Umphumulo, South Africa

Friday, June 3, 2011

On and Off, On and Off…

Upon my arrival to Umphumulo (11 April 2011), where I was on an awesome adventure visiting Jessie in Kimberly and Andrew in Bloemfontein, the rain and cold weather quickly followed my path. For Umphumulo, when there’s rain that means the electricity will be going and then the running water will just stop coming out of all the taps. It’s almost crazy to say, but I’m so used to these occurrences that when the electricity goes out or the water turns into drips I just say to myself, “Oh Umphumulo… no stress, no worries.” But this past weekend, I had a nice Sunday afternoon to really think about what was happening when all of these ‘series of unfortunate (to some) events’ occur.

Let’s take a moment to get an understanding of South Africa… at least the places that I’ve seen. When it comes to the cities, like Durban or Johannesburg (Joburg), electricity and running water outages are rarely the occasion, but when this does happen in the once in a lifetime event ‘the people’ are quick to recover the problem within hours. Now let’s look at rural South Africa. When the electricity turns off… it’s not because of the shortage in the switchbox (where back at home we would just go to the switchbox and ‘flip the switch’ and then BAM! the electricity is back.), but it is the overuse of electricity in the bigger cities that is making the rural areas run dry of power. So you may think to yourself, how does she know this for sure? Well being the clever scientist that I am… and needing to stimulate my mind when the power does turn off… I thought to myself, “Is there anything else that’s happening throughout this country at the same time Umphumulo becomes even quieter besides the wind or rain that causes this bittersweet occurrence?” Well, to my surprise I most definitely discovered a common theme, but is it coincidence… I’ll really NEVER know.

What I found was when there’s a BIG sporting game being aired on TV (especially when the game is on one of the four basic channels that are aired to the entire nation)… Umphumulo is sure to lose at least the electricity. As I mentioned this to one of the Bishop’s daughters a while back, it was this past weekend where she told me that she thinks I’m right. Not only was it NOT raining at the time, but there was a Chiefs Soccer game being aired on TV this past Saturday night and after ~30 minutes into the game… POOF! the electricity was gone. All I could literally do was laugh, and I laughed even more when I received an SMS (text message) from one of the other YAGM living in Joburg telling me she was out watching the Chiefs game; lucky girl living in the ‘big city.’

Don’t get me wrong… Umphumulo is a wonderful place to live in; as it has taught me how to slow down and see people instead of hurrying up and passing people by. Life is too precious to live on your own, and Umphumulo has helped me to understand the ‘true’ meaning of what that means. But as far as the electricity and water situation goes… I’ll never really know if it IS the ‘big’ cities sucking the power from the rural areas dry, but one thing I know for sure is that Maphumulo is constantly living in the hands of this on and off, on and off game the power likes to play. Is it frustrating? Sure, but living here for 8 months now… it’s just a daily part of life, and of MY life too. So when you’re leaving your room, bathroom, kitchen, or garage I hope you take a second to turn OFF the power instead of leaving it on… and think of me! I feel like I understand my dad more as he was always telling us to open the blinds for natural light or open the windows for cool air during the summer (maybe he did this more for the electricity bill, but whichever works!)

In the mean time, I can only hope that this problem will be solved, especially for the rural areas of South Africa. It is definitely something that needs to be looked into and most definitely something to continue to look forward to in the years to come. But for now, we will all continue to just live as we are and enjoy the times we spend together… with or without electricity! Until next time… Hamba Kahle…

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