Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lights Off and Let the Sweating Commence

I haven’t yet determined the reason why this happens, but almost every day for at least 10 minutes and sometimes long hours at a time, the electricity will shut off. This can happen anywhere: big cities like Kumasi and small rural areas like Agroyesum.

I’ve seen the power disappear in the middle of surgery, in the middle of watching soccer games, in the middle of dinner, and in the middle of the night. If someone is actually turning the power off, it’s unpredictable, except that the power has never shut off in the middle of a Ghana soccer match. The hospitals have generators to prevent mass chaos and casualties from ensuing.

In Ghana, the power outages are called “lights off.” We met an engineer once at the Catering Rest House who said he was working with Ghana’s electricity provider and his project was to design ways to increase Ghana’s effective use of energy. Apparently Ghana loses about 30% of its energy while the international standard is 18%. Perhaps this is part of the reason for so many lights off incidents.

Since my computer thankfully has a very long battery life, the biggest inconvenience of “lights off” is that the fans shut off and stop their relieving spinning. Even though I was raised in this weather and have spent summers in equally hot and humid places like Taiwan, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, I still sweat like a smelly boy in this weather. Michigan and Boston can also get pretty horrible over the summer. I don’t even have to do anything to sweat. I can sit and sweat and without the fan, I will sweat while I’m sleeping here. It’s disgusting. So, “lights off” is very bad news for me. If I had the same disposition as the Ghanaians and didn’t sweat in 85+ degree weather, then lights off wouldn’t be so unbearably uncomfortable. Are portable handheld generators available? Lydia, could you make me one?

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