Getting hot and sticky: one of life's simple pleasures !
My husband and I recently had a holiday that took us to the sunny climes of the Middle East and South East Asia. An exciting holiday, to be sure, but until my repigmentation 5 years ago this sort of trip would have been an ordeal to grin and bear. Why? Because, not only does the strength of the UV light in this region tan (or burn) quickly, highlighting any white patches caused by vitiligo, but the humidity would also sweat off all traces of camouflage within seconds. The kind of conditions that locals take in their stride bathes the average westerner in perspiration almost as soon as they step out of the shower in the morning. This would not pose a problem for most people. But for someone with vitiligo – especially someone like me, who always kept her white patches hidden – it would have been a nightmare. Even covering up with cool clothing is not really a viable option because, in that kind of heat, you just want to wear as little as is decently possible.
Of course, tourist hotels and shopping malls in this part of the world have extremely efficient air conditioning (so much so that a jacket or wrap are an essential item to have with you at all times). And I can appreciate why these systems are typically set to such low temperatures: I suspect that the intention is that it should be a delight to step inside out of the heat and an equal delight to step outside again afterwards to thaw out! This suited us perfectly because we punctuated our city sightseeing with periods of chilled respite in coffee shops, where we were able to cool our skin in the icy aircon and simultaneously freeze our insides with large quantities of frappe ready for the renewed onslaught of sun and humidity. We also enjoyed some superb nature walks in the steamy heat of the jungle, where the only air conditioning available was a hand-held fan, being sure to take with us damp towels for mopping our face and neck and plenty of drinking water.
It was such a pleasure to be able to get all hot and sweaty on these excursions and then cool off with a shower (at least two a day!) without having to worry about “repairing the damage”. It was lovely to lie by the hotel pool, working on a tan, until I simply had to jump in (something I hardly ever dared to do in public when I had widespread vitiligo). It was a superb holiday – especially as it provided a welcome dose of warmth and brightness in the middle of a drab UK Winter - but it was all the more enjoyable because it reminded me of how very thankful I am to be able to do some of the things that most people would take for granted (like getting hot and being exposed to strong sunshine) but which I had previously spent a lifetime avoiding.
My name is Caroline.