Omwaana kyatamanyi tekimukabya – A child cannot cry for what (s)he does not know.
If I didn’t know of the existence of chocolate I would not hanker after it. If I didn’t know of hot baths I would gladly submit to ice-cold showers on rainy days and if I had never heard of Paris I would not be so set on going there someday. You get the picture, and what that Luganda proverb is all about. That proverb (and it’s equivalents in all other languages of the world) may not be completely true. We’ve all felt that feeling of longing for something more, even when you can’t put a finger to exactly what it is that’s lacking, what it is that will make you feel whole. And then when, eventually, you happen upon it you know that THAT is exactly what you needed to make you, or a moment, complete.
We are supposed to feel lucky that our homes, offices, etc. are electrified. Electricity makes lives easy, interesting, liveable. It runs everything, it runs my life. Just half an hour with the power cut is enough to drive me nuts. That so many people in parts of this country only see a lit bulb when they visit family in urban areas is no consolation to me. I’m in the city, it’s the 21st century, I pay taxes, why, oh why have I no power in my home 24/7? I’m a child that has seen and knows electricity and I’m howling and wailing – not just crying – for this electricity. I want my electricity on all the time. I want the switches in my home to glow red every time I flick them on. God forbid that my laptop battery should run out when the power ids off!
In this city you schedule events and dates according to Umeme’s¹ load-shedding² time table. When a friend calls and wants to meet up, mentally you go, “Wait, let me see… we had power Sunday night and Monday during the day, so there’ll be a power cut Monday night and Tuesday daytime…. ” then out loud: “Okay, I can do Monday night or Tuesday daytime… Wednesday night is also good.” The key thing is to make sure you’re not at home when the big cut comes, when all goes totally dark every where and you have 3 choices: 1) Light candles and play about with your phone till you either fall asleep or power returns, 2) Go online/ watch a movie and use up whatever is left of your laptop’s battery then resort to no. 1 above, 3) Just call it an early night and crawl into bed. The best plan of all is to have ‘plot’ when the power gets cut – have somewhere to go, someone to meet, something to do outside the house.
I used to schedule my dates with the mister (let’s call him G) to sync with these power cuts, some times. Guy and Mary, friends of mine, have admitted they never leave home when the power is on. That’s time for watching all your tv series on DVD in marathon style, sunrise to sunset. Everything that needs to be done away from home is grouped and scheduled for a power-off day. Nothing is worse than a Sunday afternoon power cut. Sunday is stay home and watch a movie /feel lazy day. It gets unbearable without power, and it happens more often than you can imagine.
Some nights G would come over to my place and a while later, zap! It would suddenly go dark. I always hated it when that happened. Eating under candle light is not as romantic as it’s cut out to be. At least not in this part of Africa. Also, I like looking at people in the eye when I talk to them, and watching their faces. When I talked to G, I liked watching his face. And not just that, I’m a body language freak. A twitch of the eye lid, a blink, a certain look in the eye, hesitation, … I’m always watching for what people are actually saying that they don’t put into words. Sometimes the most important things are those that go unspoken. So you can imagine, talking to anyone – and least of all a boyfriend – in the dark is one of my least favourite things. There are these phones with a torch application, that are popular here for that very reason, the torch. My grandmother jokingly boasts about how hers lights better than mine. It actually does, I had to admit, grudgingly.
Well, this little phone comes in handy in a power cut. And talking to G, I would find myself shining it in his face as he we talked. Not always intentionally, I just found myself doing it, ’cause well, you want to look at someone when you’re talking to them, right? He hated it. And that’s an understatement. He would scowl, and frown, go ‘Why do you have to do that?’ and I’d say sorry but find myself doing it again. A flashlight direct in one’s face is obviously uncomfortable, I know that too. Pillow talk in the time of power cuts would then get a wee bit… weird. Talk, flashlight in the face, scowl, growl, apology, darkness, talk, flashlight, scowl, growl, sigh… goodnight, let’s talk tomorrow. Honestly, though, pillow talk with G wasn’t always like that. Pillow talk with G was kinda like G… sweet, gentle and loving.
Talking in the dark is not actually that difficult, especially if you’re not at table but in bed, talking about not-so serious matters, being held and cuddling and generally talking as lovers do. Lovers talk in the dark all the time. It’s been said, “…in th intimacy of the darkness…” The darkness can be real intimate, we all know how, I only wish it wasn’t forced on me as often as it is. Some claim these power cuts are going to bring on a massive population expansion, what with people getting to go to bed earlier more often. More than half Uganda’s population are youth. If power cuts = more copulation = increase in population, then things aren’t looking so good for motherland beloved.
¹ The body in charge of electricity distribution.
² The term used to refer to sharing/distributing electricity across the country. The watts generated are way fewer than what the nation needs, so at any given time some areas are taken off the grid and have no power supply while others are supplied. Distribution is rotated, places take turns at being on or off the supply grid.