Thursday, September 1, 2016

Drought in southern Africa

The number one, defining experience of Nigeria was the power going out. Multiple times every day. When new in country, this was shocking and disturbing. You'd be talking with someone or working or doing anything, and then suddenly the power would go out. When would it come back? Would it ever come back? And then it came back as the generator turned on. Only to turn off again when we switched back to public power. By the time we'd been in country a while, the power going out was merely a comma in a conversation - you keep going with what you were doing. Sometimes we'd turn it into a running gag: "Welcome to Nigeria! Have a nice day!"

When we came back to the States, there was a power outage in the first week or so. We turned to each other and said, "Welcome to Nigeria! Have a nice day!"

In preparing to come to South Africa, we learned they had the occasional problem with their electricity supply too - nothing to Nigeria's scale of course, but for several weeks this year they had rolling blackouts. So we were prepared with our standby jokes.
The power has stayed on just fine. Oh. Right, developed country and all that.

But there has been a drought in southern Africa and last night our hostess came to inform us that they were out of water. City had just shut it off and no one knew when it would come back on.

She talked as if she expected it back on this morning or maybe last night, but it was entirely possible it would last more than a day.

In Nigeria when we ran out of water, it was because there was a strike at the water bottling plant, so we were boiling tap water for over a week to make sure we had something to drink. After that we stored up two weeks of drinking water. Besides, our stake here has been talking up emergency preparedness.

So our first reaction was to start filling every bucket, mixing bowl, and container we could find while we still had water at the upper house. We started asking a lot of silly questions, like what to do about toilets -- if they won't flush for days on end, where does a body ... do what a body does? In Nigeria, people just defecate on the road as a normal thing, in Italy #1 is socially acceptably, and in Texas they're both illegal. I worry that our hostess did not appreciate any comparison to Nigeria: yes, I'm sure there are parts of South Africa that are not developed, but I like to think that around here we are not where they are.... Not that things are illegal, one wouldn't just ... ugh.

But she humoured us in filling a bunch of buckets while our tap water still flowed.

This morning the water is back on. We'll see for how long.\
UPDATE: We have been informed it's not the drought. They are fixing the water mains and had to shut water off to various parts of the city to do work.