Albuquerque!

We explored a part of Albuquerque called Old Town. As we enjoyed walking around the area and looking at the historical buildings, we came upon a little place called the Rattlesnake Museum, which was more like a dimly lit education center about reptiles. It was very fascinating, and they had over twenty species of snakes, many of them venomous.

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Then we wandered into a hat shop where Debbie found the hat of her dreams, which caused me to search around for something of my dreams. If you would like to read more about my hat purchases, please read a post titled Hats on my other blog.

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We wandered around Old Town until somehow we split up. I think I wandered off to take a picture. I found my way to an ice cream place and a famous church called San Felipe de Neri, the oldest church in Albuquerque. The building that stands today was built in 1793 and is on the US National Register of Historic Places. Originally, San Felipe de Neri was established in 1706, and the first church was built in 1719 but collapsed after heavy rain in 1792. This building was built the year after and the towers were added in 1861, a parish school was added in 1878 and a convent for the Sisters of Charity was built on the west side of the church in 1881.

Debbie found me again at some point and told me to go down this alleyway where a cool store was. I never got there, I ended up stopping in Gallery 8, and buying the pottery of a Navajo woman, Mabelene Gray, also known as Betty Holtsoy-Gray.  I bought two of her pieces, one painted on red clay and one horse hair on white clay. After a little bit of haggling, I spent $120. I don’t remember how much the pieces were individually.  Because the pieces were large, they mailed them for free to my mother’s house in Massachusetts. Here are pictures of them on the kitchen counter.

 

There were some really interesting differences in construction that I was fascinated by. Brooke’s boyfriend –now husband– is an architect and when I admired the adobe houses, he talked about a problem in the area with latex paint, and certain paint companies marketing paint as for adobe buildings, meaning latex-free, when really the paint contained latex. Adobe buildings have to be able to breathe, because adobe bricks shrink and swell with changing moisture content. Plastic or latex coatings, such as paint, seal the surface and keep it from expanding with the rest of the brick, which causes portions of the wall to break off. This is not an easy or inexpensive problem to fix either, because it means all of the latex paint must be painstakingly scraped off, along with the first or so layer of stucco cement mixture or adobe coating. Apparently there were some lawsuits as a result of this, which caused unnecessary damage to historical buildings around Albuquerque.

Another thing I was fascinated by were swamp coolers, which I had never heard of before. Most places in the Southwest don’t have air conditioning because it’s simply not economical.  Instead they have swamp coolers, also called evaporative coolers, which rely on water’s ability to grab heat from the air. A swamp cooler consists of a reservoir of water with a fan blowing air over it. The fan lowers the pressure of the air above the water, which makes water molecules from the surface jump up into the air. The moisturized air is much cooler because of water’s large enthalpy of vaporization, which means that it takes a lot of heat energy to change water from a liquid to a gas due to the negative and positive forces of each water molecule, known as hydrogen bonds. Hydrogen bonds bind water molecules to each other, making water droplets. Because it requires so much heat to break these bonds, water molecules floating in the air absorb heat and decrease the temperature of a room at the same time as increasing the humidity.

Often the reservoir and fan set-up can be under the house, to keep it cooler, or in a closet, attached to the ductwork. It can also be outside, although I haven’t really seen that. This way of cooling is called a passive evaporative cooling strategy.

Now, I’m from Boston, where in the summer the humidity is often the same number as the temperature. So if it’s around 100 degrees out, the humidity is also around 100%, which in turn means that the air is already completely saturated with water vapor. This means that everything feels gross and it takes more effort to sit somewhere in the shade and breathe than it should. The air is so heavy and it just kinda sits on top of you, making you sweat, and the sweat doesn’t evaporate. It feels like you’ve been swimming, but actually you haven’t. If, for whatever reason, you feel like boiling water in late July or August in Boston on a day when the humidity is close to 100%, you won’t see steam rising from the boiling water because the air around it is already so moist. It also means that there will be a thunderstorm in the late afternoon.

So to me it was a little counterintuitive that making an area more humid would keep the air cooler. But the climate in the Southwest is different – it’s arid. So when you pump a little humidity into some place out of the sun, it yields fabulous results. Boston is at sea level. If you pump a little humidity into some place, you would get mold. A lot of mold.

 

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