Friday was the first day of summer. It was also the first day of swimming lessons for the girls. One of the summer hires (children of mission members) teaches swimming lessons in the States, so she got drafted to teach lessons here while she's not making copies and running errands down at the annex. So this year we have free swimming lessons. Hooray for summer hires!
There are several hotels in the area that offer memberships to use their pool facilities, and most American expats have memberships at one of the hotels. Our Ambassador's residence also has a smaller pool that we can use for free, so being the cheapskate that I am, we've been using the free one this summer. It's not that big, and the shallow end is five feet deep, but it's private and nobody cares if my children lay on the pool deck, splash, or are rowdy.
Some of my friends were at a hotel pool during Eurovision last year. The children were playing and splashing like children do at pools; nothing too disruptive, but acting like children. One of the hotel guests came up to my friend, got in her face, and asked if he was going to get a nap that afternoon. She told him it didn't look very likely. Like I've said before, I'm not big into cultural experiences and am perfectly happy staying in the bubble. So having a private pool works for me.
The only problem with this setup is the weather. Baku is not the place for swimming pools. The weather here is very moderate* and the summer rarely gets very hot. Last weekend the temperature climbed all the way up to ninety degrees. We went swimming, and the water was hot enough to swim for twenty minutes before climbing out to warm up. But it never stays ninety degrees. It will warm up for maybe four or five days and then dip back down into low-eighties territory for the next two weeks.
This is fantastic weather for the summer for just about everything but swimming, if you're from North Carolina. For everyone else, it's probably too hot to do anything outside, but still too cold to swim. And since the weather can never work itself up to prolonged warm temperatures, the pools never quite get warm enough to swim in. When I say warm enough, I mean over eight-five degrees.
So Friday was the first swim lesson on the first day of summer. When I looked out our window in the morning, the tree-tops whipped back and forth underneath grey clouds. Not good swimming weather. The girls asked if they could be spared the lessons but I, being the perennial optimist, told them to hurry up and get their things on and maybe the weather would clear up on the way over. The weather here can be fairly locational, so maybe in the ambassador's neighborhood it might be sunny.
It wasn't and the wind was even worse. Our car told us the outside temperature was sixty-eight degrees and as the goosebumps raised on my arms I regretted not wearing jacket over my cover-up. I also told Joseph there was no way he would be swimming. The other kids straggled in, and we stood around the pool looking at the ice-blue water being whipped into miniature whitecaps. The teacher showed up in a jacket and leggings, which she never took off the entire morning.
Eventually the girls and their friend decided that they were up for swimming despite the whitecaps and hopped in. Edwin joined them. I huddled under a blanket brought by a friend who had been smart enough to step outside before deciding what to wear.
After the warming numbness wore of and the real state of affairs set in, everyone jumped out of the pool to huddle under towels. We tried the hot shower, but the drain was clogged. And so huddle it was. The sun finally struggled through the clouds, or rather the wind ripped the clouds from the sky, after an hour or two and everyone decided playing tag around the ambassador's house was a safer activity than trying to swim.
It's a good thing the lesson were free.
And so that was the first day of summer in Baku - sixty-eight degrees with twenty mph winds and clouds. I never thought that I would miss Cairo in the summer, but on Friday, I did.
*I grew up in North Carolina, so that's where I'm coming from. Obviously if you're from the Pacific Northwest, you're going to have a different idea of hot.