I am writing this while I am lying in my youngest son’s bedroom waiting for him to fall asleep. He is at the stage of needing you to be in the same room as him before he falls asleep, this usually ends up with me leopard crawling out of his room, avoiding all eye contact! As I am lying here, I am listening to the long low rumblings of the thunder of hopefully the first rains, which have been building for days causing Beira to be smoulderingly hot and humid, reflecting on the past few hours. This calm I am feeling now has only just descended over me as before this I had been battling with power cuts and the generator cutting out, while attempting to feed, bath and put the children to bed. Yep, that sounds like just as much fun as it was.
Luckily I was prepared for such an event and pulled out all the mother coping mechanisms I had! Due to previous blackouts and generator issues, I have littered my house in battery powered lights, baby lights as my 2-year-old Finley calls them. Named baby lights as they omit the tiniest bit of light, pretty pathetic really but it’s enough to take the edge off the darkness, and they do the job! You are probably beginning to understand that regular blackouts are not uncommon especially when the hot weather and storms start. We first arrived in Beira in the dark, so you have to get used the situation pretty quickly. After living in Zimbabwe for three years no electricity was no new phenomenon to me but this was pre-baby monitors and screaming hot babies. No power in Beria not only means a long, hot and sweaty night without any air-con, it also comes with the added bonus of no water. All water in Beria is pumped as the pressure is so low, and most people run on boreholes where water is pumped directly from groundwater sources. Therefore when there is no electricity this leads to no pumps resulting in no water.
If you are one of the lucky ones that have a generator, probably THE best investment we have ever made, it doesn’t mean you get off scot-free. Oh no Beira will continue to test you with maintenance issues, power surges and running out of fuel in the middle the night. Tonight was not unlike the countless nights before. I was quick not to panic as I have discovered children are like animals they smell your fear, and they quickly respond to it and trust me it is not a pleasant experience. So there we were happily bathing, and then the pitch black descended upon us. Now luckily this is not the first time this has happened, so Finley pipes up with “mummy lights off, baby light on!” At this point, there is only a short window of opportunity until the hysteria begins, so of course, this was not the best time for me to have chosen to have a quick wee, talk about being caught with your pants down!
I have found that if you turn everything into a song, it tends to keep everything at a calm and manageable level. So with that in mind, I began singing, “Mummy, flush the loo loo loo, Mummy turn the baby light on on on” to the tune of Wheels on the Bus. I may sound pretty crazy from anyone looking in, but it has a double effect, keeps me from losing my mind as well as keeping the boys calm! I eventually stumbled around and found my trusty battery light and success, light on and no screaming children. Now as mentioned before these lights only give out a meagre light which is excellent better than nothing, but it does create a lot of shadows. Bath time now has gone from lots of laughing, water splashing to, two little uncertain faces peering around the bathroom now filled with an eerie glow watching the shadows flickering across the tiles. I am not scared of the dark, but when the wind is howling and screaming through all the cracks in the house, I must admit even I felt a little uneasy! But show no fear! So we carried on washing, and then I notice Finley staring at the wall tugging at my arm with his eyes fixed saying cautiously “mummy…..Finley scared of Finley”. For a split second I am thinking what is this child talking about, and then I realize he is looking at his own shadow!!!! Love it! What comes out of two-year-olds mouths is priceless! So with that Mummy did a full puppet show in the shadows to ensure there was nothing to be afraid of. Once out the bath limited lighting also meant that for once there was no bare bums running around avoiding nappies and pyjamas, these little boys were glued to mummy and very happy to be getting dressed and heading back downstairs.
Once successfully downstairs the power had come back on, and normality was restored! I tell you what, Beira can stick you a sucker punch at times when you really don’t need it, but if you can turn these moments of frustration into mini victories, then life here becomes an adventure, not a struggle and as they say……….