#sol19- March 29, 2019
When I moved to Malaysia in the summer of 2014 I looked at maybe ten apartments before choosing one. It was not until I moved in that I discovered the answer to the question I never thought to ask: “Is there hot water in the kitchen?”
Turns out it is “normal” to not have hot water access in the kitchen in many parts of the world, including Malaysia. I was grateful I was living alone, so at least I would just be sharing germs with myself if I did not manage to properly clean my dishes.
I moved to Cambodia last summer and only recently found out the question I should have been sure to ask while apartment shopping. This time the question was: “Is there a generator for the building?”
A few weeks ago in Phnom Penh, we started to have much more frequent black outs. The dry season is upon us and apparently, levels of water are so low that the turbines for the hydroelectric power can not function. Of course, water itself has been affected and outside of the city my TA has not had access to water during the day for about two months. At school, the power goes off and the students shriek or groan, but quickly the generator flips on and regular routines resume, although the wifi has been iffy.
I hear from people about missed Skype interviews, sweltering while waiting for the power to come back, the uncertainty of whether you will be missing water or electricity, and I know I am lucky. Without even asking the question I should have asked I am in an apartment that has a good generator, so although I lose power for a few seconds at a time it quickly comes back to life. Many others are not so lucky, so I try not to get impatient when the wifi fades out.
Walking down the road while the power is out is really a tale of two cities- many shops are dark- they are losing so much business. Some construction sites fall silent, while others call in the reserves. I heard this truck roaring outside a work area, powering it all.
The blackouts are predictable by now, which helps a bit. The local papers publish when each substation will be cut. Today when I called to make an appointment for a massage she told me I would have to wait just over two hours, “We have no electricity, but we will at six.” When I arrived just before six, she told me the power had just been restored.
Things seem like they are going to get worse before they get better. A friend posted on Facebook that tomorrow there is supposed to be a 12-hour blackout- she was offering her air-conditioned apartment and refrigerator space for anyone who does not have a generator. The “real feel” was 40C today (104F).
As I begin apartment shopping to move neighborhoods this summer I now know one of the first questions to ask (followed by “Does this street flood?” as the rainy season approaches).