Sunday, July 5, 2009

On time

Jennifer Cowan from Bellingham is my first visitor in the Suchitoto house. Jennifer arrived yesterday right on time (the plane was a little early, but customs was slow). What wasn't right on time was the process of getting a 220 volt line into the house for the stove. Felix the electrician told me he could finish all his work yesterday. Ah, I said, then I can use the stove? Well no, he said, CAESS (a subsidiary of the multinational giant AES, and the privatized provider of electricity here) still has to approve the connection to the main line. Oh, I said, I thought that happened already. Well part of it did, he said, they gave approval for the line to be installed, but now they have to approve the work that's been done. By now I was becoming a bit hysterical, as I explained to Felix that I have four guests visiting in July and had planned on being able to boil an egg. Felix said he'd do his best to hurry the process along.

The argument for privatizing electricity, like so many other "public" services here, was that a private company would provide more efficient service at lower prices. The price of electricity is very high here, and there seems to still be plenty of bureaucracy to slow things down.

I've lived in Central America long enough to know it may be quite a while before the stove actually works, so Jennifer and I stopped in San Salvador for lunch and a quick trip to a hardware store where I bought a single burner that does not need 220 volts to operate. Boiled eggs assured, we drove back to Suchitoto where we found Felix and his son and daughter hard at work. Felix told me he'd hooked up a connection for the stove that I could use while I wait for CAESS. Great, I said, let's see how it works! Seems the hookup is to a 110 volt line, so when you turn on a burner the red "on" light glows - but the burner, alas, does not get warm.

Jennifer is the perfect guest for times like this, ready to adapt to any circumstances. We went out walking, ate pasteles (a deep-fat fried potato puff, totally yummy though perhaps not totally healthy) and pupusas, went to the first two thirds of an excellent concert by the El Salvador Youth Orchestra (Jennifer had been up for about 27 hours at that point, so we skipped the last number) and we did not miss the stove at all.

The orchestra's appearance was preceded by the singing of the Salvadoran national anthem which, speaking of time, goes on forever and seems to incorporate about three different songs, in an inverse relationship to the size of this country. We were all ready to sit down when the theatre's owner announced that now we would sing the Suchitoto anthem. Thankfully, it's shorter. Today I'll start cooking on the single burner, and I'll be glad for that boiled egg.

No comments:

Post a Comment