We hate air conditioning. It leaves your body feeling dry and your throat sore. It is bad for the environment and the wallet. It feels fake against the skin, unlike Bonaire's gentle trade-wind breezes that are so fabulous and perfect, it is just a touch of moist air you feel and not heat or cold of any discernible temperature.
When I write "we", I am not including all family members, since our three kids howl in protest when Ben trudges into their bedrooms to open up the rooms to the cross breezes, sets up fans and removes and hides A/C remote controls (that villa manager Femke has to find later).
And when I write "open up the rooms" I do not want to imply that this is a matter of opening a few doors and yanking a couple screens across the resulting apertures. There is a wildly beautiful and complex system in place that takes Salentein from the resource-sucking structural electricity vampire it can be into the parched-island-friendly home it is supposed to be. It involves opening each of the villa's louvered windows and doors via a convenient handle or the less-convenient extendo-matic tool that gets to the out-of-reach louvers. And then it involves setting up fans and hiding the A/C remotes from your loved ones. Ben claims he can effect these changes in 15 minutes, now that he knows the system. It might take others longer. But once the eco-friendly/natural system is in place the A/C system can't be used for the obvious reason: we would be air conditioning the outside.
Why, you might ask, if these breezes are so perfect, would the kids want the A/C? There are two parts to the honest answer. First, A/C is easy: you close the door to your room, press a button and, voila, several minutes later you feel comfortable. Second: the perfect breezes are not quite as effective at keeping one cool at night as is the imperfect A/C. If you want to be cool/cold, you will have to rely upon the A/C. If you are, like us, content to be warm but not hot, then going A/C commando might be for you.
Femke tells us that in general Salentein's Dutch visitors do not like and do not use the A/C. Certainly our German next-door neighbors who live on Bonaire year-round -- Brigitte and Wilfried -- are regularly horrified at the A/C usage of our guests...not just when they use it but also how (with doors and windows open, for example). Theirs is a righteous horror since they use A/C in their own villa maybe once in the heat of late summer for six and a half minutes and hermetically seal the house off from the outside during these minutes. We Americans want it 24-7-365.
Since becoming part-time residents of Bonaire four years ago, however, we have started to understand this A/C usage from an owner/islander perspective, and are now sweating a little at night in the interest of protecting Bonaire's environment and our bank account (not necessarily in that order). Electricity is, by far, the biggest expense associated with the running of Villa Salentein as a rental property and most of this electricity usage is from the A/C units. Salentein's guests, of course, are thinking about their own bank accounts. They have paid a premium to stay at the villa and want to be completely comfortable. We get that. We have concluded, however, that there could be a happy medium for those who might like to go a more eco-friendly route while visiting Bonaire/staying at Salentein and that this could come in the form of some sort of rebate for those guests who choose the A/C-less route. Ben and I are still mulling over many possibilities to deal with the environmental guilt/wallet pain associated with owning Villa Salentein, including installing solar panels on the non-ocean side of the roof to produce some portion of our electricity needs.
We are looking forward to a future of exploring all the ways that the Salentein experience can be beautiful, comfortable and sustainable.