Wednesday, November 11, 2009


In the Dark

Ecuador is experiencing the worst drought in forty five years. There is one hydroelectric facility in eastern Ecuador that provides power for most of the country, and it is running at a fraction of its capacity. For a week now, we have had regular blackouts. They started without warning; suddenly one day the lights went out. Since then, the local paper has published a schedule for the city. Each section of the city has four to six hour periods without electricity, and it has turned out to be quite accurate. Knowing ahead of time helps us organize our lives. I am astonished that we are adjusting as well as we have.

This evening our lights were out until 7 PM. We have a gas stove, so I was able to cook by candlelight. Maya used a flashlight to do her homework, and Eric was able to continue working on his computer with battery power. I went downstairs to take a spinning class by candlelight. My impression is that Ecuadorians are not particularly distressed and make do with their reality. I do worry about the small businesses, that are clearly struggling without electricity.

Candlelight and Batteries

Eric and I discussed buying a car battery to run our wireless internet. Of all inconveniences, not having internet frustrates him the most. Many buildings and institutions have generators to manage such inconveniences. Our building has a generator to keep the elevators functioning and a few lights on.

Traffic is significantly affected by the blackouts. Without traffic lights in huge sections of the city, cars are piled up and waiting. It takes far longer to get anywhere and crossing streets feels more dangerous. Maya's schoolbus arrives late, we are late to orchestra, late getting home; everyone accepts that anyway, and are more tolerant now than ever.

Thankfully. the days are bright and sunny and living without electricity is not quite so bad in the sunshine. But the beautiful summer days are precisely the problem. It is winter now, and usually Quito is rainy and cold from September to March. Usually, the rains fill the hydroelectric dams and there is no shortage of electricity. I have been appreciating the wonderful weather, and until the blackouts occurred gave no thought to the consequences of missing winter. Now I look out over the mountains for any sign of rain. I believe at this point it will take many storms to fill the dams. And hopefully the powers that be will start to plan for future such emergencies and organize an alternative source of energy.

Hoping for Rain

This experience certainly makes one anticipate the future when oil and gas are gone. How will we manage? Will we have alternative sources available to us, or will we learn to live with less energy? Certainly these past few days have had an impact on our use of energy. Eric is being militant about turning off lights and any devices that have an electric plug. I find myself modifying my plans based on the blackout schedule. I appreciate that it is regular and predictable, at least for now.

Sunshine and Mountains

Gorgeous Flowers

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