Writing by Muriel Munga Closeup typewriter
My love & hate relationship with SNEL

We always had a love and hate relationship but lately there was more hate than love. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do as the ball had never been in my court. I had no power whatsoever...

After a long day of hard work, in an air-conditioned and well decorated office, I felt my legs being pulled away from my desk and into the air-conditioned car. Nope, I was not running away but on that particular day, I just wanted out. Not that I don’t like my job, I do, I really do, but you know, it’s one of those days where you just want to be home. Where you feel like 5pm is miles away. One of those days when you’ve had enough of everything and everyone, where you dread your boss asking you at 5 sharp: “Please, do come into my office”. Yes…one of those days!

After a short-and-no-traffic-ride, thanks to the Lord, I pressed the horn in front of my gate and reversed the car to get in. You may wonder: “Why on earth does she get into her compound in reverse gear?” Well, there’s a very simple explanation. Someone and his family i.e. about 5 people or maybe more…this is Kinshasa after all! Well, that someone has decided to invade the only open space my house was sharing with the little plastic-bag-packed-dirty-water-bring-fresh-air-to-my-walls river on the opposite side; that same river which during the still of the night, one may enjoy the sound of its rushing flow.

Those new “neighbours” of mine decided to build a one-square-meter house made of sheet metal with no latrines (hello to the stench!) and separate the road and my gate with a brick wall. Shall I feel lucky that they managed to only build two rows of bricks?? Nevertheless, my space for maneuvering has decreased a great deal. Reversing to get through my gate is the best way. Trust me.

As I stepped out of the car, the heat of the air overwhelmed me. My face, almost frozen by the air-conditioning thawed in an instant. The hairstyle I managed to keep all day long dropped onto my ears (I can picture you saying: “Man, what kind of hairstyle is THAT?” And in response to your question, I’d be saying: “All I know is that the style started behind my ears. Now it’s on top of them!)”

So with a new hairstyle adorning my head, my laptop and handbag in one hand, my car and house keys in the other, I slowly walked towards the front door of the house. The heat I found indoor gave a tight squeeze to my body making me gasp for air! Once again, I found myself running but this time to my bedroom, slamming the front door on the way!

I switched the light on, undressed in a split second and entered the bathroom. With pearls of sweat running slowly down my spine, I desperately needed a shower.

My well polished and manicured toes stepped in the bathtub whilst I turned the tap on. The stream of water came rushing out, splashing my body with force…and I just loved it! As I pulled the shower curtains and listen to the silent night, I smiled. I closed my eyes very tightly and enjoyed the cold water running onto my beautiful dark skin. What a lovely feeling! No music. No radio. No noise except the water running with force on my face, down my shoulders and long limbs, slowly following the round shape of my tiny breast, sliding along the curves of my tight buttocks all the way to my shapely calves and between my toes, washing away the shower gel I had gloved all over my entire body …My mind and eyes were off, wandering to a land of peace, beauty and blue ocean….

I opened my eyes and quickly closed them. I couldn’t see the difference. Had I suddenly turned blind? I rubbed both of my eyes with my fingers opened them again and turned the water tap off. At that particular moment, the reality dawned on me… True to her reputation, SNEL had let me down whilst in my shower as I stood there, stark naked. In a slow motion (no rapid movement as it meant perspiration), I dried my bare and wet body…and felt the heat of the day slowly enveloping me, wiping away the shower I had just taken….

My face wouldn’t dry up no matter how soft and fluffy the towel was or the numerous paper tissues I laid on it. It just wouldn’t. The baby powder I had splashed all over my body was being replaced by sticky bits. I was annoyed AND in total darkness. What an evening, uh? Like a blind person, I stretched my arms in front of me and searched for my phone. I pressed one digit and part of the room lit up. It lasted for about ten seconds which was enough to plan my next move. As naked as a worm, I tiptoed about the room looking for matches and lit a candle that stood on one of the bedside tables. I smiled. A bit of light in the room at long last even thought it would entail more heat in the room. But guess what? It didn’t bother me. All I wanted was to be able to see where I was stepping.

As I carried the candle to the bathroom, still in Eve’s attire aside from the well-placed leaf which I obviously didn’t have on (I had to picture myself as Eve in that garden), SNEL showed up and lit the light bulbs so strongly I thought Inga Dam had moved nearby! The power of the electricity was blinding but I wasn’t going to complain, was I? I could finally stand naked in front of the standing and rotating fan, legs and arms apart and getting my entire body dried up even in the tiniest places! Smile upon my face again, and again and again, and again….While part of my mind started thinking:”Oh dear! SNEL came back too powerfully! This is bad. Real bad. Oh dear. This only means SNEL would soon play a disappearing act on me once again. Dear me!”.

Out of a sudden, a thunderstorm made me jump out of my cross position and thoughts. It was quickly followed by lightening. Then a few drops…..and the rain fell hard on the roof making powerful yet extraordinary tempo which became music to my ears for a little while. After several long minutes, it stopped as suddenly as it had started.

Dried and baby-powdered white for a second time, my naked body slipped underneath the jasmine-scented-flowery sheets. I said a little prayer and as I stretched onto the bed, the light flickered for a couple of seconds and SNEL, as I had imagined earlier, disappeared for the second time of the evening. All of a sudden, the room became real hot as the fan was no longer sending a light breeze onto my skin….I laid in bed wondering when and why our leaders had decided to leave our beautiful country in such utter disarray….

In the meantime, I was getting hot and hotter…and the fatigue coupled with heat stopped me from getting out of bed to pull the curtains wide open and let a bit of fresh air fill the room through the nets...

Before I dozed off, I remembered that my country has so much electric power that every household in the entire country could be provided with free electricity but what is happening is that one by one, our homes were being deprived of this very important source of energy!

I kept telling myself that SNEL, the National Company of Electricity, was going from bad to worse and that one day, if our government didn’t take any actions right away, the entire country would remain in total obscurity and absolute chaos will ensue…

I managed to fall asleep with the fan off, the lack of power and hoped that tomorrow would bring an “electric” day…