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All posts by Dr. Beth Harmon

Why I Can’t Live Without My Generator in Africa

I never thought that I could become so attached to a piece of electrical equipment, however since I’ve been living in Africa, I don’t think I could live without my generator! Before, I was used to just turning on a switch and power would be there, however now that’s a thing of the past. With a lack of a reliable connection to the mains, if I want to power my lights or appliances I need to have a generator that is powerful enough to keep everything running perfectly.

It took me a while to choose the right generator to suit our home’s needs. I had to make sure that I was choosing one that wouldn’t be undersized since it could damage my appliances and create a hazard. I had to think about the safety of the installation, the total amount of electrical load that would need to be connected, the frequency, phase and voltage, the automatic mains failure mechanism, the right location for the generator, the running time and altitude as well as the noise levels.

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man pushing a generator

Other things to keep in mind include whether to get a diesel-powered unit or whether to opt for a gas powered one and how to choose one that will offer the right level of performance. Not all generators are equal in terms of quality and performance, and you get what you pay for when it comes to generators. There are two kinds of generator to pick from – portable and standby models. A portable generator is smaller and can, as the name suggests, be taken from place to place, however, they can’t power as many appliances and pieces of equipment as a standby model, which means that they are best for emergency situations or for use while on the go, for example when camping. They are also pretty noisy and may not have been waterproofed, which leads to problems, since they can’t be run indoors either due to exhaust fumes.

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The downside to a standby generator is that it is extremely large and is fixed permanently in position, as well as being very expensive to have installed. However, the upside is that despite these points, they are so effective in supplying power that you would never notice that the grid had gone down.

 

Another of the main considerations was the capacity of the generator – while some equipment such as PCs doesn’t use a lot of power, they are voltage sensitive and that is an important thing to bear in mind since if there are spikes and dips, the equipment can be irreparably damaged.

 

In the end, I went for a Generac BP13S-G single phase gas generator which had all of the essential features I needed. This large standby generator may not be portable or lightweight, and may have cost quite a lot to have installed, however the best thing about it is that it keeps everything functioning perfectly all the time. I never see a drop in my quality of life with this impressive model. Producing a maximum of 14.3kVa, it has indicator lights that can be seen at a glance, a powerful engine that is up to the task of heavy duty use, a RhinoCoat finish to protect effectively from the weather, and fuel conversion to LPG without needing any tools. Even better, it’s protected by a 5-year warranty.

Generac BP13S-G

Thanks to my powerful generator, I can power all kinds of equipment and appliances in my home. Not only can I keep my essential kitchen gadgets running such as my refrigerator and microwave, but I can also power the lights, the sump pump and my heating system. To make sure that I can carry on working, it can also power my computer, and to keep us all entertained, it can keep the TV running too. It’s even powerful enough to run my washing machine or tumble dryer as well as the air conditioner, so we won’t overheat. It makes sure that I can use all of the essential electrical equipment in the house whenever the grid goes down. Perfect!

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So I won’t be able to take it camping! But I’m seriously considering investing in a second, small and portable model for that!

After A Medical Mission, Here’s What I Do

I don’t think I was prepared for how tired I would be after a long day on a medical mission here in Africa. Even when I was working at home, I never got this exhausted. I suppose the heat and the dust don’t help. I get back home at the end of the day and I just feel utterly shattered. Still, rather than heading straight to bed, I like to take a little time for myself to do some of the things that I really enjoy.

 

Before I do anything, however, I like to take a lovely warm shower. There’s nothing better to get off the grime of the day and all that dust so I can feel refreshed and ready to face the rest of the evening. When I first arrived, there was only cold water, which may have been refreshing but wasn’t very luxurious, but now I’ve had the tankless water heater installed I can enjoy hot water whenever I like which is just wonderful.

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I think I’m a little bit in love with my tankless water heater. It produces water at the perfect temperature exactly when I need it, so there’s no need to switch the heater on and wait for the tank to warm up. It’s just brilliant for those quick showers when I’m on my way out somewhere.

 Rheem RTE 13

I have an electric tankless water heater – a Rheem RTE 13 which is perfect for small homes like mine. Modern, user-friendly and reliable, it’s absolutely brilliant for one shower homes and thanks to its affordable price it was an obvious choice. Small and convenient, it was easy to install under the sink and its 4 GPM flow rate is pretty impressive. The digital thermostat has a handy dial that I can use to get a perfect temperature for me, and it’s also 99.8% efficient for a super-intelligent design. It’s especially good for warm climates, making it ideal for use in Africa!

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I wasn’t sure about this heater when it was installed. My friend has a Takagi T Kjr 2 NG which is gas powered rather than electric and which is perfect for larger homes. With a high flow rate and great reliability. I would definitely recommend that model too to anyone who is running more than one shower as its 6.6 GPM flow rate is enough to accommodate several people showering simultaneously. Since there are three people living in her house, it makes sense to have a more powerful unit, but it definitely gets the job done – it produces wonderful warm water right when you need it, and with its digital controls, it’s so easy to get just the perfect temperature.

 

After I’ve had my shower, I have a choice of several things that I can do to unwind. Most evenings, I just sit on the porch and read a good book. It’s lovely to just rest and smell the fragrant flowers and feel the cooler night breezes as I indulge in an epic tale of adventure and mystery. I’ve also started painting recently, and sometimes in the evening, I like to go out and find something beautiful to capture on canvas. I’m not sure I’m very good, but I love the relaxation of mixing the paints and just enjoying the beautiful colors on the canvas. Sometimes I go out with my camera and take photos of the wildlife, flowers and scenery around the house.

girl painting

But sometimes, I like to go out and meet my friends. Sometimes, we all go around to one person’s house to have a casual get together. I like to take a bottle of wine and some cake and we just chill out, have a good chat and a catch-up and enjoy ourselves. We don’t often go out into town, but we don’t really need to. None of us really have the energy after a long day on the mission, and so we just prefer a more laid back approach to entertaining ourselves. Although it’s very different to the life I had at home, I find it very rewarding, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s truly an amazing experience.

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Must-See Spots in Africa

Being the second-largest continent in the world Africa has a plethora of life changing experiences. If you are looking for pyramids, ancient tombs, and temples, travel to Africa. If you are looking for all the wonders nature has to offer, like mountains, waterfalls, and canyons, you can find that too in the magnificent continent of Africa. Africa is made up of 54 countries. Each country has their own beauty and wonder to offer. When dealing with a place so vast, that offers so much it can be hard to choose what to do first. Whether you are able to visit all or just one, you would be hard pressed to be disappointed by any of the places listed here. This list of Africa’s must see spots is essential to completing your travel itinerary.

  1. Egypt – Abu Simbel

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If it’s temples you seek, then look no further than the two temples at Abu Simbel, also known as, The Great and The Small. Built during the time of the Pharaoh Ramesses II, the temples were built in dedication to him and his wife, as well as the Egyptian gods. It is said that the land was sacred long before Ramesses had the temples built. Although there is some argument amongst historians as to when the temples were built, it is agreed that it took twenty years to create. Their location was so remote that they were unknown until 1813 when they were rediscovered.

  1. Namibia – Fish River Canyon

One of Africa’s many wonders lies in the country of Namibia. Engraved out of the Namibian desert, is the Fish River Canyon. This natural phenomenon isn’t a scene you will soon forget. If you are looking for a challenge you can take the four-day trek across the canyon during the cooler months between May and September. Along the way, you will see mountain zebra, wild horses, kudu, and more. Although tough, and only recommended to those in good physical health, it is said to be a rewarding experience.

  1. Egypt – The Great Pyramids at Giza

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Most people have heard of The Great Pyramids at Giza. Along with the Sphinx, they are the most recognizable icons of Egypt. The Sphinx, a statue of a half-human, half-lion is considered to be one of the largest statues in the world. Unlike the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx was not made up of many pieces, but instead, it was carved from a single slab of limestone. At 66 feet tall and 240 feet long, no picture can do it justice.The Great Pyramids are the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Of the Seven Wonders, it is the only one mostly intact. Also, it is still a mystery as to how the Great Pyramid was built.

  1. Tanzania – Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro, also known as Kili, is 19,340 ft. above the African plains, making it the highest mountain on the continent. Mount Kilimanjaro is actually an inactive volcano, made up of three volcanic cones. Every year people make the climb up Kili. Once you reach the peak you are greeted by a spectacular view.

  1. Egypt – Valley of the Kings

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Valley of the Kings is the resting place of Kings of Egypt and other elites. The Valley of Kings is located on the west bank of the Nile River. The tombs of the Valley were constructed over a period of almost 500 years. There are 63 royal tombs, none of which look the same. Among the 63 tombs is the burial site of Tutankhamun. Over the years, the tombs have been a big attraction site and unfortunately has been repeatedly looted. Most of the gems and other unique treasures have been stolen. It’s possible that more tombs will be discovered in the future, making it one of the most famous archaeological sites on the planet.

  1. Zimbabwe Border – Victoria Falls on the Zambia

On the borders of Zimbabwe and Zambia, you will find the Victoria Falls located on the Zambezi River. The Victoria Falls are the largest moving body of water on the planet Earth. “Mosi-oa-Tunya”, is what the locals call it, which means “smoke that thunders.” This name comes from the fact that you can hear the Falls from miles away and see pillars of spray. Of course, like in most other places around the continent many wildlife can be seen by the side of the Falls. Also, if you’re up for an adventure the Falls natural pools at the top on the Zambian side, are said to be relatively safe to swim in. It is said that during a full moon a lunar rainbow is visible when the light from the moon shines through the waterfall spray. This is definitely an experience that cannot be properly portrayed by a photograph.