Do you KNOW what it’s like, dear reader, when the electricity goes off? Several times a month if you’re lucky, up to several times a day if not? You’re trying to run a guest house. It’s winter, and you’re not in Mestia or Ushguli, so the guest list is intermittent but not zero. You’re in Upper Svaneti so the power has been free longer than your 20 years in Georgia, but when you really pay is when it goes off. As it has done three times this evening well after dark. I started writing this on my laptop’s battery power, then it came on again.
However, the 3rd off-and-on brings little joy anymore, as you remain expectant that it’ll go off yet again before the night is out.
You have three fridge/freezer combos and two separate freezers, as well as a host of electric heaters and five bathroom water boilers, as well as a smart TV of modest proportions. That’s a lot of electrical or electronic toys to get spoiled by the cheerful coming and going of The Power without warning.
You unplug most of the above while you’re waiting for things to stabilize, so as to minimize said damage. If the heaters are off long enough, you’ll be forced to start the monster Svan wood stove for some warmth, as nights are currently going down to -12 C or so.
You’ve also stocked up on rechargeable lamps instead of candles for the inevitable outages and you also know how to use the flashlight function on your phone, a vital thing. These particular blackouts aren’t even connected with heavy snowfall as it’s been such a mild winter! You also look outside each time to see if the whole hamlet or village are in the dark, just in case it’s just your own house, which it has never yet been, but one never knows.
The thought comes to call one of several local electrical guys, to find out what the problem is, as it’s NEVER advertised beforehand. The main guy is someone you’re not sure you can trust to give you a straight answer: expect merely soothing words that it’ll come back on soon, don’t worry. You want the TRUTH! You don’t call, but wait it out.
You know that your free power comes through an aging system, which will be renovated as cheaply as possible if at all, because where would the money come from for real improvements if not from your paying a power bill? Your house doesn’t even have a connected meter, just the one which came with the house and hasn’t been connected for more than a decade or two.
You also wonder about sounding like a whiner putting all this into a national newspaper, when in other parts of the world, people have so much less. Ah, but Georgia and Svaneti were once very well off, at least in Soviet terms; the best! And that’s all long gone, only slowly, glacially slowly, coming back; long are the memories of the relative prosperity and the traumatic fall into chaos in all spheres of life. So which is worse: never to have had at all, or to have had and lost, or now, to have occasionally and not at other times? The last one is perhaps hardest to live with and get used to, as it’s random-seeming and plays on your hopes and nerves.
You have contemplated and discussed with your spouse the wisdom of getting both a house-scale voltage stabilizer and an equally impressive fossil fuel-powered generator, instead of the little 5 kW one you have for the fridge-freezers. Expensive, and you’ve also looked into wind and solar and battery walls, all the off grid possibilities dreamed up and even used by those expecting the apocalypse and preparing for it. Once again, tonight, you wish you had bitten the bullet, but you haven’t yet, so you just grit your teeth and COPE somehow. Tomorrow will bring both daylight and a faint hope of improvement.
Welcome to my recurring nightmare. OK, rant over. Wake up, get back to reality.
Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/
He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti
By Tony Hanmer
23 January 2020 16:10