Saturday, July 19, 2008



Umeme = the electricity provider in Uganda
UTL = Uganda Telecom, the Internet provider in Mbale

Heidi and I are rejoicing -- and when I say rejoicing, think jumping up and down and dancing for joy -- over the fact that at this moment we have both electricity AND Internet.  Our Internet has effectively been down since last month sometime, and multiple phone calls, pleas, and, yes, even threats to UTL, did not produce any demonstrable results.  Okay, well, we did get three UTL techs to actually come out once, and they did agree that, yes, our Internet did not work.  But I'm not sure I considered that a step forward.  The Internet's repair was further complicated by the fact that power kept going off.  And for some odd reason, the UTL tech doesn't want to come out at all when there's no power on in the house.  To add insult to injury, the power line that delivers electricity to our house broke, so last night when the whole neighborhood finally got to turn their lights back on, our house remained dark.  (Big sigh here.)  The Umeme truck showed up this morning, worked for a while, then disappeared having made no apparent repairs.  But the electricity suddenly came on a couple hours ago, and the Internet came up with it -- no idea why, but we're not complaining! -- so we are excitedly reading e-mails, updating blogs, and seeing who posted comments on our wall in Facebook.  

Heidi and I have truly tried to maintain our composure and sense of humor through this, but we were beginning to get a bit frustrated.  We pay 180,000 shillings a month for Internet, and to our Western minds, this means that (when power is on) we should have Internet.  But in Uganda, it just doesn't always work out that way.  "Why not?" you ask.  "And for that matter, why is the power off so much, anyway?"  Well, those are fair questions.

One answer is that although First World technology exists here, the technology infrastructure is not particularly stable.  So when technology breaks down -- be it Internet, power lines, printers, computers, whatever -- the ability, expertise, and resources are not always available to effect competent repairs.  So repairs take longer, and, in fact, can be impossible, which is why we have a lot of nonworking or semiworking machines here.  For instance, our washer, dryer, and microwave are all in the "They sort of work" category.

Another answer is -- well, it's a little harder to put into words, but it's basically that the African mindset is different than the Westerners.  They don't feel a need to hold to schedules or to come out just because they said they would.  We have electricity power-outs because Umeme sells a lot of its electricity to Kenya, so they keep Uganda on a "loadshed" schedule.  But Umeme changes the schedule without notice.  Or they decide to do line maintenance on "power on" days, so they turn off the electricity so they can trim branches.  This drives us Westerners crazy.  But it's life here.  

But for now, we're still in the rejoicing mode because right now, right this minute, we have electricity AND Internet.  A fairly African outlook!

So thanks to all of you who wrote me e-mails, a little worried because you hadn't heard from me for a while.  There is no way to tell you all how much I appreciate your love and concern and, most of all, your prayers.  

love you all!