Endiro Coffee: the muzungu version of the village phone charging shop

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:

No power.

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.

A jolt and a volt

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!

Image courtesy of kiwanja.net, http://www.kiwanja.net/mobilegallery.htm

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.”

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by That's life! on November 28, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Andrew
    That’s how important power/electricity is to everyone in Uganda but unfortunately there’s limited access. The only difference is that some have the means to find their way if and when electricity goes off!
    Then the mzungu is a concept that means the privileged ,by skin ,but mostly by resources! That’s why the people down there dispise a mzungu without a laptop because then what’s mzungu about him/her? Hahaha…

    Reply

  2. Posted by Isaac Mulindwa on November 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    your lucky you can find a coffee shop with in reach and for just charging i know of a lady who died just because electricity went off during an operation and the doctor had to use his phone light for 5mins until when the generators started, sadly when power was back she had died because the doctor couldn’t monitor reaction of the entire body as the phone light could only focus to some specific spot at any moment…. one day while on my way to work i found a woman whose time had come and she had to give birth by the road side where other women surrounded her to provide privacy as one of them did the Nurse’s work with verbal help from the others, moments like this are many in Uganda….

    Reply

  3. Very true – a lot of attention goes to health care, but many NGOs, donors, etc. don’t fully understand that power issues cut across all of those. Hospitals need electricity to operate!

    Reply

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