01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: The joys of Kenya Power and Lighting 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

The joys of Kenya Power and Lighting

We have just experience three days and nights without power, Thursday afternoon to Sunday night.  Gasp!!  On the up side, we do have a generator, so it was not too, too tragic.  We just about managed to save the contents of our new fridge/freezer (which had hardly had a chance to cool down since delivery).  But on the down side, our generator is tiny it can only be run for a couple of hours at a time, plus it's bl**dy deafeningly noisy. 

We switched off the generator when we went to bed, thus extinguishing all night security lights in the garden and plunging us into erie darkness.  After one day, our burglar/intruder alarm packed up when the battery ran down.  It died by going off randomly during the night - but strangely enough, neither the security company back-up vechicle nor our own night guards pitched up to ask what was wrong, which didn't inspire much confidence.

In retrospect the situation was almost funny.  At no point did we have any idea what was going on, or when (or if!) the power might be restored.  Most galling and after a quick ring round, we discovered that all our neighbours had power and we were suffering alone. 

There is an emergency number for Kenya Power & Lighting, (which I admit was more than we had when we lived in Tanzania) but getting through, or getting a straight answer from the call centre is the biggest joke of all.  After three days, I wondered at the merits of having a number to call.  Blissful ignorance may have been less maddening.

First you have to re-dial around 30 times, because it either rings off or says number busy.  When you do get through you are put in queue by a very reassuring English voice in a pre-recorded message.  'you are seventh in the queue,' - that sort of thing.  Finally, you get to talk to an operator who then says, 'I can't hear you, must be a bad line' then abruptly hangs up and you are left spluttering on the other end.

If you manage to get to the stage where you are given an incident number, this helps.  But over 3 days, I was beginning to wonder if the information we were getting was simply fabricated to get us off the phone.

For example, in this order, we got the following answers,

'The line from Dagoretti is down - our engineers are working on it.'
'The engineers are not there yet, but we are aware that there is a problem.'
'The engineers are there, but they are inspecting the line, they have not found the problem yet.'
'There is a problem with your transformer.'
'Your transformer has been vandalised.'
'I will look into it and call you back.' (this obviously did not happen)
'Our engineers will be visiting you at around 8am tomorrow morning.'
'Your power will be restored by this evening.'

On Saturday, my husband found some KPLC workers on the road.  He pulled over to talk to them.  They helpfully gave him a new number for the KPLC, Dagoretti office - which you can only call if you have an incident number from the main call centre.  My daughter was really impressed by their steeplejack shoes.

Sunday. Still no power, so we made more calls:
'That's odd. You should be back online now.  If you still have no power then I will need to give you a new incident number.'
'There is a transformer down in your area.'
'There is a cable that has broken.'

By now, hooray, our neighbours also had lost power so we no longer had to suffer alone.  We were also considered by our friends/neighbours, true experts on all issues pertaining to power - since we had so much recent experience in the matter.  People were phoning us instead of KPLC, 'so when will the power be back?' they asked.

At Sunday lunchtime my husband managed to establish from the Dagoretti number, where exactly the problem was, and where, physically to find the engineers.  He decided to pay them a visit.

'So you say you have been working on this problem all day?'  He asked them in Swahili. They looked sheepish but the pointed out that the cable had indeed snapped.  They discussed that the problem might be due to the extra load from the four new housing complexes that have recently popped up around our house.  My husband said,
'If the power does not come back today, my wife will be very angry and I will be bringing her here to talk to you.'
Gales of laughter.
'It will be back in half an hour.' they said, 'we have fixed the problem and now just need to re-attach the wires.'

After one hour, on Sunday evening our power did come back.  It was a relief not to have to switch on that generator when darkness fell, but I have a nagging feeling that it's only a matter of time before our next outage.

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