c6 angola project


Electrocution
October 8, 2009, 3:48 pm
Filed under: *Travel Diary

The first night when we arrived to Filomena’s house in Benguela, I wanted to plug in the camera batteries.  There was a socket behind the bed board, so i scooted the bed out from the wall a bit just enough to squeeze my arm down.  Because of how I was seated I couldn’t reach the socket with my right hand, so i turned over and blindly reached down with my left.  All I remember was a vice-like numbness, something like a foam rubber ice pit bull grabbing hold of my hand and my head going fuzzy.  I have no idea how much electric current passed through me, but when i came to, some of the beads on the bracelet on my left hand had exploded, my whole lower arm was both numb and in pain, all my things were scattered over the floor and my heart was pounding.  it was a mild electrocution, but it sure freaked me out.

P1030480electricity is a huge issue everywhere.  there was this massive yellow metal box out in the back courtyard at filomena’s house – the generator.  usually there’d be at least one power outage a day.  we’d plug in our batteries in the evening to find out they hadn’t charged because the power went out at night.  if we caught the outage before going to sleep, we’d go and crank up the generator, set it going and resume activities.  this was a constant occurrence everywhere we stayed – whether in rich or poor neighborhoods.  usually the power would go out and no one would miss a beat.  just keep on talking in the dark.  eventually someone would find a candle.  or maybe the neighbor had a generator and it would cast some light over the fence.

erika had an electrocution story from time she spent in india.  she was alone in a room – her friends were just outside. she went to turn on the light and touched a live wire. she couldn’t get her hand off the wall.  the electricity kept coursing through her body. she tried to scream for help but no sound came out.  somehow she got off of the wall and a doctor told her she was lucky she didn’t try to free her hand with the other hand, because the current would have passed through her heart and killed her.

jimmy had an electrocution story from amsterdam.  i only vaguely remember it. he was repairing a washing machine and somehow touched a live wire. he said it was like getting stomped on my an elephant.  he woke up on his back on the floor.

i probably have these two stories wrong, but this is how i imagine them…

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filomena was born and raised in this house where i was mildly electrocuted about 200 meters from the beach, next door to the defunct malaria prevention center and across the street from the new medical university.  she lived for 8 years in italy where she studied. she left the country during part of the war without any form of visa and with no right or permission to stay in italy but somehow worked it out. she came back to angola while the war was still on and helped to start the elinga theater in luanda.  for the past year and a half she has been waiting for a reply from the bank about a loan request to renovate her home and turn it into a small pension.  benguela has it’s sights on becoming a tourist center as the renovation of the national infrastructure continues to move forward.  after a year and a half of waiting, filomena got the call from the bank while we were there that they would approve her loan.  this meant the world to her.

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there’s a park in the middle of the town called “park one million” – because it cost one million dollars to renovate. (the word is that the actual cost of the renovation of a park like this should have been 200,000 USD)

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