Light the candles

No I am not talking about on the birthday cake …. but strangely we did this last Sunday and there was much excitement from the two year old when he was presented with a plate of cup cakes each with a lit candle – lots of blowing and shouting “cup cakes for EVERYONE!!”

What I am talking about is when the electricity goes off. Takes you by surprise doesn’t it? Computers all shut down – no tv, no radio. Peek out the door and check the neighbours – yes they are all down so it is not just us. Oh well, sit back and enjoy the quiet. It wasn’t long and the electricity was back on and everying started firing off again – tv, netflix, fridge, alarm, computer. Oh welcome back to Civilisation! Here we go.

It was a bit inconvenient as we had to go into the office to reboot the server as no-one could get into their programs even when the electricity was up and running. But what blew me away was how angry some people were on social media. The exchange between some of the participants was shocking and yet entertaining. I feel guilty even saying that but really – sometimes all you can do is shake your head. It was explained in the post that electricity is a right! Oh wow. Clean drinking water – yes – but electricity???

Anyway, enough of that – it got me thinking about living in Africa and how the electricity going off was just part of life. In Johannesburg they called it load shedding and people prepared for it with their own generators. Loud, noisy and irritating but necessary. I remember driving home one day a few years back when in Johannesburg and from the top of the hill the whole suburb was in darkness and way in the distance you could see that the adjacent suburb was all lit up but you knew that they would get their turn of load shedding before too long.

In Swaziland it wasn’t a case of load shedding but violent thunder storms that used to rip down the valley uprooting trees and downing power lines. I can remember gathering the kids in their pj’s while we stood at the window looking down at the valley, all in complete darkness, which was periodically lit up by huge lightening flashes. During those lit moments we could see the road below almost turned into a waterfall. After the flash of lightening we would teach the kids to count down until the crash of thunder which would tell them how close the storm was. Even though we were counting down we always jumped when the thunder went off. Being at the head of the valley it seemed that the valley itself acted as an auditorium and the thunder was centre stage. Gosh I miss those African storms.

Everyone was prepared. You had your gas lamps and candles ready as well as your gas powered hot plate in case you needed to boil the kettle or fry an egg! Yes it was inconvenient but it was part of life.

And just one last thought about generators. They are very useful things and many of the smaller game camps in Africa use these to generate electricity for the tented or small hut accommodations. But by 10 pm or so the generators are all switched off and I can remember lying in my tent and hearing the hum of the machine abruptly disappear leaving only the night sounds of the bush. An owl hooting, a hyena laughing, crickets and frogs and the odd baboon shout. Bliss!

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


  1. Very interesting article. Makes you think how other people live. We take so much for granted. Thanks for the insight.


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