Dumso

Dumso: “lights off” meaning an electrical black out.

Macondo does not have electricity and is therefore in perpetual dumso. Which is odd because there are functioning electrical lines going right passed us. I have been to remote communities in the bush and they have electricity. So, why not call up the electric company and hook us up to the grid? Because politics is involved. I have inquired with many different people what the story is and after five months I still do not really know, which can only mean one of two things:
1. The people themselves do not really know or
2. They do not want to tell me the real story.

It is probably a little bit of both for the one consistent bit of information I have picked up is that this has been an ongoing battle, spanning several years and counting. I do not know if this election year will make any difference to little Macondo’s electrical situation. Local politicians have promised it and it seems that each time, the people become hopeful. Apparently, we are supposed to have lights by the end of the year. I am not holding my breath.

What I worry about is lights actually coming to Macondo because following close behind will be more vendors, meaning more trash in the streets. Televisions and big speakers will be purchased, which means noise. At all hours of the day and night. All the positive things electricity can bring is blinding to all the terrible things. Which can be avoided if the people of a community are aware and take steps to avoid it. For example, garbage bins and noise curfews. If during my service electricity becomes likely, I will certainly try to hold some sensitization meetings. It may a be losing battle but at least I will have tried.

20160421_182858
Moonlight: the only thing illuminating my path when I go to Fatimata’s (my community mom) house to make coco or hang out at night.

But anyway, politics aside – what is it actually like to live without electricity? Refreshing. I read more and do not spend hours on end locked inside my room watching movies on my laptop. Also, I am never disappointed about not having electricity because I do not expect it. I have heard countless other PCVs become frustrated when they have had to deal with no electricity for three days or it going off in the middle of the night. It is simply one less thing to deal with and my habits have adapted to accommodate not having this commodity. It has gotten to the point that I walk into our sub-office and do not first reach for the light switch only to have other PCVs find me rummaging around for something in the dark and switching the light on themselves, stating “you know the electricity is running, right?”

I have a small 8W single port solar panel and two 5V rechargeable batteries and that is how I keep my cellphone charged without having to go into my market town everyday just for that. I bought the solar panel and one battery off a PCV who no longer needed them and the other battery in country from Burro. I hardly turn my laptop on, really only using it when I go to an ICT center (again, in my market town). I also do have two small solar lights that I use in the first few hours after dusk as I am generally in bed by 9pm. The rainy season has just started and it is proving to be challenging to charge these items up as full as before. The strangest thing is although I do not have electricity, I have excellent cellphone service and 3G internet. With my smartphone, I have easy access to email and all my social media accounts. In fact, the best Facebook and Whats App calls are the ones I have made from here to the US and Philippines.

So still – these little gadgets and cellphone service allow me to have a very ‘connected’ village life. Imagine what it was like before these inventions. And that would have been the case for most PCVs around the world.

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