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Let There Be Light

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.

8 Responses to Let There Be Light

  1. naa February 5, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

    Lol…surfline is back up btw.As for dumsor the only escape route is to leave your house.

    • February 5, 2015 at 11:56 pm #

      Naa, thanks for the heads up. I saw a text message come through that users will be granted free internet for certain hours tonight and tomorrow morning. I am soaking it up!

  2. Hakeem Adam February 5, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

    Hello Clair,

    I’m Hakeem, we met at Reconnect. I am so sorry Ghana is treating all of us this way. It is really not a good time to be here. My advice on how to deal with the power outages: First is to leave, if you have anywhere else to go. Just go, i doubt the situation will get any better soon. My second lest drastic solution is to get an alternative power source for when ever you need electricity badly. Third is to find some place to be when the power is out. The last is also to run, really. I love Ghana so much , but it is just becoming to had to survive and thrive here.

    • February 6, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

      Hi Hakeem! Thanks for your comment. Dumsor can be an inconvenience; but, on the other hand, I can also just be a baby. The longer I live in Ghana, the easier it is to cope with dumsor but I like the idea of getting an alternative power source. Running sounds like a terrible way to spend dumsor. It can be hard to cool down after a long jog in the heat. :)

      • Hakeem Adam February 7, 2015 at 10:19 pm #

        LOL, i wish you the best. It seems you are having a great time in Ghana.

  3. dante February 6, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

    its just dumsor, you don’t have to say it twice. Yh, its a bit shitty in GH right now but i was hoping for a more cheerful rendition on the issue and also an angle everyone isn’t painfully aware of. Eg. we don’t have a dictator or an epidemic spreading now do we? And you can post a nice blog about this without being shot. think about it, its the little things really. Oooh, and welcome to Africa btw

    • February 8, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

      Oh, Paul. Stay tuned in for Part II! It will be more cheerful; I promise. Also, when you say “Africa” are you trying to make an overarching generalization that Africa is a country by saying that all countries on the continent are like Ghana? :) Cheers, friend.

  4. Jay May 20, 2015 at 1:48 am #

    Great Post. I will have to check back and see how your adventures and Ghana are going.

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