I woke up immediately on Monday night when the electricity went out. The fan stopped spinning, the breeze in my room died, and I started sweating. It was a long night.
On Tuesday morning I turned the taps in my bathroom sink and discovered that there was no running water. This has been an ongoing problem because the plumbing was not installed correctly in our apartment. We typically have water for two to three days before the pipes go dry and our landlord calls a plumber. I showered with what was left of my 750 ml bottle of Uhai mineral drinking water and left for work and the promise of AC.
There was no power at work either. As there had been a scheduled electrical outage in the neighbourhood on Monday, the inverter had not been charged and none of the computers were functioning. I packed up my belongings and headed to a coffee shop at Shoppers Plaza to plug in my laptop and get some work done. The whole shopping complex is powered by a generator so there is electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I was not the only one who tried to set up an office in the coffee shop. Within twenty minutes, the place was packed and people were fighting over the limited number of plug- ins. One-by-one all of the lamps in the restaurant were unplugged as customers began recharging their laptops and cell phones. Long cords snaked into the adjacent computer store, which had a few free plug-ins along a wall.
I stayed at the coffee shop until late afternoon, hoping that by the time I returned home both the electricity and the water would be functional. No such luck. Somewhat ironically, though, there had been a rain storm and large, deep pools of water covered the streets. Deep enough to bathe in. On a quiet strip of Old Bagamoyo, a small corner store was an island in a sea of rainwater. The shopkeeper stood on the front steps, resigned to the water that swirled around him. Another store owner had set up four small tables between the road and his shop to make a small bridge over the flooded parking lot, and was leading people to his store entrance by having them hop from table to table. An SUV raced down the road, spraying and drenching all of the pedestrians.
I discussed the plumbing situation with the landlord, who was supposed to arrange for a plumber to come during the day. She didn’t call the plumber. By way of explanation, she simply shrugged and said, this is Africa. This is one of her favourite sayings and one which I find infuriating. It doesn’t seem fair to blame the entire continent for plumbing problems, especially when the problem could have easily been resolved by calling the plumber. I noted, as well, that our landlord still had running water so the problem could not have been endemic to the whole continent.
The next day there were rumours that one of TANESCO’s transformers had caught on fire and that this was responsible for the extended power outage across the city. Our landlord told us that the plumbing issue in our apartment could not be fixed until the power came back on. Another shower with a bottle of water. Another day working in the coffee shop.
On Thursday morning there was another thunderstorm and I tumbled down the flight of stairs leading to my apartment. The gutter releases the rainwater from the roof straight onto our front steps, transforming them into a death trap in the rain. I limped, bruised and bloody, to work and, confirming that there was no power, on to the coffee shop. Another set of stairs slick with the rain. Another fall.
The power and the water came back on Thursday evening and lasted until Friday morning when I left for work. It is now lunchtime on Friday and the power at work has gone out again. I hope against hope that this doesn’t mean the power will be out at home.
At least it is Friday. And if the plumbing goes out again this weekend I can go for a swim in the Indian Ocean.