For the last three years, we benefited from something that is very uncommon in Zambia – a 24-hour backup generator. In Zambia, the stability and availability of electricity is not always guaranteed, and most people experience something called “load shedding.”
Load shedding is a concept where the power company shuts off the power to a section (or usually multiple sections) of town to be able to distribute the limited supply of power to other areas. The demand is just too great for the infrastructure to handle, so this is how they manage it.
At our former house, there was a medical emergency service that operated in the same complex we rented from, and they needed to always have power. So, they had installed a generator that provided constant power to all of the people who lived there. The most we were without power, except for a couple rare occasions, was 12 seconds, when the power went out and the generator clicked back on. Charlie even got used to the 12-second “black-out.” Wherever he was when the power went out – in the bath tub, getting ready for bed, running around the house, etc. – he would stop dead in his tracks, be totally quiet and still, and wait for the power to come back on.
I remember thinking quite often how blessed we were to not have to deal with the woes of load shedding or other power outages, especially at 5pm each evening when I was cooking dinner!
But now that we’ve moved from that place, we are in with the majority of people who get to experience power outages at any moment and for any amount of time. Today, we have our househelper, Grace, and a tailor, Mr. Sichula, here working. The power went out right as Grace was about to cook lunch – nshima, beans, and sweet potato leaves. So, we fired up the grill, and she is right now cooking lunch for us the old fashioned way.
Mr. Sichula is here this week making curtains for our new place (not too many things come pre-made here with the luxury of running down to Target or Walmart to buy!). He is now busy cutting all the material and doing whatever else he can do until the power comes back on for him to sew it all up.
In the end, lunch will be about 3 hours late, the curtains may still get finished on time, and hopefully our power will come back on before it gets dark. Derek almost fainted from starvation, so he grabbed a fast PBJ to tied him over, and the rest of us are waiting it out (Zambians are very adept at waiting). But I think I might smell something delicious wafting in from the backyard – “lunch” might be getting close to being ready, at 3:15!