Secret Ventilation

Two years ago, in December, my husband looked at the great big pile of things that I was taking to our beach house rental and said, “No you don’t. We’re not bringing all that stuff. Why are you bringing two upright fans?”

Then the next night, our first in the rental, I directed one of the fans on him as he worked at the dining room table. The ocean breeze was stiff and somewhat cold on the covered porch, the space right next to the sand, a few feet from the bombastic shore waves, but somehow it did not penetrate into the front room, where if I had not had that whirly-gig making passes at my husband’s sweaty pits, he would have been completely miserable.

This summer, we took a rental that was supposed to have air conditioning. It was not working. We did not complain to the property management person. He contacted us later and said that the next renters were very hot and bothered about the broken toilet, the lack of hot water and that the air conditioning was not fixed.

He admired our stoicism and invited us to buy a unit in the complex because, “You’re the kind of neighbors we want here.”

It is currently August, and although the rainy season is usually cool, our highland neighborhood must have taken a playbook from the coastal towns, because it is humid and hot this year.  

Like many people here, we do not have air conditioning. I know of one couple that put air conditioning in their house, and have heard rumors of another who is going to put a few units in the home they are building , but for the most part, most people just keep their windows and doors open (sans screens in very many) and think frosty thoughts.

When my across the street neighbor first came to visit, she noted, “Why don’t you have ceiling fans? You are going to suffer.”

My answer was similar to my many others. It was the same answer I had when she saw I had no oven, no garage door opener and no water filtering system.

“It’s because it is a rental.”

I have learned to think how to solve temporary problems. We are used to being nomads, and just like a gypsy woman weaves her treasures into her skirts, I bring along my own weather modifying devices. I can’t chance that other rentals will see to my every need. I know for certain if I pretend everything will be in working order, I am would be as foolish as I would be to think that I could beat the roulette wheel at Monte Carlo.

So that is why in every room, and in our great room two, there are fans. We move them around depending on the direction we wish to fashion them and they rotate to give, at least one of us, a breeze that comes and goes. We ache for more complete satisfaction, but for now that is only a fond memory.

In Arizona, I would hear the soft hum of the compressor come on and I would often say out loud. “Blessed air conditioning. What a sainted person it that was who invented air conditioning.” That was then.

Here, I have given two fans to the women who help me in our home. They were overjoyed by the gift. They sent me pictures of where their airy sentinels stood in their bedrooms. They sometimes remind me that when the air is damp and torpid, the nights are made better by their fans. It had never occurred to them to buy one or maybe they could not afford it.

As one said (in Spanish), “It’s the solution.”

Here are my suggestions to you why you need to round up lots of fans before you come to Mexico or at least, have no mercy and buy all that you can use when they come into stock locally.

The hottest months in Mexico are before the rainy season: April, May and the beginning of June. The first two years we were here, our local Walmart sold out of fans before the season heat wave. Even where we were from in Arizona, I could not buy fans once the back to school items were put out.

I checked this week at local Mexican Walmart. My heart skipped when I thought I saw fans in stock. No, they were only large bass speakers. As a kid, I often mistook the Sparlettes truck for the ice cream truck. I am delusional when it comes to cooling devices.

If you are coming to Mexico, I would say scour all your local stores doggedly during the time fans are available because you will need variety of them. Plug them in if you can. Some make as much noise as a jet airliner. If you buy them online, which I have done, because there is more selection, read the reviews closely. The question should be posed: can I sleep next to this fan?

For myself, I also chose medium height, sleek, chrome fans to go with my chrome round end tables. They looked so elegant and blew a lot of air, but were not quiet companions. Those fans were left behind.

Buy what you think will suit your Mexican décor. I always have soft and cool pastel walls, so my fans have blades that blend well with those colors. I have a fan that was one of the first things I bought for our house in Arizona; beautiful, tall and with a stem like a bamboo pole and blades colored like striped wood. It stood next to our ornate bar then and now stands next to my ornate mirror.

A grey, plastic Vornado may do its job just right, but it doesn’t look quite right next to the cut giant, tropical leaves of my monstera plant in my great room. But if it is what you have and what you trust to create the venturi effect when it is mated with another, you should bring them down. You will enjoy their company like never before.

Most expats live on their terraces this time of year. We don’t because of the mosquitos and flies that spoil all the fun when the rain burst out revitalizing the tropics. But when we do go out for an extended period, we portage the fans out with us. In Arizona, you can escape the heat (somewhat) if you are in the shade. Here the humidity follows you doggedly. And so we accompany ourselves with our doggy-like fans. (Meaning no offences to my dog babies, who we truly love, but we are attached to our fans in a more practical way.)

Our rental has a minimal kitchen and no stove vent; only a hole in the ceiling above the stove’s cement hood. Attracted by the light bar we installed above the heating elements, the night insects make their way down this chimney and find their way into my cook pots more often than the scent of chicken with chili paste and basil rise to meet the traveling moon. So our fans work as our stove vents. Unfortunately, the plug closest to the stove is already occupied. For instance, if I put the hot water kettle on and then decide to heat up something in the microwave, both shut down. What that means is, I have to use another outlet, and the fan that works as our stove vent is far away, just scattering the aroma of Thai pork with mint rather than sending it out to where the palms sway overhead. Also consequently, I work with only the ambient light of the room to guide my cuisine.

Hence, you need to think about will you need a fan to be permanently situated on the floor or on furniture? Do you need something light to tote around and follow you through the day when needed? Do you need it only occasionally and will it be convenient to store? Do you have a fan that is the fan of your dreams? Then buy siblings. Because of their shape and size, putting them in checked luggage down the road will be agony.

On our nearly yearlong road trip through Mexico, I had packed fans. I used a small 5” fan next to where I applied my cosmetics, so my makeup would not melt before I left the bathroom. I clipped a 12” fan to the desks and tables that served as my husband’s desk.

And now when we travel through Mexico for vacation, expecting hot weather, and always by the beach, I bring our upright fans. (Did I tell you we have a van?) We have learned that if a place has air conditioning, it most likely will only be in the bedroom. So, what do you do? Sit and sweat on the couch all day?

Living in Mexico has forced me to think and plan like a prepper. What if the air conditioning in the rental is just all noise and hot air? We have faced this, multiple times. You can leave where you are staying and head to the cooler highlands or you can lug the fans that you packed into your temporary home.

It may seem that I am fan crazy. You might be right. When I was single, I had in my library, a turquoise vintage fan that did not even work. But it looked so cool sitting on top of my National Geographic magazines from the 1940’s, which were on an old wooden crate that I still have today. I have a cool illustration of a fan that I have placed in my husband’s office. It sure looks like I’m a fanatic of fans.