How do I lasso the swirling and overlapping stories of this new year as I type in the dark and race the laptop’s remaining battery life?
Casa Loca and seven other houses share a petite circuit of electricity near the mouth of Rio Jama and the Pacific Ocean. During the 8 months of ‘Dry Season,’ we have few problems, but almost every drizzle short circuits our power. La Division to the north east is rarely affected, and Jama to the southwest is rarely affected. Sometimes the problem is repaired in a few hours; sometimes it’s fixed in 24 hours, but it’s not unusual to be without power for three days. In December, the house was without power for ten days, and the New Year’s present was a 6-day outage!
This past Saturday, Carlos the ‘technician’ told me that we needed certain parts to fix the problem, and the electric company was not responsible for those costs. He said that it was an expensive repair and wrote down the parts needed (voltage regulator…) and gave me the name and phone number of the person in Pedernales that sells those parts. He recommended that the 8 houses share the costs.
Without consulting the neighbors, I prepared to travel 4 or more hours (one way) on Monday to get the money from my account… My attitude was, “They will either reimburse me for their shares, or they will not! The problem needs to be repaired sooner and not later!”
On Monday, plans changed when I looked out the kitchen window and saw an all-you-can-eat buffet in progress in a shrimp farm. (See images HERE National Geographic Your Shot.) (Those images are on my big computer, which is null and void until power is restored!) For the next few hours, I walked along the edges of the pond to help spook the birds. By mid morning, I headed the 5K to town to discuss the electricity dilemma with the owners of the shrimp farm. Xavier phoned for a quote on the costs ($350.00) and l headed to Manta after paying a $50.00 deposit for the parts, which would be delivered the next day.
Returning late that night, I checked into the hostal, slept until daylight, went home to Casa Loca and – surprise surprise – we had power! Xavier dropped by to say that the parts would be delivered to his house in town in 45 minutes, but he was about to leave for the day. I returned to town and waited… and waited… and waited!
The parts finally arrived; I paid the (nice) man, and he said that he brought two more items that are usually needed for that kind of repair. We phoned the technician for the power company, and yes, those nudged the price up $8.50 more! I then waited for the technician to come get the parts, and I planned to ride with him to watch the repair.
Xavier’s father arrived and heard the story, and he was quite upset. He said that they were taking advantage of ‘the gringa’ and that was a public responsibility for eight houses. He said that I should give the parts back to the man and demand a refund, and then he dashed away to talk (scold?) to the people at the electricity office!
I sat and looked at the parts and wondered, ‘What am I supposed to do now?!’
Half an hour later ‘Papa’ returned and next he phoned the man who said that we had to buy the parts. Ha! Latins can be quite intense, and he stayed on the phone for another half hour (at full volume!) while I uploaded the images to the National Geographic site!
He told me to NOT give those parts to the electric company – the least they could do is reimburse me, but it was not my responsibility to absorb those costs. He left, and I again was sitting in the office, staring at the parts and wondering what I should do. Around 3 in the afternoon, I went home with the box of (heavy) parts, and I was relieved to see that the house had electricity.
The next day two men with the power company stopped by and asked to see the parts. The ‘engineer’ asked permission to take photos of the parts, and they said they’d be back the next day to install them. At the end of the day, the technician returned and retrieved the new parts… Eying the eclectic items from Playamart in the garden, he promised to bring me the tired old parts for future projects. “Bye-bye parts,” I said and then wondered, “How can I be sure that they use those parts to fix our problem area?”
More drizzle tested the old system during the night, and the old system failed again! We were without power most of the day, and in the late drizzly afternoon, power was restored. About ten minutes later, Carlos, walking along the muddy canal, brought the old parts! Yay! I asked him if this would end the problems, and he assured me that the problem was repaired!
At the end of the day on January 9th, I happily resumed painting and worked until 11 at night. At that time, a loud ka-POW coincided with instant darkness and abruptly ended my painting session!
Place your bets; was this a coincidence or did the new parts backfire? Will power be restored in one day or three or five? If they say that more parts are necessary, this gringita might become poquito brava!
I remind myself that if this is as bad as my problems get, I am very lucky.
The battery is almost depleted; it’s time to blow out the candle and say a very late, “Goodnight.”