Sunday, October 26, 2008

reddy kilowatt is in charge

On my last day in La Manzanilla last December, I was walking around the village to get a better idea if I wanted to move there. (If you look at my December posts, you can see I came very close to buying a house there.)

Something caught my eye, and I looked up to see this geometric masterpiece. I was originally entranced with the radiating shapes. [Click on the photograph for better detail.] But a mere moment passed before I saw the metaphor.

No Canadian or American engineer would ever design an electrical system like this. A quick glance shows how disorganized the lines are and how difficult it would be to get the system running again in the event the pole failed structurally. Having no electrical expertise, I will offer no opinion on how the connections are made within the grid.

Instead, we NOBers would have poles and lines marching in military precision down the dusty lanes of La Manzanilla.

But here is the problem with that analogy. This is Mexico. The arrangement on the pole works. And it is art to be appreciated for its own sake. If the pole fails, it will be erected just as the current pole was.

I talked with an electrical utility worker in Melaque this summer and showed him the photograph. His response was spot on: "You Gringos worry about the strangest things. What if ... ? What if ...? Try having fun."

Could the electrical system in Mexico be better? Of course. Is my writing and worrying about it going to make it better? Of course not.

Instead, I will enjoy it for what I first saw it as: a great geometrical form. And the opportunity for another tale.


Babs said...

It is TRUE, Americans worry about the darnest things instead of "living in the moment"! I DO love though that you noticed it.

When I moved to mexico the elect used to go off a lot, not so much anymore. CFE even has a website now where you can see your bill and pay online! Amazing........

Calypso said...

The electrical in our area is terrible - they don't believe in grounding and the brownouts and surges that 'eat-up' equipment are numerous.

Knowing this and with using extreme caution, w still lose electrical appliances on a regular basis.

The reason the Mexican's don't worry about it - they have little to no electrical devices. They do have their televisions and boom boxes die regular - but they think this is normal.

The Reality

Use caution with Mexican electric - that's all I can say - and if you drive down bring some ground rods and some #12 wire or even a roll of Romex (3-12) - it will come in handy.

Also their switches, outlets and light fixtures (should they actually have any) are really poorly made.

Babs said...

Ah, Steve, in order to avoid having appliances and stuff get "melted", I was cautioned to get voltage regulators (I think that is what they are called) for major things. Knock on wood, with all the surges and stuff I haven't lost a thing.......I have 3 voltage regulators and they aren't inexpensive - I think they were about $70US, but heck, I haven't lost anything either. BTW that advice came from a friend who has lived here since the 50!s. His sage advice has saved me, many, many times!

glorv1 said...

Boy am I glad I don't have to worry about things like that. Perk up Steve, you'll get used to it.:)

Steve Cotton said...

Gloria -- If I were any more perked, I could lease myself out as a coffee maker.

Babs -- Thanks for the advice on the regulators. I will need to follow up with the woman who owns the house to see what she does.

John -- And thank you for the handy man advice. I fear that I am not the handiest persons with tools. But I intend to learn.

aighmeigh said...

It's wonderful to find beauty in unlikely places, and you seem to do that often.

Incidentally, I love the color of the house in the background! One thing that I really enjoy about life south of the border is their appreciation for color!

Steve Cotton said...

Aighmeigh -- This world is filled with beauty -- even in the most desperate of situations.

I agree with you about colors. Latinos and Latinas seem to feel free to express themselves with colors I would never see in my neighborhood.

Laurie said...

When I lived in Guadalajara, Mexico, in younger days, I briefly had an apartment. The cold water tap in the bathroom sink had the unfortunate problem of carrying a shock. Small but worrisome. I think the water line was run close to the electrical line? I don't know but I was a little concerned that I would forget, use the tap, and never recover. On a brighter note, I had moved into that place b/c my original "room" in a friend's house which doubled as the wash room had a gas leak. They felt it was fine as long as I didn't close the windows! Ahhhh, Mexico. I know we worry too much as Americans, but really, sometimes it IS good to worry. Gas, water and electricty! But I survived to come to Honduras. Only been shocked once here but it the bad outlet threw me back and numbed my arm for several minutes.

Islagringo said...

I wonder if the Mexican that was electrocuted this weekend while working on his house ever worried about the lines?

You are correct about rebuilding the poles. Every pole on the island was replaced after Wilma. In the same spots and in the same manner as before.

It's ok to worry, Steve. Ain't gonna change anything though.

Anonymous said...

According to my friend, when it rains in Mexico City, the internet and phone service get really crappy.

It really makes you appreciate the robustness of the infrastructure here, NOB.


Kim G
Boston, MA

P.S. And I think you really should follow Babs' advice and get voltage regulators for important things like computers, TVs, Stereos, etc.

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- When I started reading Andee's Chacala blog, I was amazed at the primitive village infrastructure: electricity and internet that would fail in each rain, only 4 hours of electricity each day to pump water, sewage backing up in low-lying areas. I soon realized that poor fishing villages were not the only areas that suffered these problems. But people seem to manage to get by quite well -- even with the limitations.