On Window Screens
It really is a simple invention that in hindsight seems as obvious as the wheel, but apparently it wasn’t until 1861 that the putting wire mesh over a hole in the wall became common place. While it’s rare to find a house in the United States without window screens, it’s just as rare to find one that does here. Part of this might be due to the type of window used here. I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve seen a Sash Window here. That classic sliding window that I had in every room growing up just doesn’t seem to exist here, and I can’t figure out why. Originally I thought maybe that’s what they used in England and Holland, but no Sash windows were in use in Europe by the mid-17th century.
So if there aren’t sliding windows here, what are there? They are all Casement Windows. And not the type you sometimes see back home with the crank shaft to open them up from behind a window screen. No, these you just slide a latch and push right open. If you can visualize that for a second it means there can’t be any window screen, because you’ve just pushed right through it to open the window. I’ve seen and heard of some usual solutions to this problem. Some volunteers in the group before me used double sided Velcro and an old mosquito net to try to bug proof their room. Every time they wanted to open the window, they’d peel back the mosquito net, unlatch and push out the window, and then reattach the Velcro. Even more elaborate, at a guest house in Kimberly on my recent vacation the had build giant screen cages to go around the open windows! Some volunteers, and most people on my street, go with the the closed window option. But, when it’s over 90 degrees in my room I consider that to much suffering and much prefer to sleep under my mosquito net and feel a slight breeze to sweating it way on top of my sheets.
All this got me thinking about what a screen window or door really represents. Living here without AC or central heating sometimes its hard to remember how in the States a house is a bastion of control and stability against the chaotic elements and seasonal fluctuations outside. My room here is a sauna in the summer and I have to ware a warm hat to sit at my desk in the winter. I am not in control of the inside temperature and must adapt accordingly. A screen on the window is a selective sieve by which we can bring the outside in. It lets the cool breeze and humid air pass right through put keeps the insects out of the pristine home. It represents both our control over our environment and our eagerness to escape the stuffiness we feel at that control. As a kid I always loved sleeping with the window next to my bed open, even on hot summer nights – where I’d put my head right next to the window urning for the smallest breeze – and crisp fall ones – where I’d wrap my self up in a warm blanket and feel the nights chill on my face. Maybe that’s also why I ended up here in the Peace Corps; I didn’t want to be locked up behind a window looking out, but wanted to through that widow right open and experience what ever was on the other side.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 at 6:43 pm and is filed under Musings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.