…shouted the American Peace Corps Volunteer as the eight newly-installed tube lights in her bush house flickered on for the first time. Well, ok, only two of the eight newly-installed tube lights actually flickered on that first night. But thankfully, the fundi [fundi: (n.) a professional, or expert, who may or may not have any actual proficiency in his/her advertised skill, in this case electricity – an electrician, if you will…sorry for so carelessly neglecting this word in my Kiswanglish glossary of a few weeks ago] and his assistant hadn’t left the neighborhood yet, so I just called him back and had them fix the other six.
Just a few months after my school’s purchase of a powerful, diesel-eating, electricity-producing milling machine, the single row of ten teachers’ houses on campus, at the very bottom of which squats my own, was wired for electricity. The school, whose classrooms and dormitories are stationed across the main road from our homes, has always used a small generator to facilitate the students’ “evening prep” study hours. Until less than a week ago, though, come the 7pm sunset, my house was sunken beneath the heavy tide of darkness, preserved only by the flimsily buoyant wisps of candle flames.
And then the electricity arrived.
This wildly fortunate development was entirely unexpected. With decidedly un-Tanzanian speed, the authorities at my school notified us teachers about the incoming electricity and successfully carried out its installation in less than one week. Each house was fitted with as many tube lights as it has rooms and three outlets, all of which now function from 7pm to 10pm each evening.
When the fundi arrived at my house with his assistant, they tore a 3x3-foot hole out of my ceiling so that they could hoist themselves into the narrow space between the tin roof and the cork ceiling boards. When I asked them if they were going to repair it, they said, “Who, us?” Once the wires (which came, draped like clothesline through the air, from my neighbor’s house) were strung into my “attic,” they needed to somehow be fed down into my living space. As far as I could see, the greatest obstacle was the absence of a drill, which could have been used to bore small holes in the ceiling through which the wires could have been thread somewhat tastefully. The fundi and his assistant didn’t share my concern for ceiling aesthetics, though, which became obvious when they started smashing 3x3-inch hammer holes in my corkboard and sliding skinny little wires through them.
A small price to pay, I thought, and I was right. The large, tattered hole where the fundi and his assistant climbed through my ceiling seems an overly convenient entrance for creepy things like bugs, rats, and bats, but I’ve covered the smaller hammer holes up with duct tape. This looks a bit tacky, but then again so does the rest of my house’s pied, do-what-you-can-with-what-you-have decorative style. And the most important part is: it lights up. Since they bopped holes all over my ceiling, the lights have come on reliably, every night, and I’ve enjoyed three full hours of tube lighting and phone charging. Not to mention iPod and computer charging.
And my Tanzanian friends and colleagues? Well, they like it just fine. During one conversation, a teacher said, "These developments are coming so fast. Soon, it'll be just like Laura's home." Maybe not quite, but at least I'll be able to see the differences after the sun goes down.