Given my background, I’m pretty used to rolling with the punches. Things never quite work the way they are supposed to in the developing world. (Of course nothing works in France the way you would expect it to either, but that’s a different story.) Lately, I feel like I’ve had more than my fair share of rolling with the punches here.
- We’ve had a lot of power outages lately. (Interestingly, there were ZERO power outages during the post-election tension back in January and February.) Mind you, other parts of Nairobi rarely have problems, but the area we live in happens to be famous for outages. I’m told they are putting in new electric cables, but it seems like lately the power has been off more than it has been on. The other night, the backup diesel generator that keeps the library and computer lab open ran out of fuel, so the whole campus was pitch black during a rainstorm. We do keep candles handy, but I just went to bed (even if it was only 8:30). I pitied the masters students who were cramming for exams.
- Back in January, my IBM Thinkpad – on loan from the school – died. There are only about two people in Nairobi who work on IBMs, and I’ve just been given the final word that they’ve given up – fried mother board. In the meantime, I’ve been limping along on my six-year-old Dell Inspiron, which is very, very, very, very, very, slow and has about 30 mins of battery life. New Laptops are available here, but for 2x the price and half the speed, capacity and reliability. Where are Best Buy, New Egg, etc. when you need them?
- The internet speed on campus has slowed down considerably over the last couple of months. I’m not sure why, but our IT specialist is frustrated with the service provider. Loading . . . loading . . . loading . . .It gives the concept of multi-tasking a new dimension, but it’s not great for productivity. . . Now the wireless in the library is out for the weekend, so the we passing around the network cable that normally hooks up the printer.
- These first two problems combine so that I can no longer Skype family in the US. We are still waiting for an undersea fiber optic cable linking Kenya to be installed, so that phone rates will drop down to reasonable and internet speeds will catch up with the rest of the world (that was promised a few years ago). The irony was that when I was in Europe, I could call my parents in Malawi for 8cents/minute. More developed Kenya was at least 4x that much and still is.
- The death of my laptop and the slowing internet speeds also makes regular blogging that much more difficult, especially when I already don’t have access in our apt. (That too was promised years ago.) Basically, by the time I get the kids off to school, I have about an hour to use the internet before everyone else gets on and it starts creeping and creeping . . . (I’ve thought of just killing it.) On the day the backup generator ran out of fuel (above), I had just posted an entry only to realize that my slow laptop and slow internet speed had combined to help me re-paste the first entry paragraph of the entry about five times. I corrected the entry, but just as I hit “save,” everything went dead. It was at least six hours before the power came back on.
- To round our the computer woes, there was a small glitch in my anti-virus, and I got a worm, so it’s been days of visiting geek sites and deep registry cleanings and fixes. I think I’m good again.
- One of my colleagues had his water pipes burst in the middle of the night. He woke up to find his apartment floor covered in three inches of water and his laptop computer screen water-logged and permanently damaged. (He wasn’t able to scam his wife’s computer like I was.)
- Liam is potty training, so think I’ve handled enough excrement for a while. Someday, I won’t even remember.
- Leïla (4), seems to be feeling the middle child squeeze and requires a lot of extra love (and a little extra discipline.)
- Christi’s been sick a lot lately.
- The road to Christi’s parents’ house was dug up last year. So the just-over-one-hour trip has turned into almost two full hours of harrowing, truck dodging, mud slogging, head-on collision risking drive. Construction progress seems painfully slow: very little equipment, and almost no activity. (Of course we are mostly driving out there on weekends and holidays.) Finally signs of smooth pavement are emerging, but “road closed” signs still keep us in the ever-hopeful stage
- When we first visited Christi’s parents at their house near Daystar University about seven years ago, you could sit on their front porch and see 180 degrees of the beautiful Kenyan plains. You could watch the beautiful sun set over the Ngong Hills (of Out of Africa fame) in the distant background. The sunsets are still beautiful, but now all you see are other houses that have sprung up around them – including a huge Christian retreat center/resort across the street. Not all “development” is good.
But who’s complaining? Back in the day, I lived for nine months in Liberia without any electricity, running water or even regular snail mail service. I had malaria and all that comes with it. These were some of the best days of my life. I’ve just gotten spoiled with my access to technology and convenience over the last few years ;-). I suppose it helps me look forward to better days.