Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Utility Futility

BlackoutMy heart sank immediately. There I was, 7:30pm last Wednesday evening, sitting at the computer doing some work against a deadline, when all the power to my flat died. I quickly checked the houses and shops opposite, on the other side of the lane. Damn! They are OK. I check the rest of my building. No power. The whole of one side of the lane is without power.

This is bad news. Living next door to the government workers compound, we are usually guaranteed a regular supply. The few times it is switched off, it affects both sides of the lane. Only twice in the last 7 years, has it affected only one side – about six weeks ago and on Tuesday. I knew immediately, that it must be a fault. And at 7:30 pm, you can be sure they ain't doing nothing about it tonight.

Last time, they took just over 24 hours sort it out. They dug a big hole at the top of the lane and decided that there was nothing amiss there. So, they crossed the main road and dug another big hole. Finally they found what was wrong and rectified it. (I did my duty and hung around waiting for someone to fall into one or more of the holes, but no, it's not falling down holes season.)

When the power went off on Tuesday I just knew we were in for a repeat performance. To make matters worse, when it went off, I was in the middle of cooking (I multi-task!). My rice was bubbling away in the electric rice cooker. I refuse to eat half cooked rice and I refuse to eat in the dark, so I went out for a long walk, ending up in a favourite noodle place where I ate, then sat studiously not going home. But eventually, they had to close and I surrendered. Back home, I lay on the bed staring at the darkness and mopping away sweat. One of the hottest nights of the year and no air-con or fan!

Next morning, after a miserable night's sleep, I pottered around the house doing things I should have done a while back, then wandered out for lunch. When I returned, I noticed an eerie lack of electricity company vehicles around the lane entrance. After checking that the power was indeed still off, I packed an overnight bag and headed off into the countryside to my other residence.

It was somewhat inconvenient to be there, but better than sitting in the dark for another night. I got some work done, both on Wednesday evening and on Thursday morning. On Thursday afternoon, I had to drag myself back to the city to meet someone, so I shut up countryside house again and caught the bus. After my meeting, I very apprehensively went home, fully prepared to return to the countryside if necessary. As I approached my building, I passed the foot massage shop and saw that they had their television on! They are on the same supply as me. Deep joy. I then met a neighbour who told me that the power had just been restored about 20 minutes earlier. It was out for a total of 42 hours.

Talking to friends later, I found they were totally unsurprised. Instead they were totally disbelieving when I said that in England we can go years between power outages. The last time I remember having no power at home in London, other than for routine maintenance work of which we are pre-warned, was during the Three Day Week in 1974.


Dripping TapSaturday afternoon, I'm at home, still working towards that deadline. At around 4pm, I take a break and wash my hands. I notice the water pressure seems lower than usual. Thirty minutes later, I decide to check again. Lower still. I immediately rush around filling every possible container with water. Buckets, saucepans, the washing machine. Eventually the water supply is reduced to an occasional drip.

I check with neighbours and they are experiencing the same. Someone calls the water company's emergency number and is informed that there are no scheduled works in the area. However, they add as a footnote, there are several major construction projects going on (as if we don't know).

"Perhaps someone has burst a pipe. That would cause a loss of pressure."

"We haven't lost pressure now! We've lost water!"

I resigned myself to waiting till Monday when the staff with brains may be back on duty.

Anyway, around 11 pm I absent-mindedly flushed the loo and realised I could hear the cistern refilling. We have water again. The pressure is still low, but it is usable. The only problem I have is that the pressure is too low to make controlling the shower temperature comfortable. The lowest I can get is 40C – I normally like it to be 38, but I'll survive. Probably.

And I made the deadline with days to spare.

. This entry was posted on Sunday, August 23rd, 2009 at 7:36 pm and is filed under Liuzhou Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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