In the comfort of cool, low-temperature Canada, I'd see stories on the news about people who literally died from heat in Europe. My eyes widened at reports of temperatures reaching above 40 degrees. "My god," I thought, "how do people live like that?"
Cut to present-day Jaén, where daily temperatures of 35 degrees or more (I've seen 41) force me to work at home in booty shorts and slinky tank tops. Streets are abandoned by 3 p.m. as people hide from the sweltering sun, reinforcing the image of Jaén as “a big pueblo”. My obese cat has both a layer of fat AND a fur coat, forcing him to lay passed out on the cold tile floor. He is so sprawled out and still that I softly call to him, worried that the heat and his high cholesterol level have finally done him in in his old age. “Hey???” I whisper. He barely lifts an eyelid to look at me in a way that says, “F*** you for moving me to the hottest country you could think of.”
You would think there's a respite when the sun sets, but not here. This city is surrounded by sloping mountains that reflect and trap heat. So when you step out at 10 p.m., it's still hot, although it's dark. The temperature has barely dropped when you stumble home at 3 a.m., too.
|This is a real photo of someone in Jaén. I swear.|
I do what I can to survive, for example by walking slowly, and fighting other Jiennenses for the shady part of the sidewalk. I also don't let myself feel guilty for visiting the ice cream shop almost every day. It's honestly the only way to enjoy walking from one barrio to another. And of course, in honour of celebrating our war on the heat, my friends and I gather at night and toast with a cool, refreshing drink on the terrace.