Monday, March 17, 2008


Blackouts In Singapore
During my childhood, I enjoyed power blackouts.

Blackouts occur very infrequently in Singapore so whenever they happened, my sisters and I were usually very excited. Whenever the power and lights went off in our 3-room Clementi apartment, I would run to the windows. If our opposite apartment block appeared pitch dark too, I knew for certain that a blackout had occured.

"Blackout! Bring out the torch and candles," I would happily informed my family.

We would light up several candles to cast away the darkness. I believe that the main reason we liked blackouts was because we were allowed to play with candles, outside of mid-autumn festival. My dad would use his torch to check the condition of the fusebox, as if it would help. We would berate our dad because his torch-light was diluting our candle light, making the magic moment less unique.

The blackouts were moments for community building. Residents were suddenly forced to leave their TV sets or whatever they are doing and start socializing with their neighbours. Within minutes from the blackouts, the entire apartment block came alive with lively chatter and lit up like a christmas tree with flickering candle lights and fidgeting torch-light beams.

Usually, a blackout lasted half an hour. As soon as the first flourescent tube started flickering back to life, the banter died down and the candle light extinguished as the evening drifted back to it's mundane normacy.

"Go back to your homework!" My mom would command.

Blackouts in Lebanon
Fast foward 20 years later, daily power failures are a norm in Beirut.

Since the late 2007, Lebanon has been enforcing daily 3 hours power-cuts. Which is an inconvenience when your building doesn't have a backup generator. Fortunately, the current apartment has one.

It's a bigger nuisance to experience the power-cuts in the office, especially when the backup generator often fail as well (Murphy's law!!!). Halfway in a meeting and then *poof* everything went dark. Or the printer will jam halfway during a print job when the power died.

Blackouts in Algeria

The frequency of the blackouts depends on location. I can't speak for most of the areas but for two areas I'm more familiar with - Cheraga and Sidi Fredj.

By far, Cheraga was the worst of the two. During close to a year's stay in Cheraga, there were many blackouts. Though not a lot compared to Beirut standards, it had been pretty inconvenient to our daily routine, especially when there was no backup generator at all.

The most memorable was a 3 day blackout in late August 2007, which affected quite a large region around our guesthouse. There was no lights, no heater and no refridgeration. At that time, we didn't had any inkling how long it was going to last.

After sulking around for an entire evening without being able to shower or cook and much worse, see anything, we invoked company policy and checked into Sheraton Club des Pins.

In my opinion, at about USD200++ a night, Sheraton Club des Pins is the most expensive hotel in the world if you compare service with cost. Simply put, at the hotel, you get tourist class service and attitude while paying 5 star hotel prices.

Anyway, upon checking in, we discovered that the hotel was holding a Mexican Fiesta event for that week. My latino colleagues (Colombian, El Salvadorian) were of course quite excited. Here's some of the pictures we took.

The setting for a night of Mexican music and food.
Latino crooner for the evening aka 'golden voice'.
According to my Colombian colleague, who has some inkling about Mexican food, "this is not Mexican food! They imagined this up!" We checked and the guest chef was indeed Mexican so we attributed the cause to be a lack of proper ingredients. We also didn't appreciate the food being served cold.
After dinner, we enjoyed a live performance by Mariachis in 1001 Nuit, the Sheraton inhouse pub
The next day, a weekend, we spend half a day lounging at the beach. My South American colleagues were watching a beach volley game.Finally, the electricity came back on and we were checking out to move back to Cheraga. While checking out, we caught another performance of the Mariachis at the lobby.

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