Monday, December 11, 2006


Electricity in Angola is a tenuous thing. It’s not a question of whether or not the lights will go out in a given day, but how many times it will go out. Any Angola household than can afford it will buy a generator to provide electricity when the lights are out. (With gas at only US$ 0.40 a gallon, the big purchase is the machine itself.) I share a generator with my coworker/neighbor, Tito. He lives two houses away, so there is a very long cord stretched across his roof and my apartment- one of the wires in the above picture is the magical generator cord. Somehow it holds up in the rain.

You don’t notice how much you use a generator until it is broken. For about 6 days last week I was without the generator. It was apparently broken and, as things tend to happen in Angola, the importance of getting us a new generator slipped as the days went on. The bad thing about not having a generator is that you can hear everyone else’s generator. Imagine the sound that a diesel engine built for an 18-wheeler. Now imagine that 20 feet from my bedroom window. Just a little noisy. Most people, Tito and I included, turn off their generators after a certain hour (midnight, in our case) to save gas. Unfortunately for me, I live cattycorner from an oil industry house, which not only has the most powerful generator around to handle all the air conditioners, but they leave it on all night so the poor oil employees don’t have to suffer the natural sea breeze coming off the bay and the ocean. It’s on most nights, so I’ve gotten used to it, but on the rare night that the city’s electrical grid is up and running, it’s so still that I can hear birds and even the ocean.

1 comment:

Ariel said...

wow, sounds like when I lived in Puerto Rico. Only it was a power plant. Couldn't hear if I talked on the phone unless I was in the kitchen or on the back porch...funny thing is that eventually you start to miss that pesky power plant.