I woke-up on Saturday morning drenched in sweat.
The power had been out for 12 hours and would continue to be out for the next 12 hours. I shifted onto my stomach and pressed a pillow over my head. The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) had started load shedding or cutting power at intervals due to a reported energy shortage.
Last week, ECG started to cut power to residential areas every 12 hours for 24 hours. With load shedding, there is no forewarning before the power cuts (referred to locally as ‘lights-off’ or ‘dumsor’). But after the second unexpected power cut within a 24-hour period, one can begin to observe a pattern.
I rolled out of bed and started preparing my morning coffee. I took my Bialetti, a stove-top coffeemaker, and emptied yesterday’s grinds. At the sink, I opened the tap to fill the percolator’s bottom compartment; no water flowed.
I stared at the tap. Releasing a heavy sigh, I set the Bialetti on the counter and walked across the studio to my wardrobe in five strides. I pulled on a knee-length skirt over the running shorts I had slept in and grabbed a cooking pot from the stove.
Sulking, I exited my flat and walked down the hall. My bare feet glided over the cool tiles.
“Hopefully it will be a cool day,” I thought to myself.
Still groggy, I narrowly ducked under the first clothesline in the laundry area at the end of the hall and stopped. Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I carefully ducked under the remaining clotheslines and wove around the damp laundry set out to dry the night before.
On reaching the spigot at the back wall, I crouched down and, balancing the pot on my knee with one hand, I opened the tap with the other. The tap, fed by a borehole, flowed.
Back in my flat, I finished preparing the Bialetti and set it to brew on the gas stove.
On Sunday, I helped my friend and her husband move to North Kaneshie, a 20 minute drive from my flat in Labone. Rather than deal with the erratic electricity, my friend, five months pregnant, and I stayed the night in a guesthouse with air conditioning and a backup generator. After dropping our bags at the guesthouse, I received an SMS from Surfline, my internet service provider. The company’s data center had caught fire.
I rolled my eyes. “Ghana, Really? What the fuck?!”
On Monday evening, my friend and I relaxed, after a full day of cleaning, in her North Kaneshie flat. Although the new air conditioner leaked, it worked (thankfully).
Then the power cut at six o’clock.
To prevent malaria-carrying mosquitos from entering the flat, we only opened the two windows with screens installed. With poor ventilation, the air quickly became heavy.
By seven o’clock, the sun had fully set and we sat in the dark. I sat cross-legged on the flat’s tile floor resting my left elbow on my knee and my head on my fist. With my other hand, I fanned my friend with the air-conditioner’s user manual.
Fifteen minutes later, her husband, a chef, arrived at the flat and took us back to his work, a nearby Indian/Lebanese restaurant. We sat down at the restaurant a bit dazed, our eyes still adjusting to the light. Five minutes later he brought out virgin mojitos.
Today is Wednesday and I am writing this post from my flat in Labone. The power cut at seven o’clock this morning. For the time being, the water is flowing but Surfline is still down.
Update from Accra Power Watch 2015 (dated 02/06): It’s Friday and the power has been back for almost 36 hours. Let’s hope it is here to stay (at least until Monday morning)!
Does anyone have any tips or tricks for staying level-headed and weathering lights-off? As always, humor is welcome.