16 July 2008

I’ll pay my electricity bill as soon as the power comes back on

I will. I really will. I promise. This isn’t even a threat. In fact, I’d be happy to pay it today. I just came back from the local EDEL office where such things happen, however, and it isn’t possible because even though we have power here at the house, they don’t. Yes. One more time: I cannot pay my electricity bill because the power company doesn’t have power at their office.

The above paragraph is, of course, prerequisite. I write it in obligation to the unspoken contract between me and this continent what with it being “undeveloped” and I being a “westerner” with a blog. Just between you and me, however, I wasn’t too surprised. It makes enough sense to me that the potential irony is lost. On the way home, just to check, I told my neighbor what had just happened. He waited to make sure I didn’t have something else to add, something that would help explain why I stopped him, and to make sure I wasn’t simply taking an extended pause to try to think of a word in Portuguese, eventually shrugging his shoulders saying, “Yeah. Huh. Maybe tomorrow. Or Friday. Yeah, after the 15th maybe.” It didn’t even occur to him that what I was telling him could be the basis of a humorous anecdote. I’ve come to internalize what he did long ago: there’s no imperative connection between the office where I pay my bill and “the power company,” let alone between “the power company” and the generation and delivery of power.

I had doubts about whether I would be able to pay my bill in the first place. After all, it’s been more than two months since anyone was here to read the meter. I was really going to the office so that at least if anyone from EDEL came by to disconnect the power I could be telling the truth as I handed him his whiskey (a hopefully passable bribe) and told him I was just at the office.

I had been home from my attempt for about an hour when two EDEL men came by the house to read the meter. They were nice: a sweet older man with slurred way of speaking and a polite if somewhat serious younger man. Despite our nervousness, they were uninterested in the status of our account. They wrote down some numbers from the meter and from our paperwork, quickly drank a glass of cold water, and moved on to the neighbor’s house.

I’m going to go try to pay my EDEL bill again on Friday. Maybe the power will be on and maybe the data from today’s collection will be in the system. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll have to return next week. Maybe I’ll still have to bribe a guy to keep him from shutting off our lights. Maybe the power will go out anyway, like it was most of last week, and this will all seem really, really silly. Maybe when I’m at the office next I’ll suggest that they might want to look into getting a generator because the power from EDEL is, you know, really unreliable. And, maybe, after that, the water will come on for the first time this week.


Anonymous said...


As an angolan, i often find comments made by expats living here to be patronising, oversimplistic and just disrespectful. You however... i like, whilst truthful you also have heart! good job :)

PS - Usually they will let you know that they are about to cut your power off before they actually do!

matthew_pw said...

Hi! Thanks for the read and what I take as an immense compliment. I don't know that I always have luck battling those things which afflict us expats (I'd add arrogance to your list) but it's not for a lack of effort. I am trying, at least, and I'm grateful for any patience I receive.

I have to confess that I still haven't figured out the power outage announcement thing. The larger ones appear in the paper, as you say, but it depends on the outage and the neighborhood and even then they sometimes aren't printed in the JDA until days after they've come and gone (not sure who's to blame, there). For example, we had a 4 day outage in late February. The announcement for it was printed in the first week of March. The dates in it indicated that it should have, reasonably, appeared the week before the outage and not the week after. I have every issue of the JDA starting from the beginning of February and I swear the announcement appeared only after and nary before the obras. Tudo aqui é complicado, não?