I’m not entirely sure what causes a power line to catch on fire, in the rain, on the first day of a major Thai holiday, but it did right at our apartment.
Sometimes I feel like I complain a lot about Thailand because this past year has been an uphill one and maybe because I’ve been here too long. But this morning was restorative as my b/f and I watched the electricians climb up the power tower and work together to bring electricity back to our building.
Soon after I forced myself out of bed this morning (I’m on vacation after all!) the lights went out and the generator kicked in (perks of apt living), but nothing happened so we went on to our deck to see what was happening.
The electrical wire was on fire.
We ran downstairs to tell the front desk, but when we arrived the power company was already there at the front of the building attending to another power tower (sorry, I don’t know what to call these guys over here). I told them about the fire, but they already knew and didn’t seem terribly bothered by it. My first instinct when I see a fire is to pour water on it, but apparently this is NOT what you are supposed to do in this case.
This, of course, wasn’t the first time I’ve experienced a power failure in Thailand. It happens often enough, depending on where you live. And since I lived in five different places in Chiang Mai, I can say the city center is less likely to have problems than the outskirts. When I lived in my glorified cabin in the bamboo woods, we frequently lost power whenever it was stormy or windy.
At that house, I learned to appreciate a gas stove and when my water was not connected to an electrical pump, my water supply, too. I remember when I came back from a family holiday in Austria to a house completely devoid of electricity. All I desperately wanted was a hot shower, but instead I sat in the dark talking on the phone while my cats meowed around me.
But the school I taught at in Chiang Mai had a few power outages and we were told to teach through it despite the lack of light and air conditioning. Have you tried to keep your students’ attention when the power is out? Not an easy task. Although, one time I remember we sat around the candle we were given by the manager and told ghost stories. Thais (and Hawaiians, I might add) love ghost stories.
In Mililani Hawaii, where I grew up, all of the power lines are buried underground. I’m very proud to be from a town that was well-planned and beautifully free of electricity poles and wires, billboard ads – and lined with tall large trees. (I’ll take pictures when I’m there! Leaving very soon!)
So when I was on the Mainland (the Continental US) as a 13 year old seeing the incredible electric power transmissions and lines stretching across the land, through the Interstates and freeways, it was rather fascinating and I was a little awestruck as well.
In Thailand, however, the power lines look like a complete mess and a serious safety hazard. The power towers are rather ugly and crude looking and very close to living spaces. They are hard to appreciate until the electricity is out and you realize how much of your livelihood depends on it.
Today is the first day of the Thai New Year, Songkran. It’s a very big deal here and one of two major holidays where Thais have enough time off to take a long vacation (Songkran is officially four days). So, today is the equivalent of our Christmas. Nothing is open. And to see the electricians out there in the pouring rain, smiling and replacing the burned bundle was, for lack of a better expression, a treat.
Normally, we sit in the dark and wonder how long things will take. Normally we have no idea what is going on and what is, if anything, being done. But this was not normal. We watched, discussed what we thought was going on and could see how close/far things were progressing. Psychologically, it was a fantastic way to deal with the power outage.
This experience also allowed me to appreciate what the workers did and do. More often than not, we can’t see what is happening, but if we did, we’d feel like equals, like we mattered and we wouldn’t feel left in the semi-darkness. This reminds me of Brian Regan’s standup routine where he talks about how he wants to get his phone line turned on. I mean, this is how we usually figure things are…
When it was really pissing down (why does the British God do this?), the electricians were not working and so my b/f and I talked about the safety issues, the workmans’ boots that allowed them to climb up the tower and our creative endeavors and how disheartened I have felt of late. He was encouraging and reminded me that I needed to keep on writing.
Thank you Thailand for another memorable Songkran.
What have been your power outage experiences in Thailand? Abroad or at home?