Monday, February 27, 2006

Do not try this at home.

I often chuckle at the mud guards on bicycles in Kenya, or the signs in the back of taxi windows. One boda-boda (bicycle taxi) I often pass has a mud guard that reads, "Power is nothing without control."

I'm starting to consider a sign to be put up by our light switches about power... We hadn't had power rationings in about two weeks, but then yesterday the power went out and stayed out till this evening. Half of our compound had power, the other half not. When I called Kenya Power again this morning when I woke up (they had promised they'd be out to check on the problem yesterday), the person on duty had no record of our power being out. "We'll send someone right away!" he assured me.

Eleven hours and several phone calls later, still no Kenya Power.

But before we knew they'd show up for sure, Don connected four long extension cords from the Children's Home office to my house so we could fire up the satellite connection. Here, the power supply is 220V. Our extension cords are 110, so fortunately he connected a step-down transformer to bring the power down to 110V. I say fortunately, because after I had plugged in all the equipment and hit the power button, I picked up the power strip to move it. I had bare feet on the cement floor. The power strip was metal. And one of the four extension cords must have been frayed, because the next moment I was dancing mid-air!

There was power, all right! But it was out of control!

For a brief moment, I think I ran around like a chicken without a head until I found a plank and turned off the power. And then Raymond (the electrician) called: He had gone to town to go and escort the guys from Kenya Power to come and investigate what the problem was. All they had to do was replace a fuse. (Not a small one. A big fuse in the power line.)

Soon after that, we had another blackout, but I called Kenya Power right away and they told me, "Don't worry. It will be back on soon." Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when the power did in fact come back on about 15 minutes later.

Mama Chiri smiled at me when she stopped by while the power was out. She knows by now that it's a bit of a hassle to us wazungu when there's no power to run our refridgerators. Every time we have a long power outage like this, her family becomes the lucky winners of all the meat in my freezer. (Not that I keep a lot, but with the journey to town being like it is, I try to buy groceries for at least a week.) My mzungu system won't stomach meet that's not been refridgerated for a day. Their Kenyan stomachs are totally used to it! No regular butchery even owns a fridge! Only the supermarkets that cater to Indians and wazungu keep their meet cold or frozen.

When you walk and open your fridge today, thank God for consistent power that keeps things nice and cool!

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