Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Visitor's Suite

So, though I had my skeptics, I did manage to get the laundry room looking like a reasonable guest suite.  I was given a huge boost by my neighbor who insisted that my parents shouldn't be sleeping on an air mattress.  She felt they'd be much more comfortable on the mattress from her spare room.  Hard to argue with that.  But imagine my surprise when Owen and another neighbor (apparently employed on our block for all small jobs--we've seen him on neighbor's roofs and walls harvesting mangoes and guavas) came in with the bed frame . . . and then the box spring.  Of course, when I asked Owen why he didn't tell her that we didn't need to take her entire bed, he pled language deficiency.  And when I told my neighbor that she didn't need to give us the whole bed, she scoffed (in Spanish) at the idea of my parents bending down to get into bed, thus defeating the purpose of the back support afforded by the real mattress.  Here's a little tour of the guest suite my parents stayed in last week, I forgot to include the pictures on my last post.

The "sans microwave, laundry tub, or washing machine" view

The guest bath

The "reveal all" view (well, almost, the water cooler and microwave are to the right behind that closet); we've getting a really good (and really affordable) local carpenter to make us a wooden screen to hide the laundry tub and washing machine (maybe in time for Christmas)

Had to include the inverter and battery pack on the wall.  I tried to dress them up with hanging baskets and a metal painted crab, but really, back-up energy solutions are just not too attractive.

Hmm, I realize as I label that last picture that I have neglected to explain how energy works here.  So we do have electrical power every day.  But at least a few days a week we lose power for anywhere between a few minutes to 12 hours.  When we first moved here, I thought that the power outages were a result of "Hello, you moved to a third world country, of course you lose power."  I pictured tattered wiring, storms blowing trees over, not enough power to supply the city, etc.  But then I was told that the "brown outs" are actually a retaliatory move from the U.S. and Canadian power plants who are owed around a billion dollars.  Dominicans (this includes me now, of course) pay some of the highest rates of electricity in the world--but since much of the money customers pay is going straight into the pockets of corrupt government officials here, we also have some of the worst service in the world.  The energy providers don't wish to provide energy for "free."

Thursday seems to be a big day for power companies sending the message "Santiago, pay up!"  Most people in Santiago (at least our section of it) do not have electricity (or water, as a result) on Thursdays.  The school Owen works for has provided us with an inverter, so we have battery supplied electricity during those times. We just lose power to the refrigerator, washing machine, microwave or other heating device (use of these would kill the inverter).  We can cook because we have a gas oven.  But it really does affect our way of life, if just because we can't count on amenities like we could in America.  And because we have to go food shopping almost every day.  Food is less chemically treated and often in really hot environments before being purchased, so it already has a short shelf life.  But I can't imagine that the refrigerator going out regularly helps much.  And you don't want much meat in a freezer that goes out all the time.  Our house does get water, thankfully.  I think if we lost power for long enough we'd lose it, but it can handle a half day's loss just fine.  Needless to say that I take the possibility of "National Emergency" very seriously and keep extra bottles of filtered water (and a water filter) handy.

Just a little glimpse into some of the more complicated facets of daily life here.

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