Electricity is somewhat of a scarcity in parts of Africa, and as road-warriors — irrespective of how large the batteries are — we’re on a constant quest to find that next charging station to power our phones, laptops and other sanity-aiding devices.
On this particular day the power had been out since 10:30am and it didn’t look like it’s going to come back on at all. A quick trip to the front desk informed me that due to power-shedding the electricity won’t be back until after 6pm.
Not exactly something I was willing to hear considering that after 5 hours of heavy computing, my primary and secondary batteries were dead, plus I’ve a deadline tomorrow morning.
Shem: You have a big generator in the garden, why don’t you turn it on?
Hotel: We can’t, only the manager knows how to turn it on.
Shem: Please call the manager, we can’t be without power any longer.
Hotel: I can try to call him, but he’s not at the hotel.
Shem: Yes, I half expected this — please call him on his mobile.
*Calls the manager*
Hotel: The manager would like to speak to you.
Shem: Hello, how are you?
Manager: I hear you want us to start the generator?
Shem: Yes, I have work to do and my batteries are almost dead. Please come and start the big generator in the garden.
Manager: You know it’s a question of economics, the big generator costs almost 100,000 shillings in fuel per half hour, it’s not practical.
Shem: Then start the small generator, I need to charge my laptop and phone — reliable power is the only reason people stay at your hotel and pay these ridiculous sums of money.
Manager: Please let me talk to the girl at the front desk.
*I pass back the phone to the girl. She nods her head, hangs up the lets out a scream to summon the gardeners*
Hotel: They will turn on the small generator, but it will only power the office so you will have to charge your laptop using that power point.
Shem: No problem, I can even work from here while it charges.
*The gardeners descend onto the small generator with hammers, spare batteries and corrugated sheeting*
[40 minutes later]
Shem: I’m guessing by the silence and continued beeping of my phone that the generator is still not working?
*Four gardeners are bending over the generator with hammers beating something to death*
Hotel: I’m very sorry for this, they can’t seem to start it.
*Grinding noise emanating from the generator*
Shem: What’s the problem, maybe I can have a look at it?
*Waaaoooooooohhhhh, Waaaoooooohhhhh, Waaoooohhhh, Waooh, W –*
Hotel: The starter battery is dead, they have gone to get another one.
Shem: Ok, but how much longer do you think before they get it started?
Hotel: Very soon.
[20 minutes later]
*Hotel girl sees me approaching*
Hotel: They are just finishing fitting the other battery.
Shem: Excellent, in that case I’ll have a coffee while I wait.
[15 minutes later]
*Waaaoooooooohhhhh, Waaaoooooohhhhh, Waaoooohhhh, Waooh, W —*
Shem: That doesn’t sound good, sounds like that battery is dead too.
Hotel: They told me that they need to charge it first, they will plug it in and in half an hour they will try to start it again.
*I look at the girl strangely*
Shem: Charge if from what?…