry.
I think we all pondered the same question: which would I prefer, the coolness of Switzerland (which meant arctic temperatures in the highest elevations in winter) or the constant heat (with the accompanying grime and dust) in the Philippines ? My answer came quick to me: I would take anything above 20 degrees C at any time. (Brady Eviota for Mindanews)