May 17, 2006

The long, hot summer

Mohammed on a summer in Baghdad with a minimum of electricity. Most Iraqis depend on generator-owning neighbors who offer them electricity for a fee.
Of course these diesel generators are not problem-free; they are mostly used and not brand-new so they require frequent maintenance let alone their high consumption of fuel (a gallon of diesel costs ~2$) and the owner would always complain to the subscribers from the hardships of his job every time they go to pay the monthly fee and he'd warn from a possible raise in fees or from maintenance that would put the generator out of work for a couple days. And he does that with teary eyes cursing the day that made him choose this job but at the same time counting the money so carefully.

When you stand near any of those generators you'll see a huge mass of wires coming out of the circuit-breakers box. These hundred or so wires usually climb the nearest grid lamp post and pass from one to another for a few hundred meters as the shortest route to the subscribers' homes.

In addition to the owner and the operator/mechanic there's the ladder guy or (Abu il-daraj) and this is a man of great importance in the process; you can always spot him accompanied by one or more of the subscribers tracking wires that occasionally get cut or short-circuit with other wires as a usual consequence for rain or high winds. Of course the wire is the responsibility of the subscriber and he pays for it but the owner would offer his advice for the best choice of wires.

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