Friday, January 18, 2008

How to be organised despite Johannesburg load shedding

Today is the 9th day of rolling blackouts in South Africa. They say that this is going to happen for the next...wait for this... 5 – 7 YEARS!

I don't understand all the technicalities but basically, they can't supply all the power we need, so they are load shedding in different batches of suburbs every day.

If you live here, you are guaranteed to be without power for at least 2 hours every day.

I only found out two days ago while listening to Radio 702 that Eskom put a schedule on their website showing which suburbs will be affected and when, but the callers highlighted the fact that they are not sticking to the schedule.

If the schedule says from 3 – 5pm, the power outage is lasting for an additional 2 – 3 hours in many cases.

Businesses are losing lots of money and because the traffic lights are out in whichever suburb you happen to be driving through at the time, people are taking HOURS to get home. And in Johannesburg, we have an afternoon summer rainfall pattern, which also doesn't help because everyone drives like maniacs in the rain.

I was at a friend's place yesterday. Her husband phoned to say he'd left work at 4:30 and hoped to be home by 8pm! Three and a half hours, people!

Anywayyyy, I said all that to say this:

Over the last week, I have learnt a few tricks to keep me from tearing out my hair:

1. I have candles ready in all the rooms and passages throughout the house (with matches in two places) so when the power goes out, I don't even blink. I just calmly walk to the nearest spot and start lighting away. Just call me Florence Nightingale ;)

2. I don't leave anything out that I could possibly trip over – shoes and handbag come to mind.

3. I am phoning ahead before I go anywhere to check if my destination has power. Of course it could still go out while I'm on my way but I'm avoiding as much frustration as possible. E.g gym, visiting my friend (the day before neither of us had power so we had to postpone our coffee date)

4. I have back-ups for meals and am cooking double when the power is on. Last night, all I had to do was take some food from the freezer and heat. 10 minutes to get supper together.

5. I am stocking up on food we can eat cold. E.g. earlier this week when I got home and the power was out, I assembled a pasta salad with cold meats.

6. I am ultra-focussed when at the computer because I know the power could go off at any time. And of course, I am pressing Save all the time!

If you've ever had regular power outages, what are some tips you can give me and my fellow South Africans?


Anonymous said...

We've not had that situation here in he U.S. - although I lose electricity on occasion from time to time and have been through just a few blackouts for part of one day. That must be challenging for sure. Sounds like you are doing all you can. I think thinking/planning ahead is key in your situation.

Rae said...

Wow, that is insane! I can't even imagine that, but I'm afraid it will probably happen at some point for us in the USA.

Good luck with it and I hope they were wrong about 5 to 7 years! Wow!!

Ali la Loca said...

Hi Marcia!

Happy 2008, a bit belated. :)

When I lived in Brazil, we had rolling power outages, but it was for the same period every day throughout the city. I got in the habit of always using the stairs (don't want to be caught in the lift!), stocking extra batteries for appliances that will funcion without power, and keeping a powerful flashlight on my keyring.

In Chimoio, we went without power quite often. There I learned to religiously unplug appliances from the wall whenever I was finished using them. The danger is that when the power comes back on, there can be a surge that will blow out anything left plugged in. In Chimoio, I also learned how to take a cold shower and not be completely wrecked by it!

The power situation in SA is interesting. One of the main things I think about is why on earth isn't Mozambique increasing capacity at Cahora Bassa hydroelectric (even if it means you all have to pay for whatever is necessary to increase said capacity). We have the ability here in Moz to provide more than enough energy to SA to offset your domestic power problems...unfortunately, the respective Presidents don't seem to keen on brokering a commercial deal.

Marcia said...

Oh my word! I had no idea – yes, politics absolutely freaks me out! There are also better ways to organise this thing (!) but of course, doing it an effective way would just be too organised for them!

I have been totally fine with all of this until yesterday – our power was out the whole day and night.

I got up an hour early today in the hope that it was on (thank goodness it was) to answer my 70 emails! We have now also realized that we have to keep a flask of boiling water ready because it’s cold here and to not have any tea or coffee is just not good ;)