Power outages are a part of life in Saigon. Electricity is subsidized by the government, which theoretically keeps costs down, but also puts everyone on the grid at the mercy of planned, neighborhood-specific rolling blackouts. In the developed world, these are used as a last resort by power companies to avoid a complete city-wide power failure, whereas in Saigon they are a common occurrence. These daytime blackouts can be sweaty, but otherwise innocuous and a good excuse for getting out of the house.
On the other hand, there are sporadic nighttime blackouts generally caused by severe weather. I was recently marooned alone at home during a violent thunderstorm and power outage. I was faced with the challenge of what to do in this situation - how can I be productive in such dismal settings?. If you find yourself in a similar spot, I have some recommendations:
- Break out your candles (provided you have some on hand) and light them. Without these, you're pretty much up shit's creek without a paddle.
- Turn off the lights and any electronic devices you had on at the time of the power outage. Wouldn’t want a short circuit once the electricity has been magically restored.
- Open a window. If your power outage is due to severe weather, it would be wise to close the biggest ones to avoid household flooding, but leave at least one open to catch the fabulously cold breezes that accompany a mighty storm.
- Wash the dishes. Water requires no power, so it’s high time to tackle that unruly mess in your kitchen. Scrub down the counters and stove and keep your local sugar ant population at bay!
- Go outside. It feels wonderful once the rains let up, plus your neighborhood should be as eerily silent as mine was (with the exception of a few intrepid children splashing through the puddles).
- Tackle that project you have been meaning to start. Whether it be writing some letters home, an art project that has been nagging you to get after, or simply organizing your drawers and workspace. Utilize this downtime.
- Use the computer. Hopefully your laptop is fully charged because this is the perfect time to do some non-internet required computing. Organize your photos, create some playlists on iTunes, or amuse yourself with the beautiful simplicity of solitaire.
- Make some music and write a song - provided that you are a musician with an instrument on hand.
- Make lists. Top ten albums of 1987, best foods to eat in a canoe, and top ten worst restaurant bathrooms in Saigon are a few to get you started.
- Get out of the house. Although heading out of the house mid-rainstorm in the pitch dark can be daunting, it's almost guaranteed that there is light just a few neighborhoods away.
Things to avoid:
- Try not to go in and out of the fridge too much. You don’t want your food to spoil. In fact this might be a good time to cook up anything that is at risk of rotting (fish, meat, cheese, etc.)
- Reading. Depending on your candle situation this could really strain your eyes.
- A drop in your spirits. Don’t fret! It will all be over soon enough!