Saturday, June 16, 2007
Here, in Malava, especially during the rainy season, the power goes out quite frequently. However, seeing that 95% or more of Malava is without power to begin with, a power outage only really effects a small number of people. I am one of those people.
During the early afternoon, when it is not raining, the power can go out for what seems like no reason at all. I was told that on those days the power company has not produced enough power to go around and so they are rationing it. In most cases, this happens while I am busy working at the St. Julie Centre, which doesn’t have power anyway, so I am not usually affected.
The Sisters of Notre Dame, who live in a large compound just up the road, have a fancy-shmancy solar power system with large panels mounted on the roof, so usually they are not affected as well. The obvious disadvantage to having solar power is that when it rains there is not usually enough sun to recharge the system. So it seems that in Malava, no matter what kind of system you are using, power is scarce and everyone is trying to conserve energy.
Every time it rains the power is almost certain to go out. Having been through it a few times already, I have developed a system for survival. I start by quickly plugging in everything that uses rechargeable batteries. I plug in my laptop, my mobile phone, and lastly my AA battery charger itself. To keep all of these things near, where I need them, I plug them all into the one single outlet in my bedroom. When I look at all of the plugs protruding from the wall I am reminded of a scene from the holiday movie classic, A Christmas Story. In the movie, the quirky father blows a fuse while trying to light the family Christmas tree from a similar looking overloaded outlet. After I plug in everything I can’t resist a reenactment of the scene. I fiddle with the cords. I point to were each one goes. Then I shrug my shoulders, shake my head, and recite the punch line, “It’s just one too many.” I suppose, in the end, the joke is on me because I know very soon I will be in darkness, and then I won’t be laughing.
At night, when the power finally goes out, as one might expect, it gets very dark in the house. I hope that by this time all of the batteries have been recharged. However, a strange thing about that is that, if they are charged, I am afraid to use any of them. In most cases, the power goes back on within a day or two, but I have been told that it can easily be much longer. And so I try to save all of the power I have by living in darkness.
As one might also expect, there is not much to do in the dark when the power is out. Luckily, I have some candles, a kerosene lantern, and a propane gas stove. I light the lantern and make shadow puppets on the wall while I cook rice for dinner. As I move from the house, across the courtyard, to the kitchen and back in the dark, I can’t help but think in back of my mind that if I was attacked by bandits on this night they would really catch me at a disadvantage. I try my best not to spook myself and put it out of my mind. I finish cooking quickly, get into the house, and lock the door behind me. When all is secure I set a small table in the sitting room for a romantic, candlelight, dinner for one.
Last week, after I had eaten, I tried in vain to read by the light of the lantern, but it was hopeless. I finally accepted the inevitable and headed off to bed early with hopes and dreams of having power in the morning. Of course, it was when I had stumbled quite a bit in the pitch blackness to use the bathroom, brush my teeth, get into bed, put on my mosquito net, and put out the lantern that the power finally went on. Suddenly, all at once, all of the lights I had left on during the day, including the one directly over my bed, went on in a blinding flash. Arrgghhh! I asked for it!
Posted by tim at 11:48 PM