To say that things are slow here would be an understatement of the more drastic variety. With city-wide water and power cuts the NGO and commercial sectors seem to have been issued with a cease work order. On Friday, the first day of the outages both interviewees for my research decided not to go to their offices. Unfortunately, neither called to inform me, so bright and early on Friday morning I arrived to the first person’s office only to learn that they had not reported for work. Not only did they not care to inform me that they were cancelling our appointment, but they also did not answer my repeated phone calls trying to confirm that we would still meet. That is just how life here goes; one can either adapt or choose to suffer the consequences.
Worse for me than the frustration of having my work stopped dead in the water, I had to spend Friday and Saturday attempting to fight off heat stroke while marooned on the couch alternatively drinking water out of sachets, and dousing them over my face trying to cool down. 40 degrees Celsius does not sound that hot, and indeed many times I have weathered far worse, but without even the relief of a fan and cold water, it quickly becomes an exercise in brutality. The silver lining to the situation though is that I finished the book I have been reading for the last few weeks. Strangely I was reading the journals of an Antarctic Explorer who attempted to cross the continent at the beginning of the last century. Reading stories of their terrible sufferings from the cold at least managed to put my situations into its proper perspective—I am uncomfortable, but regardless of my lamentations and complaints, I was not in any danger.
I am desperately hoping to make up for the lost days next week, sitting idle is hard for me, even if I have enjoyed all the reading. This week should be an interesting one. I have been trying to meet with some of the larger international organization; trying to understand their approaches to poverty and cooperating within the sector and with the government, along with how they interact with beneficiaries. Much to my surprise and delight, Tzedek seems to be well represented in the community. People and organizations who have never directly interacted with us have mentioned being familiar not just with the name, but with some of our activities and projects here. True to my experience from last time, I think people are simultaneously pleased and tickled by the fact that I do not work out of an office, but rather use a laptop situated on my living room table. It might not add much to the perceived prestige of Tzedek, but it does certainly garner their respect.
With the lights, fans, and refrigerator now back in action, I am looking forward to an evening of cold drinks and maybe a movie or two with my housemates, before we all scramble to make up for the lost time. I really admire how people here are so accepting of such setbacks. For the most part NGOs and even business accept such outages as part of life, whereas I have been sitting brooding about the fact that my work is being delayed. Not out of any illusion that my work might somehow be more important, but rather because I find it frustrating that something so outside of my control could destroy the momentum I had worked to build over the past 4 weeks. Not to worry though, Monday is less than 12 hours away, and I am forecasting a good week for both work and play!