New Blog!

If you've enjoyed reading about my experiences in Tanzania here, check out the new blog I've started on Wordpress as of November, 2017. It's called "Back to Tanzania" and you can read it here. All new adventures in Tanzania from an older, wiser, more experienced expat.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Water and Electricity Problems American Style

Maybe I've been complaining too much about electricity and water in my rented house in Tanzania. Now the gods of household utilities are striking back. Here I am still luxuriating in the plentiful electricity and running water here in America. And then...we had a heavy cloudburst that flooded many basements in my part of town. When I ventured down the stairs to check my basement, sure enough, I had a surfeit of household water. It wasn't actually that bad, just large puddles a few millimeters deep. But I spent an unpleasant three hours with my shop vac sucking up the water from the concrete floor.

Then I wanted to turn on an electric fan to dry things out a bit. There's only one electrical outlet in my basement and it was taken up by the plug for my non-functioning burglar alarm. The previous home owner installed it, and all the components remain, but I never hooked it up because the monthly fee is too expensive. I dimly remembered the home inspector telling me I needed to leave it plugged in.  I pulled the plug, and nothing happened. So I plugged in the fan and ran it for a few hours. 1:15 a.m. to be exact...a piercing electronic squeal woke me out of a sound sleep. I'm in America, so I immediately thought smoke detector! Of course, I didn't think it meant there could be a fire in my house, just that the damned smoke detector was malfunctioning. I walked from room to room, listening until I could tell which smoke detector was blaring. I ended up in the laundry room. But there's no smoke detector in there. However, there is an attic entrance in the ceiling. I thought for a minute there must be a hidden smoke detector inside the attic with a battery that had lasted for six years.

I was just about to haul in my giant, heavy ladder from the garage, when I realized the squeal was not coming from the ceiling, but from behind me. I turned to see the burglar alarm keypad displaying a scrolling message that said something something "battery." And even though it was 1:17 a.m., I somehow remembered unplugging the alarm and the home inspector's warning about not unplugging it, and that I had seen a little plastic-encased thing inside the electrical box labeled, "Sealed rechargeable battery." I ran downstairs and plugged in the alarm. No change. The squealing continued unabated. I ran back upstairs to the keypad and looked for something to press. I chose "enter." Thank God the noise stopped. So apparently, it takes about 12 hours for the rechargeable battery to lose its charge, and then, it warns you that you need to plug it in or be unprotected from burglars. Of course, I was still unprotected after I plugged it in, because the company's not monitoring the alarm because I'm not paying them. But at least it's quiet again.

We've never had a 12-hour blackout, I guess. If I had this burglar alarm in Tanzania, I'd have stumbled across this feature of the rechargeable battery a long time ago. And repeatedly.

Anyway, just saying, American houses can present problems sometimes, too. And it's possible to have too much water and electricity.

Meanwhile, back in Arusha...electricity continues to be in short supply. E-mails on the "Arusha Mailing List" and other peoples' blogs reveal that electricity's down to about four hours per day now. And the government has set lower prices for daladala fares and petrol and diesel prices.

So the daladala drivers have gone out on strike a couple of days recently and have demonstrated (or rioted, depending on how close you got to it).

And now some of the oil companies are holding back petrol and diesel, claiming there's a shortage because they're unwilling to sell at the government-mandated price. A new Facebook page has sprung up for people in Arusha to post about when and where they're able to buy petrol or diesel. One woman posted there that a certain petrol station had petrol but no diesel. The electricity was off, though, and they had no diesel to power their generator, so they couldn't turn on the pumps. But if the electricity came back in the evening, they'd be selling some petrol.

And, just to top it all off, Chadema (the opposition party that had a few of their own demonstration/riots around election time), has mounted a couple of protests now while the citizenry is feeling a bit annoyed with the CCM, the ruling party.

And me? I'm missing all the excitement in Arusha. But I did make a trip to Yellowstone National Park recently, which was exciting in a different, easier way. I'll post about that next....

1 comment:

  1. Ouch. Nothing more panic-inducing than a blaring alarm that you can't figure out how to shut up! I always feel like the panic you feel from the alarm continues to magnify as you frantically press things trying to get it to stop. Glad you were able to sort it out without resorting to a hammer or a baseball bat.
    No electricity problems here, but Seoul has been unusually rainy this summer with some historic flooding, and our car now smells like the inside of a very old and disreputable galosh, due to a flash flood in the parking lot at work. I guess it could have been worse though.
    Looking forward to hearing about Yellowstone!