Thursday, January 26, 2012

On living at high altitude

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is at roughly 7,700 feet above sea level. Essentially the city is on a large plateau. This is my first time living at a high altitude and I’ve learned a few things in just the few weeks we’ve been here.
I’m fat and old. Well, at least the altitude makes me feel that way. I am sucking wind pretty hard when I reach the top of our four flights of stairs. Going up and down during the day is all the exercise I need right now. It takes about a month to get acclimated to the new altitude. I can feel the stairs getting easier and easier as the weeks go on.
I’m starving. Our bodies work extra hard while moving around in the high altitude and I’m burning a ton more calories just living in this thin air. That makes me hungry all the time. Addie and Bella are hungry all the time too. I’ve never seen these children ask for as much food as they have in the past few weeks. Nursing Ashlynn is burning a ton of calories every day too. In the few weeks we’ve been living here I’ve lost enough of the baby weight to get back into a pair of jean shorts I bought while we were in New Zealand in October of 2010! WooHoo for getting my pre-baby body back. High altitude is kind of awesome in this way actually. Keeping enough healthy snacks on hand for the girls is kind of tough though.
I’m thirsty like a camel. It’s extremely easy to get dehydrated here. Maybe it’s a combination of being at a high altitude and at the equator at the same time. Whatever the reason, we have to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. We get headaches frequently in the evenings if we haven’t had enough. If the girls wake up with dry crinkly lips I know they haven’t had enough. I go through about three Nalgene bottles full of water in a 24 hour period and that’s probably still not enough.
I’m exhausted. Just for the same reasons I’m hungry all the time; I feel even more tired at the end of each day. Having three kids under the age of five has something to do with it too; but my body is working pretty hard to get oxygen where it needs to go let alone run after my little ones. I’ve noticed the entire family is crashing harder at night.
I can still bake. I was nervous about trying to bake at high altitudes but really, it’s not much trouble at all. I’ve made banana pineapple bread, brownies, and bread pudding so far (after much searching for the ingredients-and making some substitutions here and there) and everything has turned out great. I simply adjust the recipe a bit according to a high altitude baking chart I found online and BAM-yummy eats are still in our house. Justin isn’t completely thrilled about this because he wants that high altitude extra calorie burning factor to help him stay slim and trim. My baking doesn’t help but it sure tastes good.
The sun in intense. Spending even a short amount of time in the Addis Ababa sun gives the girls a pink tinge. The weather may not be hot and humid here but the sun is much more intense than we are used to. I am trying to load up on SPF for everyone.
We have a marathon runner in the making. Little Ashlynn will have the amazing lung capacity of an Ethiopian runner by the time we leave here. Summer Olympics 2030? Maybe!


Kathleen said...

After living at altitude for a few years, y'all will feel like superstar athletes when you get back to sea level.

I take Ginko Biloba when I go up to Colorado to ski at 10,000-13,000 feet. It seems to help the adjustment. I think research says it helps your brain use oxygen more efficiently. Might be hard to get in Ethiopia but worth a try if you can find some.

Daniela Swider said...

I didn't know Adis was that high up. Interesting! Just tells you how ignorant I am, ha...