One ever-present (or perhaps ever-absent) reality of life in Kampala is load-shedding: a technical and euphemistic term for electricity being turned off in certain areas. There are any number of causes why this has to happen: for one, the government hasn’t paid its electricity bills; for another, Uganda exports some of the electricity it generates to neighbouring countries, creating a shortfall at home. And of course, there are the usual suspects of corruption and mismanagement.
For businesses, this is crippling. For us, it’s mostly just annoying. Sometimes there seems to be a pattern to the load-shedding; usually the power will got out every other night, but every now and then the schedule will get thrown off.
And so it was that last Tuesday night, with both of our birthdays approaching, and with the need to celebrate becoming apparent, we calculated that Saturday night would be a good night to have a party because we should, if the load-shedding continued it’s every-other-night pattern, have electricity that night.
But some strange things started happening on Friday: the power went out, as we expected, but then it came back on much earlier in the night than normal. Then on Saturday, the electricity was on for most of the day. The longer it stayed, the more worried we got: Surely we wouldn’t be so fortunate as to have power for 24 consecutive hours, would we?
NO. About two hours before the party was set to start, with darkness approaching outside, the power peremptorily cut out.
Faith sprang into action, stationing candles in strategic places around our apartment. The ambience was set…
As it so often is in Kampala, load-shedding and electricity was a topic of conversation at our party. Someone asked me what would happen if the electricity went out in the US. I answered, and perhaps my American readers could be back me up here, that there would be absolute pandemonium. People would panic, immediately suspect a terrorist attack, and rush to the store to buy a year’s supply of flashlights and batteries.
In Uganda, we’re used to losing power, though, and that’s why this party could still be a good time; because if you’re used to losing power, you’re adept at coping without it. Depending on your income, you either buy a generator, or an inverter, or candles. You do as many electricity-dependent activities as possible while the power is on, and you find creative ways to do tasks that seemed dependent on electricity without it.
That being said, THIS NEEDS TO STOP!