It’s somehow easy to cope with not having running water, because you can always go fetch some from a borehole and refill your jerricans. But when the electricity goes out, you’re screwed. Some organizations have solar power (which is a beautiful thing) but it’s very expensive and Kuluva does not have it. Most of the time, our power goes out for 30 minutes, but it can be as long as a few hours. I always have faith that it will come back shortly . . . but sometimes it doesn’t.
I returned from Kampala on a Saturday afternoon and the power was on – a pleasant surprise. I got a drink of cold water from my refrigerator and starting watching a movie on my computer. Then around 7:30pm the power went out – typical. I expected it to come back in an hour, so I continued watching Star Wars – even though I’ve seen it a billion times, I still wanted to finish it. The power didn’t come back that night. “No big deal, surely it be on in the morning,” I thought.
On Sunday, I got up and there still was no electricity. Bummer. But sometimes on the weekend, the power gets shut off for an entire day. “Ok. I’ll ride to town, go to the market, grab some lunch, and come back in the afternoon. Surely the power will be back then!” I went and did all those things and came back . . . still no power.
By the time Monday evening rolled around and the power had not come back, I started to seriously stress out. I only use electricity for a few things, but they’re vital.
Laptop: At this point, my laptop battery was down to 15% and I still had a ton of emails to write for Peace Corps.
iPod/Speakers/Kindle: My iPod was dead and my Kindle had 45% left.
Cell phone: Only had one bar left.
Refrigerator: My fridge was nice and warm now and all of the food I just bought was spoiling.
Electric kettle: I use it to boil water (for tea/coffee and hot bucket baths), but when the power is out, I boil water on my stove. However, my gas tank is also running low.
Lights: During the day there’s no problem with the power out, and at night I have a headlamp and a couple of candles. Also, Peace Corps issued each of us a solar-powered desk lamp during training. But I let Amviko borrow it when I was out of town and she has yet to return it. That was last August.
I was stressing out about the food, but figured it’s a minimal loss. My computer was a concern and I thought I might be able to bring it to Arua and charge it in a restaurant while I ate some lunch. But the bigger issue was my cell phone. I needed it charged right away.
And then I remembered the solar charger I bought at the last minute before leaving the States. Since my house has electricity, I never used it. In fact, I had listed it ‘for sale’ on the Peace Corps website. I dug it out of my suitcase, unwrapped the shiny new plastic, and plugged my cell phone into it. Thankfully the solar pack came with a fully-charged battery. I managed to charge my phone, iPod, and Kindle before for the solar battery wore out. Thank goodness I bought that! (*All of the work I do at the nursing school is on computers. So when the power is out, I have nothing to do. And my Kindle and iPod become of great importance.)
My neighbor, Jimmy, is very informative and I always go to him to find out the local news. He told me that another part of the dam broke and they had to order the part from Germany (again). In the meantime, Kuluva was supposed to get plugged back into the maid power grid with Wenreco, the local electric company. Unfortunately, Wenreco had a transformer blow, so the blackout lasted longer that expected.
It would be one thing if I never had electricity at all – I would manage my life differently. But when I expect to have power and then it goes away, it’s the uncertainty of its return that kills me.