Life without 24-hour Electricity

It is funny how we take certain things for granted like electricity. For example, in the U.S. we enjoy 24-hour running electrical current, but when there is an outage whether for just a few hours or even a few days we feel totally deprived for that moment. However, once the power is restored we soon forget the inconvenience and go about our day.

Well, 24-hour current in Liberia is only for those who can afford to run their generators morning and night. Keep in mind generators are normally used for back-up electricity; however, in Liberia they are the primary source. So, for the lucky few who have more than one generator and the money to keep them fueled, they are ones to maintain 24-hour current. Though there is brief interruption when exchanging generators either once or twice day to reduce the machines wear and tear, especially for those that carry a heavy electrical load. However, the vast majority of Liberia’s people do not have generators, so they rely on candles or flashlights for their evening light and battery operated radios for their entertainment.

In my case I have a 2.5KVA (kilo-volt amps) generator. This size of generator produces enough electricity to operate a fan, small freezer, lights, TV, laptop computer, and charge cell phones and a camera. It runs on gasoline and the current price in U.S. is $3.10 per gallon. I have had to economize my expenses, so I run my generator from 10PM to 4AM allowing me to sleep in comfort with my fan. This six-hour span takes one gallon of gas. If you calculate the cost of one gallon of gas with average days in the month, this six hours each night equates to $93 per month. If it was possible to run my machine 24-hours daily, it would cost about $446 per month in gas. However, these machines need engine oil, spark plug replacement, and other servicing each month so that cost could be close to $500.

In retrospect, I do not remember paying near that amount for my townhouse in the U.S. during the hottest month of the year with running my central-air unit, large and small appliances, and having several lights on throughout the house. But now I realize how we take 24-hour electricity for granted, because we have gotten accustomed to it by enjoying our many modern comforts. So, we are oblivious to how we can easily waste energy just to satisfy these needs.

Well in Liberia, where this luxury is not so convenient, you yourself wishing for 24-hour electricity. As we enter December, it is a reminder that the rainy season’s cool weather is about to change to the dry season’s intense heat and humidity. This is the time I hope that I can find a way to run my generator more so I can escape the unbearable steamy heat of the afternoon to evening hours. On days like this it can be a simple heaven just to run your fan for a few hours to cool down.

As someone from the U.S. I know that we often take for granted how blessed we have it in our country. We may complain and fuss on how hard daily living is in our perspective, but compared to people who struggle just to survive on daily basis we have it pretty damn good. Life without 24-hour electricity is a challenge, but you have to learn to cope with what you have. I have learned to be grateful for having a generator to provide me some of the comforts I am used to regardless if it is a few hours a day.

Difficulties Writing in a War-torn Country

For the last two weeks I have been experiencing problems with my generator and it has put a cramp in maintaining regular posts. Limited to no electricity is one prime challenge for writers like me who prefer to use their laptop over notebooks or journals especially when my handwriting scribbles are often hard to read.

I was a person a year ago who was writing up a storm for my last semester of college, because I was completing 40 credits in combination of classes and independent studies. I had several research papers I was working on at once and sometimes the writing urge hit me at different times of the day. Sometimes I was driven to write at a Library or coffee shop or any other WiFi location that seemed to provide me the most creative energy.

However, this flexibility has been minimized living in Liberia, because there is no electricity and the places that offer WiFi are 30 to 60 minutes–depending on traffic–away from me. I own a generator, but it is not something you can run for several hours a day. In fact, I run mine from 10PM until 3 to 4AM, because I sleep better when the sound of my fan drowns out the noise outside my window and inside my head. Fortunately, I can eke out two hours on my laptop battery, but often it is near the end of the two hours that I a really get flowing with my thoughts and then I get my warning to charge the battery. So all this can limit my creative flow.

As a western it is often challenging to adjust to world without 24/7 electricity, because have such a life somehow remains in your system. I am trying to write more on paper, but as I get going the thoughts flow faster then I can scribble. There are times I can stare a blank page or screen with several ideas swimming in my mind, but cannot select which one to write about. Well, these are some of the adjustments and challenges I still have to overcome.

I hope to have my generator back in operation this week and this can lessen some of my burdens that has interfered with my writing flow. I also hope that I can better adjust to the world I now live in to make the most of my writing adventure.