I now sit here watching the reception bar on my computer flashing. The Internet connection just dropped and my computer seems to have some hope that it will come back. The computer’s attempt to regain a connection makes me hopeful that it will come back soon. Honestly, I have begun to get used to the fact that the Internet, electricity and even the gas and water may stop at any moment for no seemingly apparent cause. A few times I have come home to hear my mom say that the water has not come today and more often that the electricity is gone. In the beginning of our service in wintertime I theorized that it happened because of weather phenomenon. If this is the excuse I have come to adjust my definition of ‘phenomenon’ to include weather that is too cold, too hot, if the sun shines too bright, if its raining and certainly if it is too windy. The electricity may just go with the wind. Currently here in Azerbaijan there has been no scientific or specific measurement for ‘too much’ of any one particular condition, but when the electricity is gone too much of any one problem becomes really easy to say. Oh and there is always the reason that the neighbor turned off your supply. That one is legit. And sometimes it is because the post office people are being lazy and aren’t allowing these things to reach the house. The post office takes on a lot of responsibility in this country. Regardless in conversation it still seems to take the blame for any lack of utilities or Internet.
The lack of reliable, daily utilities can be the blamed on any adverse weather conditions but one thing is for certain, the infrastructure that supports these conveniences and necessities is not sufficient enough to support the population. The situation is not more likely to occur if one lives in a more rural region, in fact I believe that it is more likely to happen in more populous areas. I also live in a city and suspect that we lose electricity here more often than the surrounding villages do. I have no concrete evidence of that though. Here in Azerbaijan I experienced it and heard of it happening most in the suburb areas surrounding the capital. Perhaps the larger the population the infrastructure must support, the less reliable the system.
It seems ironic that a country with such a wealth in energy resources such as oil has problems supplying reliable electricity and even gas to their people. In a typical day, more severely in one of these ‘adverse’ weather phenomena, the electricity may come and go three or four times. Each time it could be gone for hours at a time. After first arriving here I remember thinking something like Oh no, the electricity is out! What can we do? That thought stopped shortly after starting. It is such a regular and daily occurrence. It is regular enough that it happens that a routine reaction by most has been adapted. It only takes a couple seconds to complete. One looks up to the sky or as though looking directly up or at the light bulbs will perhaps allow us to rediscover the light as though it might just be hiding. Once verifying that the light is in fact gone, we look side to side and make eye contact with people around you saying a phrase that means the light is gone, ishug sondu. Some people say it as a statement and others ask in a question form. Regardless we all know the reality. The light is most definitely out and will be so for an undetermined amount of time.
There is something comforting about the times when no power sources are running. When the power is out everything becomes quiet. Cars can still wiz by on streets and motorbikes muffler noises continue to rip through the air, but the space behind the walls becomes still. Televisions, desktop computers and other energy spending, noise making machines all shut down and rest for a moment. It took me a while to realize that this place is actually really noisy when all is running. General volume levels, whether it is in people’s conversations or the level they listen to the television at is generally a decibel or two higher than what I think is necessary. Quiet is familiar to me, I was raised in a quiet place by quiet people. I find a comfort in the quiet space between times the electricity decides to work. When the lights go out people come together. I recall a couple times enjoying a cup of tea in the lightless room with my co-workers. In the winter when it is cold, we gather in the living room of my home away from home. So even if I find the unreliable electricity inconvenient, and I pray that no one has to live a cold winter without heat or any day of the year without water, I appreciate the times that we can all take a break from the noise and mindless use of our electric appliances. It can bring people together.
If you were wondering, yes this was written from the dark comfort of my room. I had a little time and a quiet space to write.