Yesterday I went into Endiro Coffee, the muzungu coffee shop, and found it absolutely packed at 3:30 in the afternoon. What could explain this off-hour onslaught (besides the fantastic coffee)? And then it hit me:
Electricity had gone off in the neighborhood, and Endiro has a generator. So all the expat office workers had to come in and spend $2.25 on a coffee to charge their laptops.
This morning, power was still off at my house, my laptop was down to 10 minutes of battery, and I had world-saving emails and partnership proposals to write. Perhaps more importantly, my coffee maker had no electricity. So of course, even though it was raining and my only means of transport was by motorcycle, I had to put on my rain coat and ride to Endiro. The old African proverb is true: A muzungu with an uncharged laptop just isn’t worth much of anything.
After arriving, I plugged in my laptop and was in business. The world was safe once again.
It strikes me, this is essentially the muzungu version of the village phone charging shop. In the village, nobody has power, but everyone has phones. They do everything they can to extend their battery life — switching it off at night, using power saving mode, keeping a spare battery around — but at some point, every good phone runs out of juice. And when that happens, it means a trek into the nearest trading center that has electricity, where they pay UGX 500 at a shop to charge their phone. If it’s urgent, that means another UGX 2,000 to hire a boda boda round trip.
And the tragedy of it all is that the phone charge doesn’t even come with a coffee!
Now muzungus know what it’s like. When there’s no power in Kampala, we have to trek to the nearest expat coffee shop, shell out UGX 6,000 for a coffee, and sit while our electronic devices charge. The only difference is, we sometimes LIKE having to pay that money. “Ah damn, power’s gone off. Oh well, I guess I HAVE to go to the coffee shop.”