It feels quite appropriate to be writing a blog about power cuts just after writing one about the fun and wonder of camping.
Basically, that’s what living here feels like a lot of the time. AMAZINGLY high highs, followed by slammed-into-a-brick-wall lows. My father-in-law once described living in Africa as being “like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland”, and I now really get it. It’s the arbitrary, crazy selection between what functions and what doesn’t.
This time the brick wall/lack of function was the sudden announcement, two weeks out from opening our lodge, that we would be load shedding for nine hours a day.
That’s right. From 6am till 3pm, four days a week, we have no power. (We are Cycle 2 if you’re interested.)
Thankfully, so far, the 3-9pm cuts aren’t eventuating.
Anyways, I would explain why these cuts are happening, but the truth is I don’t really understand power generation and distribution even in a country like NZ, let alone Zim. All I can tell you is that in Zim it has something to do with Lake Kariba and the low water levels after a very dry rainy season.
We had heard rumors that the power cuts were quite bad in Bulawayo and Harare for weeks before they hit here. Suddenly, about a week ago, it was our turn.
Our lodge generator, being brought up from South Africa, was ordered in Feb, but thanks to hectic load shedding in SA resulting in a backlog of generator orders there, will only arrive in June. After we open.
It turns out guests expect lights, and fans and air conditioners and hair dryers and things, so after two days of something akin to depression, my husband did his usual and made a plan.
Our generator was shifted up to the lodge. An inverter was hooked up for the office. Then, we got on with business.
I, however, was struggling to get out of my funk on this one. The incompetence, the cost to the country, business, the sheer, blinding stupidity involved, were making my blood boil. As I delicately expressed my emotions to my mum over a video call, she announced that I was in the fourth stage of culture shock.
“You’re seeing the realities now. The honeymoon phase is over. You’re just going to have to be gracious,” she said, as if obnoxiously massive power cuts were very matter-of-fact.
I told mum she sounded like a counselor. To be fair, she is a counselor and she did sessions with Middle Eastern and Asian exchange students on culture shock for a few years at the local uni during their orientation week.
(Quick aside, this is one of the things I love about my mum: The evangelical Christian who adopted a bunch of Middle Eastern Muslim lads missing their mums, and helped them figure out life in NZ. They adored her. I love her practical, no-nonsense, servant heart, and the beautiful humanity of that picture so often missed in media portrayals of how our society works).
Mum won the argument, and I got off the phone knowing I’d better move on to ‘acceptance’ if I didn’t want to end up permanently bitter and twisted.
So, now we have a new routine: ironing, washing, and baking are all done on Tuesday and Thursday, when we have power. Ice goes from freezer to fridge when the power cuts to keep the fridge cold (and opening it is kept to a minimum).
Dog food, meat for dinner and milk are pulled out of the fridge before a scheduled power cut, and put away again if it doesn’t eventuate.
We have a good supply of matches and candles, and batteries in all the torches. Fortunately, we have a gas stove, so cooking dinner isn’t a problem.
Thankfully, it’s winter so we don’t need air conditioners or fans on.
I work from home when the power is on in the morning, and from the lodge, or somewhere else when it is off. We charge everything to full when we have power.
Eventually, we will get our generator back, and life will regain some normalcy. And really, I’m just learning to do what Zimbabweans have done for years now: make a plan, and get on with life.