February is the hottest month of the year. Tonight is one of the hottest nights of the year.
And 50 minutes ago, at 8:49 P.M. East African Time the electricity went off.
Who made the stupid decision to turn off the electricity on Valentine’s Day?
It is ironic that all through the months and months of no electricity 12 hours a day, six days a week my generator – my beautiful, beloved, all-important, life-saving generator – named Barney in honor of the purple dinosaur - mostly ran as smooth as a pussy cat. (Except for the day when Raymond and Robert decided to clean it by washing it down with a hose and water which caused a fuse to short and subsequently a small fire. But that was way back in November.)
Since December, the electricity is back on. We went from almost nothing, to almost everything. For the past 10 weeks we’ve had practically non-stop, 24-hour a day electricity – with three hours off here, and hour or two there maybe once or twice a week. I almost forgot how bad it was. How bad it could be.
That was before Monday night. Monday night, as I was innocently sitting on the couch watching CNN tell me yet again how badly the US is screwing up the world, the lights went out. And this time Barney didn’t start up. Raymond tried and he tried, but nothing happened. Shit!
I could hear the hum of the generators emanating from the American Embassy houses next door and across the street. But it was their hum, not mine. It is a terribly annoying sound – one that I never really noticed before. Usually Barney drowns it out, and some other nearby neighbor is forced to suffer through the hum (actually rattle) of my generator while he or she sweets away.
It was almost 11 so I decided to go to sleep. But my room was too hot, so I decided to sleep in the living room where up until a few minutes before the air conditioner had been purring away.
I couldn’t decide… was it better to lie in the living room with the windows closed? It was stuffy, but there was still a modicum of cool air in the room. Or should I open the windows and let the hot, humid, fetid air run over me? At least the air would be moving.
I opted for the windows closed and then got naked down to my panties. (I apologize for the mental image. And Julia… I’ve used the word “panties” just for you.) I spread a sheet on the couch; laid on my back; and eventually through sheer will fell asleep.
About five hours later I popped awake, started by the sound of no generators.
I was a sweaty mess with a massive headache. The kids were worse. But the electricity was back on and I ran back to my room, took a cold shower, and climbed into my nice cool bed.
The next day my landlord Mr. Haji (or Mzee Haji – old man Haji – a term of respect that the kids have started using with him) came with three or four fundi who pronounced the machine in need of a major overall. Multiple parts are on order from Dubai. It will be at least another 10 days before my purple giant of a generator roars back to life.
Thank God for computer batteries. At least I can stay distracted while I sweat. Perhaps I have even entertained you with this terribly boring story.
I’m not unaware that I am, after all, living in Africa. And that compared to the way that most people live, I am over-privileged and probably just a spoilt brat for even complaining to you about two nights without electricity. But there is a reason I never joined the Peace Corps. I am just a nice Jewish girl from NY who will not apologize for wanting my basic modern conveniences.
I know a lot of foreigners in Tanzania suffering from “white man’s guilt”. I’m not one of them.
I just want the air conditioner to be running in my house on the hottest night of the year.
P.S. The good news is… if you are reading this it means I’m sitting in an air conditioned room attached to the Internet.
P.P.S Thank you to the people who tried to vote for me for the blog award. It turns out that the voting was over the day after I posted the blog. All I know is that I didn't win. But it was an honor just to be nominated. We are all winners, really ;)