Zambezi Kiwi

Living in Zimbabwe

Power cuts and culture shock

May 30, 2019

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.

4 thoughts on “Power cuts and culture shock

  1. Viki Johnson says:

    You are an inspiration! Frustrated and ticked, but moving to acceptance and plans, like a BOSS!!! I can’t even imagine! I had a two block road detour today and was mad! LOL. You keep my perspective sharpened, living here is way too easy.
    Love you guys


    1. Ha! I still do have my moments, but when you’ve committed to living in a place for a minimum of five years it’s acceptance or perish!! Anyways, thanks for all the encouragements, they are much appreciated xx


  2. Maida Killen says:

    Dear Narelle & Will. Truthfully you are never forgotten but I have been very remiss at being in touch BUT we love your blogs -your ups and downs and we can see a lot of your life in our minds. Power cuts nearly drove us mad when we worked in every time the building of the furniture looked to be progressing and down went the power. The plus side was I could still paint them!!! We seem to have had plenty to do these days and are SOO great full for our good health. Delighted with the arrival of Heidi Alice Henson -( I had a special time with them all before she was born. We are also looking forward to the arrival of our No 7 Great Grandchild in Dec. First Grandchild for Veronica & Stafford . All very exciting!!! We are going to a CAP fundraiser next week (for Wills interest) per Tim Perfect who has gone back to England). To day it’s turned cooler a d lots of rain – been the mildest May we can ever remember. We are enjoying RSCC. Appear to be many new people and seeing that we are in the eighties range we find it hard to know everyone.
    Well just wanted you to know you are. OT forgotten but we do miss seeing you so much. Our love to you and to Mr Kepler!!! Children are such great mates.


  3. Shane Joubert says:

    Hi Narelle ,
    Really enjoying your blogs ,they always give me a smile and often a yearning for the country but Zim can be a challenge for sure .


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