When The Lights Go Out

April 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

For a 2-4 month stretch back in what my guess would be 1991, my family moved temporarily to this developing town outside Abeka. We never had electric power the whole time we lived there, but it was fun- loads of fun! We would go out almost every week to every fancy hotel and restaurant in Accra. You name it; if it was newly built, we went there. It was not some rich folk adventurous spree. We weren’t rich.I think it was largely my dad’s way of trying to lift that depressing pall of the darkness from which we were all suffering. Someone gave me a mini tour of Accra when I first came back: La Beach Hotel, Golden Tulip, etc. This person probably thought I was being shown something new to me. At the same time, I was thinking back to the fork-n-knife lessons before we first went to La Beach Hotel. I was also remembering how I got to watch the Laudrop brothers play for Denmark as we awaited our dinner table at the newly-opened Golden Tulip.

I got to drive those push carts with my sisters when we’d go to fetch water. If you’ve never been on one, you should give it a try- preferably on a quiet back road which also slopes gently along the way. But there was nothing fun about being in the dark all the time. The worst light-offs were when it seemed to affect some neighbours and not others on the same street, or how some streets always seemed like they were spared. You could always tell when someone had suffered a light off. He or she wouldn’t say anything about the previous night’s Akan drama episode at school when we’d all start recounting our favourite moments. My very worst light off, and I swear, I thought was deliberate was during this huge Oshin season-ending episode. The drama had been building up for weeks and everyone in Ghana had been hooked for months. I always made sure I didn’t have anything to do right before Oshin. I also had a huge crush on her; you would’ve been, too, if you had been there.

So, the day comes and we’re all anticipating what’s going to happen. I think she was planning to run away from her husband’s family home. Then, BAM! LIGHT OFF!! “It’s ok. They’ll surely turn it on tonight of all nights,” I told myself. It wasn’t the usual dotted deal we’d usually see. It was the whole subdivision of Exhibition, Dansoman (a suburb of Accra). Then the seconds stroked ever so slowly around the clock. The light wasn’t coming. It was beyond painful. GBC didn’t do repeat shows, so if you missed something, you missed it! I was beside myself. You know that feeling when you’re beyond exasperated and you just don’t know what to do with yourself? Ughh.. I thought, they would maybe turn the light back on and we’d distract ourselves with some local program before bed. Nope. That evening had to have been one of the longest in my life. I didn’t care to hear about how thrilling the episode was the next day at school. I was beyond sick. The worst part was, I rode the GBC bus almost every morning and walk from their news campus to school. I wanted to yell at someone on that bus, but it wasn’t their fault.

The last 15 days took me back to those months and that Oshin night without light. I’m not 11, or 13 anymore. I can handle a little darkness, but 2 weeks of almost nothing? I say almost because they do turn the light back on-i.e. when they decide to throw some of us a bone. But it’s always at the worst time. What use do I have for electricity at 12am, when my mind and body are already fried from the stress of not having any light all day? It’s usually for 3-4 hours, and then it’s back to total darkness. Yesterday was the first time since April 12 that I’ve had more than 3 hours of continuous power or even daytime power. And although I keep bemoaning the whole mess (there’s 4 more weeks of planned black-outs, btw), it was nice having the electronic tethers off: no wordpress, facebook, nytimes, huffingtonpost., gmail, gchat, any IM program, google ads following you everywhere you go, and for a while having that perfect excuse for not having called or texted people. I don’t wish for another dark fest, but I’ll miss the quiet.

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§ 2 Responses to When The Lights Go Out

  • Jeena Effoe says:

    Ok, So this is something I’m curious about.. The power company just decides to cut off the power? For what purpose. I have to assume it will not impact hotels and such? Is this prevalent in all the towns?

    • Mike says:

      Power cuts are fewer and a rare occurance now, but I’m afraid to get to bouyant here. I don’t know if hotels aren’t affected, but certain business and private homes generally utilize generator back-ups. As far as power rationing (aka “load shedding”) goes, it would seem certain municipalities in Accra are affected more than others. The general sense is that, if a govt official lives in a locale, it suffers few to no outtages.

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