Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The winds of change...

I know I am long due for a blog.

I could blame it on Mongy’s wedding in Cairo. I could blame it on the fact that I have been getting down to business with my PhD despite the fact that my department's library burnt down last Thursday (ah!).  I could blame it on the South African election and all the interesting BBC coverage. But no, I am going to blame it on the energy industry for a change. My days of environmental lobbying are well and truly behind me and I haven’t had a good old rant against them in a while.

I can remember going door to door in Los Angeles as a teenager. Ringing the bell, holding my clipboard tightly between my fists, pulling out my best American smile and bracing myself for the inevitable rejection. You can see it written on their faces, “How do I get rid of this child without giving her any money?” 

The weaker ones will fall, I know which ones they are.

“Hello, my name is Laura and I am from CALPIRG, California’s leading Public Interest Research Group. As you probably know California is experiencing a massive energy crisis this summer.” (quick breath of air) “The big energy companies are trying to cut back on our environmental protection policies by switching on old and dirty gas powered plants. We are lobbying to change that. Are you with me on the issue?”

Door slam in face.

Angry internal grumbling: “I bet they wouldn’t like it if there was a gas power plant outside their bloody house.”

Flash forward eight years, same Laura, same hippie leaping inside of me:

“I wish that fucking gas generator outside my bloody house had some bloody gas in it so we have some fucking electricity for a change!!!!!”

50 degree heat and 12 hour power cuts have recently pruned my principles. That hippie has well and truly been crushed. Ya salem!

But I ask you this, how is a girl supposed to get anything done when power cuts follow her like pesky English clouds, waiting to block her every move with 50 degree heat and expired battery power? Mustaheeel!! (Arabic word of the day: impossible).

What about Meroe dam you ask? Didn’t the president just cut the ribbon on a brand new dam that is supposed turn Sudan into an energy exporting country? Didn’t he make that damn speech the day before the ICC announcement? Didn’t he dance on stage to the roar of adoring fans? Well yes he did. The man likes his cha cha. Ocampo may take his freedom, but he'll never take his cha cha. 

There is a rumour going round town that the French water engineers working on Meroe left early because of the ICC announcement and so they never finished the damn dam. I don’t know if this is true. It is a rumour after all. 

All I know is that at eight every morning, when I am just settling down in front of my computer, I hear the fan slowly whirl on its hinges, I hear the sound of generators clawing the peace outside and I hear the gentle shriek of a neighbour yelling at the bowab downstairs. There seems to be some disagreement about who is supposed to pay for the gas in our generator. I have now (after much shouting) paid my share. My "exuberant" neighbour refuses to pay for anything. She almost called the police on the rubbish lady. Apparently no-one in Khartoum has paid for rubbish collection in three years. No-one but me… the damn stupid foreigner.

I hope our power generator comes back online. I do miss electricity. I am sick of living in the café down the road. It’s hard to work on your computer when fifty medical students are crowded around the television watching “Herbie, the animate car win NASCAR races against Matt Dillon” and taking turns to come to my table and shyly whisper “Hello, what is your name?” before scurrying timidly back to their seats.

And hopefully they will fix whatever is wrong with the dam. Then Omar Bashir will come back and inaugurate it a second time. Double the PR points.

And maybe the ICC can make another announcement and Bashir can inaugurate another half finished infrastructural facility? Perhaps a water treatment plant? I would so enjoy having water cuts to go with the power cuts.

My only hope is for global warming to substantially change the world’s climate so that Sudan becomes slightly less steaming and more amenable to the opening of windows (I am sorry CALPIRG, you have lost me on the issue- lost me, that is, until I return to a country with a dependable electricity supply and can once again reclaim my trampled hippie).

Ma’salama, I got to get out of here and go back to that dear old cafe... Maybe they will have another adventure for the run-away car.

For my next blog, I am going to take a tour of Khartoum’s new bus station, which apparently doubles as a shrine to Bashir. I can’t wait!

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