Saturday, September 12, 2009

Getting a handle on things…sort of

I had a really good day yesterday. I was cruising the comfortably cool evening streets of Gorontalo in a bentor on my way home from the office thinking about how things are finally starting to come together – I have a LAN internet connection at work, new batteries in my work clock, new lights in the office, new locks on the desk, and new pillows and bedding for my bed at home. I think I also found a new friend in another young lecturer here named Tia, who studied for her BA in Florida and is going back to the US in February to do her master’s in Ohio. I stopped to pick up some dinner at KFC and was sitting in the bentor clutching my laptop, my handbag, my backpack full of newly tailored clothes, and my KFC takeout, thinking how nice it would be to go home, watch some random movie on HBO in English (with Indonesian subtitles) and just relax. I was feeling very upbeat.

But my euphoria was short lived. When I got home I realized that the power was out. It was about 6:30 in the evening and already pitch dark outside. Since we’re so near the equator, it gets dark here very early. So much for my night of eating KFC in front the TV. I used my cell phone light to locate one of my big suitcases and then I rummaged around for a flashlight. My mom, with amazing foresight, had given me an LL Bean wind-up LED flashlight for Christmas last year. I’d never used it before, but there’s no time like the present, right? I wound the flashlight up for a minute and then turned on the power button. It worked like a charm. My entire kitchen and living room area was illuminated and not only that, but I also discovered that I could prop it up on the table at a variety of angles. Satisfied with my new set up, I sat down to eat my KFC meal by the light of my LL Bean flashlight. I was thinking about how ironic it was that just when I was thinking I was getting a handle on Gorontalo life it throws me a curveball.

The power apparently goes out here on a regular basis because the electric company can’t supply everyone with enough energy. So, entire sections of the town get their power cut off for a night or so at a time. These outages are announced in the local paper and on the radio, but since I can neither read the local paper nor understand the announcements on the radio, I will have to rely on my neighbors to tell me when there is a scheduled outage. Actually, as part of my “settling in” allowance from the State Department, I have funds to buy a generator. My counterpart said we could wait until after Ramadan to buy one though, since the power company isn’t supposed to start these scheduled outages until after the month of fasting is over. But as I sat there in the darkness last night, I sent him a text message to ask if we couldn’t go shopping for one a bit sooner…

After I had taken a few bites of my chicken, I heard a knock at the door and the cry of “Hello, Miss Julianne!”. I opened the door to find Inka standing there with two candles and a box of matches. Bless her heart. Not only that, but she also said it was her little brother’s birthday and asked if I would like to join the family for a dinner out at a restaurant. I was delighted to escape my dark house and have some company. So I put my KFC dinner in the fridge thinking it would make a good lunch for tomorrow and then we all piled into their car and headed off. Guess where we went for dinner? Yep, back to KFC!


  1. Tia is FABULOUS!! I'm so happy you've met her. She became one of our dearest and closest friends, so definitely use her as an ally when times are tough. It's too bad you'll only have her for a few months though.....then I get her again. ;)

    Hope you're having a better day!

  2. Hey Julianne,
    You finally experienced a "mati lampu"(dead light). Based on our experiences with mati lampu, I'd suggest you buy a generator sooner than later. While they do say they have a schedule, they don't, and the lights will periodically go out when you least expect it. The lights go out less during the rainy season, and much more frequently during the dry season. J and I sometimes had no electricity for 3 or 4 nights a week during the dry season.
    The generator will give you sanity, it's a must have.


  3. Hey guys, my electricity is out again this morning! And the water too. Arzal said he would take me generator shopping today. I really, really hope that happens. Frequent random power outages are not my thing.

  4. Mati lampu! That will just happen for some reason. I'm just hoping that what happened to me doesn't happen to you - we once went for 4 days without water. It was not a pleasant smell.

  5. Julianne,

    I am looking forward to reading this when we return from driving John to Dartmouth! It sounds very adventurous. Hang in there.

    Cousin Lisa