Our year in Nigeria (2008-9) gave me a taste of living in an NAB mission house in West Africa. So I came with some medium to low expectations (and higher hopes) about our housing here in Cameroon. But for those of you who envisioned us living in a hut with a grass roof- we are way beyond that! (Except maybe when we will go out to the villages) The NAB mission houses are quite comfortable, large (especially since this one was designed for a large family and there are only two us here right now) and very liveable.
The big difference between our Nigeria experience and here, is that in Cameroon we have a Field Director (Cal Hohn) who personally oversaw many of the renovations and repairs to our house here in Ndu, and I was pleasantly surprised by the condition of the house when we arrived. Cal has an excellent Cameroonian electrician (Abel) and the whole house was rewired and LED lights installed. So except for no light in MY office for some reason, pretty much everything else works well- as long as there is actually grid power. (The seminary is loathe to turn on its generator unless there is something really important happening.)
Our first night, the power went out about 5 times, for a few minutes each time. There has been a loss of power for a while pretty much every day so far, but considering what I had been told about Ndu power, I was expecting it to be much worse. I think the longest it had been out has been a couple of hours, unless it went out longer at night sometime when we were sleeping, but my refrigerator seems cold every morning. (Yes, I have a refrigerator, with a small freezer. And now that I have figured out the controls, I have stopped freezing everything in the fridge portion as well.) However,we were without power from 1 amt Friday til about noon Saturday, and since I am missing a part to get my generator hooked up, That was not a power option, so I definitely was in danger of losing my freezer contents. Hopefully power is better now til I get the generator fixed, since most of the stuff in the freezer is ‘special’ stuff from Bamenda that I can’t buy here!!
I also, much to my delight, have a microwave!!!!!!!!!! I was prepared to treat ourselves and buy one eventually, but because of some renovations and rearrangements going on in Baptist Center in Bamenda, Cal was able to ‘dash’ (give for free) us one. Cooking for only two people, left overs are a HUGE part of meal planning so this is a massive bonus – if the power is on at dinner time. Since that is peak consumption time, that is questionable.
The biggest adjustment is the switch to 220 power and the hazards involved in using any 110v equipment or appliances brought from North America. Having blown the circuits of the one electrical appliance we brought to Nigeria in 2008 (a popcorn popper) by plugging it in without a step-down transformer, I was determined not to make the same mistake this time. So instead I am making slightly different variations of the same ones. I referred to one ‘oops’ in my previous blog.
When Cal inventoried the house, there was an old washing machine that has been sitting here for a couple of years, not working. This same amazing electrician (Abel) was able to determine what was wrong with it, got it running and since I brought over a new dial for the controls, it is now easy to operate. However, having no extension cord to have the cord reach the wall outlet, I innovated and put a regulator in to act as an extension. It made noises but didn’t want to do much. So I filled it manually to clean it (You have NO idea how much dust had settled on, in and throughout the tub) and then tried to start the agitator. It made funny noises but was doing something, so I left for a few minutes. I came back to that distinctive smell of an unhappy motor. So I shut it all down and engaged my time-honored problem solving technique of going to bed and sleeping on it. In the morning it suddenly occurred to me that there are two different outlets in the regulator. Sure enough, I checked and I had accidentally plugged in to the 220 outlet instead of the 110!! Somehow that did not blow the motor, and now the machine has happily done 2 or 3 loads for me- cold water only, and a little bit of leaking, but WHO CARES?!
That same day, buoyed by my electrical problem solving prowess, I tried to eliminate some factors in the puzzle of why I had no light in my office, so I decided to test the wall sockets. I have NO idea why I didn’t just plug in my phone charger (yes EVERYONE has those here!!) Instead I grabbed the really nice 110 power bar of my desk, (which I hadn’t used yet and was saving for printer, and other 110 office things we have coming) and plugged in in with a socket adapter. I should have used the extra step down transformer in between, which was my eventual plan, but that is currently in the laundry room, acting as an extension cord for my washer. I naively figured that if I wasn’t running anything with it, the extra voltage wouldn’t matter, and the light on it would tell me if there was power. But of course, it is 110 with a light, meaning it’s using power, and FZZT- POW-POP!! And that awful electrical smell! And oh yes- all the lights went off in the house.
Abel has labeled the panel better than the last two Canadian houses I have lived in, so I grabbed a torch (aka flashlight), flipped a few breakers, and we were back in business- except for my power bar. And, for some reason, there is now no power in that office outlet so there is now neither power NOR light in my office. So I am sitting at the small table I have placed in the parlor for exactly this purpose. But the power has gone out anyhow, so I should quit now and not run down my computer battery too far. (And I was not successful uploading any more pictures. Gave up after 8 attempts. Sorry.)
Besides, it’s dinner time and I have to go figure out how to heat my leftovers for dinner on the stove (it’s a gas one!)