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Power Outages and the Power of Patience

The electric power and running water have gone out for at least five hours a day, every day, for the past two weeks here in Sogakope. Nooo!

Usually these outages strike from mid-day to nightfall, but no one can predict exactly when they will start or end.

Are the utility companies purposely shutting off the water and power to work on some major problem in the system?

Are the outages just accidental and infuriating results of the sweltering temperatures?

Several people have tried to hazard guesses about the root of the blackouts, but their theories haven’t registered with me because by the time they hit their second word, my burning brain has always already gone to “I’M HOT I’M HOT I’M HOT” Land.

Why? Because this is what happens to you when the power goes out here:

1. You were inevitably JUUUST about to take a shower, and have also more than likely just spilled some form of foodstuffs (often oily red soup) upon your arms and clothes. You smell, and you are also sticky. Sticky and stinky = you.

Sit in a grumpy lump and think: “All I want to do now is take a shower, or at least wash my hands… and that is not possible for at least four more hours. Noooo!”

Feel really, really dirty, not to mention covered with red soup. And then…

2. All the fans in the house have ground to a halt and the air becomes thick with heat so intense it is drinkable.

Sweat beads up on your nose and upper lip, between your breasts (or muscular pecs, should you be a man), and all along the curve of your spine. Then your legs themselves will begin to sweat, dripping rivulets from your knee creases to your ankles that tickle as they slide down.

Feel really, really, REALLY dirty. Step outside for air, but it’s midday and the sun is penetrating even the concrete roof of the porch, not to mention the thin leaves of the trees. Nooo!

3. Maybe you were in the middle of a majorly time-sensitive laptop task, such as sending an American teacher her pack of intro Ghana student penpal letters before the start of her class on Monday.

Well too bad, bub, because you forgot to charge your computer last night, and now you have exactly five minutes before the battery sputters into indolence and doesn’t have a drink of power juice in sight!

There’s nothing you can do. Feel for your poor, thirsty battery. Feel for that teacher who won’t get her letters in time. Nooo!

4. If you have just been teaching writing class in the YCC office, the students who have stayed after class to type up their life story articles (we should– hooray!– be ready to start publishing them this week, by the way) will have been JUUUST about to save the three paragraphs they’ve painstakingly written when– POP!– the entire room goes dark.

“Nooo!” you scream, echoing the goats frolicking outside on the rock pile. “Nooo!!!”

And this is the moment when you realize something: it is not you, but those YCC students have had to re-type their articles not two but THREE different times already who should be screaming and cursing like tipsy goats– but they’re not.

First, these dear young people should be screaming because of the debacle where they all typed onto one computer and then we realized that the USB drive on that one was broken and there was no internet access on it. This meant that the students’ documents were just stuck, jailed, trapped on that machine forever– and the kids needed to start typing again, from scratch, on another machine. Nooo!

But the brave YCC students picked up their notebooks, uncomplaining, and moved to the next machine.

Alas, on the second computer, there was some sort of freakish erasing poltergeist that literally just made complete documents disappear. We never figured it out, but we did figure out that the three full articles typed and saved onto that computer were no longer there the next day. The poltergeist had struck.

Undaunted, uncomplaining, the students shifted their notebooks over, again, to a third computer.

And then we were typing on that trusty and hardy third computer, and had, blessedly, almost finished– when the lights flickered out into the echoing darkness of yet another blackout.


And that was when I started freaking out like a madwoman… but the students did not.

The seven children sighed softly, gathered their belongings, carefully stacked the classroom chairs, flipped the tables on top of one another for easy sweeping, shook my hand, and sweetly said: “We will get it done this week, Madam Lillie. Don’t worry!”

And thus the teacher became the taught.

The class? Calm, Grace, Persistence, and Patience 101.

(Note: Confused about what is shown in the first photo? It is a metal statue from outside Hotel Cisneros, Sogakope, of a man with a boy on his shoulders. Cisneros is right on the Volta River and thus gets a cool breeze, so it’s a delicious place to flee to during blackouts!)

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