Utilities Woes and the Peace Corps Spirit


“But you’ll be OK, you experienced this in Africa, right?” many a friend here has asked me as we discussed Mexico City’s current water woes. Both this blog and this one have expounded on the water problem in length. But while actually, no, I didn’t really experience water issues when living in East Africa (except for my short-term stay at a friend’s slightly shabby house — shout out to Tom!), the question has brought back some fond, though hard-to-believe, memories.

During my first year living and working in Uganda, the apartment that I shared with two other American girls had electricity approximately every other night. So you’d wake up to no power, go to work, and then at six o’clock, like magic, the power would come on again until six the next morning. Unless it was the other way around — you’d have power during the day, then at six p.m., the lights were off until the next morning. To make matters worse, of course the schedule wasn’t really adhered to. Sometimes we’d get extra periods of electricity, or some days, six in a row one time, we had no power at all.

Complete and utter darkness except for the candles we’d stick into empty wine bottles and carry around with us like medieval-era widows. “Heathcliff …” I’d call out. “Heathcliff …”

A feeling of dread would wash over me every time I’d be sleeping and suddenly hear the fan turning slower and slower in the steamy night, as I lay there praying the lights didn’t just decide to turn off and leave me to have a heat stroke.

Oh, the early Uganda days. How did I do it?
My second year, I upgraded and moved to houses where power was only rarely turned off. But each time it did, I’d whine and ask for the generator to be turned on — despite the fact that I was living half of my life in darkness just the year before.

And now, as we in Mexico City face this water crisis, my tolerance is just as low. Periodic days without showers do annoy me. And yes, this is coming from someone who has done bucket showers in rural countrysides. What happened to my Peace Corps-can-survive-anything spirit?

I think it’s time to find it again. Tomorrow.


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