Friday, May 4, 2012

A frustrating week

I know I go on about the power problem here but this last week has been a total pain. Last Saturday some enterprising persons unknown decided to make a bit of money by stealing the electricity cables from the streets in the barrio. They have already taken all the manhole covers.  The cables are pretty flimsy and there are no lamp posts so the cables are on bits of twig or tied around trees. End result is many homes with no power as no cables left! Apparently this has happened before and the residents decided to get up in arms about it and went en masse to the electricity office to demand that the lines be replaced with bigger and stronger ones that were on proper lamp posts and that couldn't be stolen. Power to the people (sorry about the pun) and it worked!

There was no electricity Saturday, and the company came out with the promise of money from us if they fixed it. So they did a temporary fix with the same trees and similar cables and the supervising residents collected 50 pesos which is about US1.50 from each of us, ready to hand it over. However they finished after 5pm and the electricity was scheduled to go off 5-11pm and as most people don't keep an eye on the schedule like I do, they assumed the men hadn't fixed it and refused to hand over the collection.  There was a shout at the gate later that evening and I was given my 50 pesos back!

My pole with birds nest on top. Nice blue sky!

Sunday and Monday were normal in that we had 12 hours of street power and 12 hours on the inverter and then Tuesday they came to do the work and install the new cables and new posts. Personally I would have started by putting up the new posts and cables. However they started by taking down the line they had put up on Saturday, rather than leaving that up until they were finished with the new one. It took three days during which time we had no electricity. In order to try and make the inverter last, the fridge was turned off, no fans allowed, no TV allowed but at least the computer worked and we used minimum light bulbs too. All slept somehow although it was very hot and the mosquitoes had a banquet.

Man cutting down my wires to connect to new line

The new big shiny line went up on new tall concrete posts and then they had to connect each house which involves taking a line from the house and somehow jamming it in to the big thick line using a knife.  They weren't going to do mine until today but I managed to persuade them to do it last night before they finished, so they came and cut my wires down from where they went before and dragged them over to the new line, and jammed them in. Two hours later - street power and a lot stronger than before so I was a happy bunny.

Getting ready to connect me - my lines coming out of his bottom!

The story does not end there however. The houses round the corner have never had meters. They paid a low fixed rate each month irrespective of use. To be fair they are small wooden houses with maybe a TV and a fan, but no swimming pools, dryers, air conditioners. They paid around 300 pesos a month - about US$8. I have a meter and pay around 1500 pesos which is around US$40 but a lot of that will be charging the batteries for the inverter.

Yay I am plugged into new line

Now with this new line they all have meters which are on the shiny new lamp post and every time I go past there are people looking at their meters and watching them go round. I can feel there will be trouble ahead when they get their first proper bill. Added to this for the first time in ages we are having much more electricity than usual, no doubt as people will now have to pay for it.

See all the new meters on the post
Anyway, this morning they were due back to connect the houses still not hooked up, around 10 of them and no sign of them anywhere. So some people still have no electricity - thank goodness one wasn't me. But a man from the electric company came and told me that my meter has stopped working and said I would need a new one. I have a birds nest on top of my pole where the wires go to the meter so maybe the bird pecked through the cable or maybe the man damaged it when he was connecting me to the new line.  Fine, I replied get me a new one. He suggested that I go into the office and buy one and I suggested that I didn't as his chaps had damaged it when they moved my line so it was his responsibility. He went off to fetch reinforcements to deal with the stroppy English woman, and so far has not returned. Watch this space to see what happens, but in the meantime I have the hot water on all the time and the meter isn't moving an inch! Bliss!

You can see how wires are all twisted now but birds nest still there