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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Power Failure


There’s nothing like a summertime heat wave, followed by thunderous storms and refreshing breezes. In our experience of late, insert “loss of electrical power, causing one to stumble around in darkness and suffer through a sweaty, steamy night with pounding head and drenched pajamas”, instead of any cooling relief.

I generally like to sleep with a small light on. It helps to inform me if one of the dogs jumped on the bed, rather than perhaps a baby lion cub wandered in and wanted to snuggle for awhile. Then there was that time in a foreign hotel when a worker popped his head in the door in the middle of the night. I was glad that a small lamp was burning the midnight oil and I could report this sorry specimen of a security guard to his superiors.

So when the lights go off, I’m a bit at a loss. Particularly when it’s nearing 100 degrees inside and out, with humidity about the same. It takes me back to any of a number of uncomfortable places, probably the worst of which was in Uganda, sleeping under a mosquito net, soaked with equal parts perspiration and bug spray, hungry dogs gnawing the bones of something outside our open window all night, and the joy of pit latrines lying just beyond. I didn’t sleep for the entire sultry, sticky, seven days we were there.

Our latest loss of power went down something like this: we arrived home at 6:00 pm, to discover that the electricity had gone off during a late afternoon storm. The a/c was on before that, but the temperatures were already soaring. We scooped up the Scotties and headed to a meeting in another part of town that still had power. Returning home at 8:30 pm, everyone quickly grew hot and tired. We resorted to bringing in Chinese carryout, dining by candlelight, and then trying to sleep.

Did you know that there are summer nights when the temperature really doesn’t decrease at all at night?

It was hotter than hot and darker than dark. Unless you’re used to darkness, it’s uncomfortable. You can hurt yourself. Danger lurks where there are no lamps.

Our whole neighborhood was dark. Nary a candle burned anywhere. There were a few neighbors seen strolling on nearby streets, walking to cafes, trying to find a market that might still have ice for sale. We glimpsed others in garden chairs, sipping cool drinks in their backyards, imagining themselves to be in the Adirondacks, no doubt. I hoped for their sakes that the votive candles on the tables were packed full of industrial-strength citronella, to fight off the meat-eating mosquitoes-on-a-mission. It was nice to see people making lemonade out of lemons, shall we say, while my husband longed for his namesake sparkling ice water, San Benedetto.

Many of our neighbors were gone, poof, vanished, checked-out like a resort abandoned just after the season’s close. I think they all headed for hotels in other sectors of the city. Because of the dogs, we were stuck.

Misha and Grisha groaned in the heat and finally went into a sleepy, hibernation mode. I gave them water and checked on them repeatedly, Benedetto drawing the line at my putting a cool cloth on their furry foreheads. I heard the kids get up and down out of bed to splash water on their faces through the night. Personally, I tossed this way and that on top of the bed, my sinuses swelling and throbbing, no sleep in sight.

And I don’t even have sinus problems.

At 2:30 am, I approached Benedetto, who was out cold. Well, “out”, in any event.

“I think we’re all going to die.”

“Huh? What?” he snorted awake. “What do you want me to do about it? I’ve called the electric company three times. How about we all go sit in the car?”

“Fine,” I agreed, and it took practically no time at all to saddle up the troops and head ’em on out. Anyplace had to be better than “here”.

Most everyone fell asleep as soon as the frigid airconditioning hit their faces. Pasha, of course, did not. He went into his pretzel-boy routine, twisting long arms and legs this way and that, restless enough to keep me awake for hours, even in the cool. Which made me hot under the collar and defeated the whole auto adventure.

At 4:30 am, we returned inside and the interior temperature of the house had dropped slightly. At last, I was able to fall to a fitful sleep for a couple of hours. As the sun began its ascent, so did the heat.

We were going out of town that day, anyway, so I instructed everyone to take cool showers and pack their things. I looked in the mirror in the dim and semi-dark bathroom, spying my puffy eyes and bright red cheeks, and shuddering. Weren’t we a pretty sight?

Somehow we made it through the day, sleep-deprived, but cool. By the time we returned to the city late at night, there was still no power. It was time to leave for the dacha and call it a day. A very long day and night.

This was my second experience in as many weeks to be without electricity. The first time it was imagined that our home had been struck by lightning–yes, only us–out of an entire metro area of millions. It made me wax philosophical during those sleepless, silent hours on end.

We’ve probably all tried to live life without power and without light. I can tell you, it’s dangerous in many ways, and not a lot of fun in others. People in other parts of the world can manage to get-by on no power if they’ve never experienced it. They may scoff at what they do not know.

All I can say is that when the lights at last came on again, I might only describe it as pure and utter relief, and the sense that all was well with the world again. There were no longer any plaguing, paranoid thoughts of banditi robbing the block blind, Scotties stumbling down the stairs, food rotting in the fridge, or kids crying from heat exhaustion. We definitely did not need such drama.

I am going to live with power. It’s possible to survive without it–but why?

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