March 25, 2010

Out of power, but all is not lost!

Nebraskans are no strangers to power outages. Between thunderstorms and ice blankets, I've survived many an hour sans electricity. However, the four winter days of no power in Kearney were no match for the one night without power in Phnom Penh.

Just as I opened my book, the light flickered, sputtered and went out. The pitch black from outside was suddenly inside. The fans whirred to a halt, leaving me and my book in the muggy darkness. I fumbled for my handy alarm/flashlight combo and went to check the fuses. Other volunteers had also emerged from the darkness, disoriented and concerned. The fuses were in the right place, but no electricity was flowing. We migrated to the roof to check whether it was only our house or whether one of the notorious dry season rolling black-outs was upon us. The dark street was a pretty good indication that it wasn't just us, but the Karaoke bar shone like an ungrateful beacon at the end of the street.

The lack of light was really no problem, given that I was ready for bed anyhow, but the lack of fans was an immediate problem. The infernal heat inside our bedrooms is like a Turkish steam bath, and believe me, no one is sleeping in a Turkish steam bath. Lying there in a pool of my own perspiration listening to the booming karaoke bass, I imagined the kilowatts of energy fueling the amplifiers, neon lights and refrigerators. Yes, the very same kilowatts that could easily fuel the fans of the entire neighborhood and save us from this sweat box. The fan is an essential not to be taken for granted.

I actually fell asleep for a while before my alarm at 5. Still without power, I did the best I could to get ready with a flashlight and a good memory. Forced to forgo my usual toast and tea, I settled on part of an apple and water.

Teaching with low blood sugar, poor sleep quality and gallons of sweat is just not ideal, but I muddled through two classes. Breakfast at the Russian Market with my Khmer teacher and a lazy swim were absolute necessities. Without fans, our house was dehydration waiting to happen.

When the power finally came back on after lunch, it was such mega relief that everyone found a fan and began worshiping. By the way, what wonderful timing for my level 6's discussion of utility services. Must be fate.