Monday, October 29, 2012

Doing without

The power was off again on Saturday. This time it was only for a few hours and as it was for planned work, we at least knew about it in advance so we could make sure we were ready for it. Not only does this involve charging up all the laptops and iPads and making sure there's nothing open on the computer, it also involves filling up as many plastic bottles as we can find with drinking water. You can't really drink the tap water here and so we have a nice fancy filter that plugs directly into the main water supply and gives us lovely clean and chilled water whenever we need it. But of course it also comes with a plug on it and stops working whenever there's a power cut. Still, as I said, we were prepared.

What we weren't prepared for was the power cut that came on Sunday. This one was one of the more common São Paulo sort - the sort that comes with its own thunderstorm. I really should have learnt by now that when the temperature goes from twenty-five to thirty-five degrees almost overnight, then there's a storm on the way, and Sunday's was a stunner. It didn't last very long, but the hail was fairly impressive and the wind was strong enough to blow the cobwebs out of a fair few trees. And buildings.

I'm not entirely sure what exactly this was, before it was this. It might have been some sort of bus shelter or possibly someone's roof. Either way, it's now making a complete mess of the local trees and power lines.

So anyway. Off went the power once more. Only this time we weren't so prepared, having used up all our reserves of water the previous day and (rather short-sightedly) not yet replaced them. And this time it was late afternoon. It was dark because of the clouds and it was chucking it down with rain so going out anywhere was not going to be such a great idea. And, just for a bit of added fun, we lost our water supply at the same time, apparently due to a leak at the end of the street.

Not that we could have had our drinking water anyway, what with the lack of power, but this time we had to do without anything at all. Nothing to wash up with, or wash with, and most importantly of all, nothing to flush the toilets with. And believe me, in this heat, and with four of you in the house, that's not so much fun.

Nor is trying to sleep without air-conditioning. Yes, I know air-con is a wasteful luxury and houses are built with windows so you can open them to let the fresh air in. But out here there are several problems with that. Firstly, the air is not all that fresh. Secondly, opening the window can sometimes make it hotter, not cooler. And thirdly, mosquitoes really like open windows, especially if they've just been disturbed by a huge storm. Oh, and fourthly, it's really noisy with the windows open, what with all the planes and helicopters and cars and dogs and parties.

We put David to bed, but he couldn't sleep because he was too hot and too thirsty and it was too dark without a light on in the hall. So we moved him to the back of the house, where there was a faint hint of a breeze, and we set up his bed and his mosquito net, and we put a candle outside the door. But now it was too noisy as well as still being too hot. Tough. There was nothing else we could do short of letting him sleep in the fridge - and even that wasn't all that cold by this time.

Eventually he did fall asleep though. Then it was time to do the whole thing again for James. Then for Helen and me. But finally, after much huffing and puffing and shifting of beds and setting up of mosquito nets, we were all ready to try and get some sleep.

And then the power came back on. So we got up and woke the boys up and lugged their beds back into the room with the air-conditioning and sent them back to sleep, then Helen and I went back downstairs, turned off all the lights that were now on, did the washing up (as the water had miraculously come back on as well), refilled all the water bottles ready for the next time, put all the laptops and iPads back on charge and then finally...finally went off to bed in a nice cool bedroom with nothing more to show for our troubles than a handful of new mosquito bites - or in Helen's case, a handful, an armful and two legs-full - and a shopping list which features candles, torches, batteries, ear plugs and insect bite cream.


  1. Andrew, I really like your blog. I am Brazilian, paulistano at heart and have lived here for most of my 54 years. Therefore, I am very familiar with the things that bother you and also the things that please you. Anyway, foreigners tend to fall in love with the city or hate it above everything. But you have been really fair with us. Your first posts showed an enthusiastic newcomer. Later on you were really disappointed with the city / country and a little bitter too. Now it´s something like "ok, I am gonna leave in a few years, the bad things are not that bad, let´s enjoy the good things and I am sure, 10 years down the road, I will have endless stories to tell my friends back home."... ;-) .. I hope you have better days, despite the hot weather. Regards

  2. Thanks for the comment, Fabio. It's nice to know that the blog is bringing pleasure to people outside my immediate family!

    I know I have been a little hard on Brazil, and especially São Paulo, in the past, but I must confess that mostly it was because I find I can make my writing funnier when I'm complaining! I'm actually very fond of the city and its people. I have met so many kind and generous people out here and that more than makes up for all the unnecessary bureaucracy and high prices that are such a part of every-day life out here.

    And yes, I will have many, many great stories to take home with me.