Today is a pretty good day, actually, but there are some not so stellar ones around here. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in a foreign country, seeing and doing things I would never manage at home.
But I miss my friends and family at home, and some of the things I used to do. (Oh how I miss my chiropractor!) So when things don’t work as I would like, I definitely have the occasional homesick day. I don’t usually write then, as I’m sure I’d come off as a big whiner, but there really are some interesting things that happen that tell you a lot about life in Khartoum (Sudan – I mention Khartoum specifically because, as the capital, it is very different from the rest of the country)
Let me tell you about my trials and tribulations with electricity in Khartoum. First, I am part of the lucky few that have access to both air conditioning and a generator. The AC is nice when it works, and then the generator powers lights, the fridge and ceiling fans (but not the AC or other high-demand appliances) when the power goes out. Since the power goes out at least once a day (too much demand on a too small supply, which yes, is somewhat related to the growing number of air conditioners in use), the generator is very nice to have indeed. The generator was on a switch, so it only provided power if someone was in the apartment to turn the switch when the power went out, so it wasn’t ideal, but still better than not having a generator at all. I could never, ever drink milk from my fridge without checking whether or not it had gone off though.
The first problem appeared in mid-July, when suddenly the generator was providing too much electricity to my apartment. Enough energy that it managed to short out eight appliances in one go (including two voltage regulators that are deigned to deal with the spikes of electricity that occur regularly with the city supply, the fridge, and both of my radios (for security))! It took a week or so, but the building management fixed the problem (something to do with the ground wire not being properly connected).
Then, at the beginning of August, the switch that changes the apartment electric supply from city to generator broke. Now, a lot of other people live in this city without a generator, but my building was built with the generator in mind. What else would explain the large, east facing windows in a desert country? So a nice Saturday, my only day off on the Civic holiday weekend, was spent lying on my couch while two to five Sudanese men tried to fix the switch. Unfortunately, more parts were needed, so it took a few more days, but did eventually work out.
But the worst was when the original problem suddenly came back for an encore! Three problems and at least twelve appliances broken, in less than a month! The owner of the apartment (who is not the owner of the building) decided he was tired of dealing with this, and told my employer to fix the problem and bill him for it. So, with our own (contractor) engineer, the problem seems to be solved (fingers crossed, knock on wood, and whatever other superstitions exist, as I haven’t had a good go of it yet). And, as a plus, he installed an automatic switch which allows the generator to kick in automatically! No more fumbling for the switch in the dark and less testing of the milk too!