Archive for the ‘Dominican electricity’ Category
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
There are a lot of different people who pass through the Playa Vista area in the course of time… one way or another and for one reason or another. An old Caribbean gentleman used to do so on a regular basis. He was tall, with decidedly negro characteristics, a bit of a stooped back, grey hair under his baseball cap and going by the distinctive and unforgettable name “Napoleon”. He was polite and very gentle mannered… and like many in any third world country looking for some kind of an opportunity. We really were not in a position to help, but we would, as we usually try to do with polite gentle mannered people, have a little interchange of conversation and wish him luck on his way.
Some years passed by and apart from bumping into Napoleon once on the bus we hadn’t seen or heard of the man for a long time until the other day.
Napoleon walked into Playa Vista with a more determined stride than we ever recall and greeted us very amicably. He was his usual friendly self and asked after us and how things were going. “How is business?” he asked. “Not too bad, but of course we can always use more customers even though it now is the middle of the higher season”, we replied. “Okay, I have a couple of friends who have apartments over in Andres and they can help you bring in a lot more customers.” “My two friends come from Puerto Principe by the way!” All right we thought. No harm in talking. Perhaps his friends have some lodgers who want to spend some time at a nice place right on the beach away from their apartments occasionally.
There are a lot of promises made and a lot of promises often not completed around these parts but the next morning, a Sunday incidentally, bright and early Napoleon was here with his two friends. They were two brothers, well dressed, polite, Spanish speaking but genuinely Haitian from the main city in that country, Puerto Principe, and they did have a SINGLE apartment in Andres where they personally were living. Well…out of courtesy we explained our set up silently wondering what kind of business proposition they could possibly have. “So, what do you want us to do for you then,” the younger brother a bit surprisingly said. “Well… if you can bring in substantially more customers then fair enough and you would be entitled to some kind of a commission, naturally,” we said.
There was quite a bit of eye shifting at this point and a slight clearing of the throat before the younger brother announced that their work fell into the category of “mystic”. Mystic? We honestly thought that perhaps it was some kind of show they put on, and we explained that we were not really big enough for a performance of that nature. The older brother then, after some more eye shifting, explained that it was “spiritual” – the way they planned to bring customers in that is. The penny then finally dropped: Puerto Principe, Haiti, Mystic, Spiritual…, my goodness, VOODOO!… we were staring straight in the face of the little known business arm of the world famous voodoo tradition.
The eye-shifting was now on our side of the table as we backtracked on our willingness to discuss promotional ideas with this particular “technique” in mind anyway. We then wished Napoleon and his friends the very best of the day and good luck with their many clients they said they had waiting for them in Andres. As they understandably, due to our lack of enthusiasm for their voodoo specialty, walked disappointedly out of Playa Vista the power supply abruptly failed!
Now, as we all know that power failure isn’t exactly uncommon in these parts we were left merely to wonder if it was just the usual problems that cut the electricity off at that moment… or could it be that voodoo trickery has been behind the last 40 years of electricity distribution problems in the Dominican Republic?
Saturday, March 4, 2006
We are sure you are all dying to know what is happening to lamp number 25 in our street: Calle Abraham Nuñez… aren’t you?
Now, we all know that our little world is full of surprises and we thought that one day, whenever that might be, we would have light once again shining down from lamp number 25 at the entrance way to Playa Vista. We weren’t entirely wrong but neither were we entirely right thanks to that exquisite surprise factor.
We left you in early February with quite a tale of promises promises promises and following non-accomplishment all starting before Christmas. From February we decided to track the continuing promises and non-accomplishment for entertainment’s sake. Each telephone conversation was directly with Ramon number 1 and his statements on getting the light fixed were noted like this:
February 7th: In one hour!
February 9th: Today!
February 14th: Today!
February 16th: We can’t send the crane just for one light so we are liaising with Politur (the
tourist police) but it will be attended to this afternoon!
February 17th: We are right now with the police on the beach checking all the lights just
around the corner from Abraham Nuñez and we will fix it when we get there!
February 20th: We are coming with ladders (what happened to the crane?) right now, honestly
right this minute!
February 21st: It isn’t fixed? I will investigate why my order was not carried out!
February 22nd: The driver of the maintenance team was injured when hit by a motorcyclist. He
should be out of hospital this afternoon and there is even a possibility that he
could get there tomorrow!
February 25th-27th Independence weekend holiday!
February 28th HURRAH… JOB DONE!
… OR WAS IT?
On the 28th Ramon number 2 arrived with a very modern looking hydraulic crane, spare bulbs, photo cells and two helpers. Within 10 minutes lamp number 25 was reconnected and had a bulb replacement too, for good measure. Wonder of wonders… we actually saw the lamp working for the first time in months!
Later that day as dark descended the light came on and shone brilliantly for… shall we say about… 25 minutes when its splendor was rudely interrupted by one of the country’s infamous power cuts. The electricity came flooding back fairly soon spreading through the cabled veins of the Boca Chica system. It relit everything and all the lamps in Abraham Nuñez… EXCEPT LAMP NO 25!
Surprise? You bet ya!
The next day Ramon number 1 was called again to thank him for sending his men and the, well… 25 minutes of light. Was Ramon number 1 surprised? Certainly.
However the real surprises were still waiting for us in that, in spite of zero attention from anybody at all, that night the lamp suddenly burst into full life again all on its own … and actually shone brightly for the entire night. The really exquisite touch though is that one more night on… and lamp 25 was once again back in the dark!
This story about the ongoing battle between light and darkness is hopefully soon to be continued with perhaps more enlightening news…
Sunday, February 5, 2006
Streetlamp number 25 stands proudly, though somewhat tiltingly, in Calle Abraham Nuñez magnificently illuminating the public road and area between Playa Vista and Hotel Europa or, rather, we should say… it used to. “Interestingly enough” this lamp became profoundly inactive the week that EdeEste (the local electric utility company) decided to disconnect our service because we kept insisting we had not consumed the huge quantity of electricity they suddenly were claiming -five times the usual level, “no way Jose!”- and that we wanted the matter fully investigated. Unknown to us, at that point anyway, the routine here seems to be quite simply that you pay what the monopolistic high and mighty EdeEste request because they do not have a genuine mechanism for thoroughly and professionally investigating invoiced anomalies.
When finally, after months of what turned about to be futile correspondence, we realized that arbitration in the eyes of EdeEste means: pay up whatever the company dictates and when finally, after making good use of our brand-spanking new propane-gas driven generator and our good old inverter, we were reconnected with the traditional electricity network, sweetened only by the minor token victory that the questionable meter was removed from its former position in the public street and installed inside Playa Vista, we requested that the dear company also investigate the non-functioning streetlamp number 25.
It took two full weeks or more and numerous phone calls to identify that it is not after all EdeEste who deals with streetlamps, but the local council… who ominously do have a reputation for being somewhat slow off the mark even in a country of slow starters.
Many many phone calls and then one fortuitous visit put us in direct contact with “the” man responsible – Ramon. He said, of course, “mañana” with some conviction though, because he explained they had another streetlight that also needed looking at nearby. Mañana naturally passed without any change to the situation whatsoever, and a call to Ramon gave the explanation that they were short of a mechanical crane. The following week the secretary in Ramon’s office made up her own story and said it was because they were out of bulbs in the storehouse! A couple of weeks later and Ramon, after being chased down on the phone again, asked, “Uh hum, exactly where is this lamp then?” A couple of days later hoping to speed things along we also provided the lamp’s individual identification code, “number 25”, as all of you also know now. Some days later Ramon was able to confirm indeed that lamp number 25 was not working. He had seen it with his own eyes.
One obviously good-humored and unusually pro-active day yet further on in time Ramon dramatically announced he was sending his chief assistant the next day… which helped us recall being told in no uncertain terms earlier on in the venture, that Ramon definitely didn’t have an assistant and only he himself could handle a matter such as this. ‘The assistant’ – another ‘Ramon’ – surprisingly, did turn up! When we explained the difficulties we had had with EdeEste and the coincidence of the street lamp suddenly being inoperative the same week we had been disconnected, he said AHAAA… and nodded his head vigorously indicating that he knew exactly from previous experiences what had happened. No light bulb failure, just a simple menacing harassing disconnection by you know who! He said he would fix it the next day… oh yes, mañana again. That was on a Saturday. Tuesday we phoned the first Ramon and asked what the problem now was. He said that there was no mechanical crane available! Amazing how circular the world is, ain’t it?
Quite a performance already and now we are just waiting for the finale: ‘The Ramones and The Light Show’ to get good old streetlamp 25 back into action!
Sunday, August 22, 2004
The Playa Vista Bar, we presume among others in the country, is awash with upbeat news this weekend. Visitors from our big city neighbor, Santo Domingo, are making it clear that just one week into the new administration of Leonel Fernandez, the recent bane of their lives, that of failing electricity supply, has drastically changed. Even in Boca Chica we have noticed an improvement. Over the last few years we Boca Chicans have for several reasons generally been in a good position, but even we had begun to notice an increase in power cuts through the last few weeks of the previous administration… so much so that people were beginning to prepare for the worst and buy more batteries for their inverters or even small generators to tide them through the increasing frequency of power outs. One wry old regular at the bar is now complaining that he hasn’t been able to test his newly acquired inverter because we haven’t had a power cut of longer than five minutes or so since the day he installed it earlier this week!
This morning we can look over to the Caleta peninsula and see a Trinidadian tanker tied up alongside offloading its cargo of fuel for the first time in an unknown number of months thereby guaranteeing a further injection of generating capacity to the national grid.
We have seen the peso strengthen against the dollar all through the week. In the exchange bureaus in Boca Chica the rate began last week above 40 pesos to the dollar and currently stands at 37 boding well for keeping a lid on consumer prices.
Apart from the speculation of what President Fernandez may have in store, it was seen very positively by our bar commentators that he has already taken active measures to reduce the number of public paid employees including quite a few generals and by all accounts a load of central bank staff thereby helping to ease part of the state’s excessive expenditure.
As the debate came near to an end a second wry regular asked, “If the new guy can make such a big change in such a short space of time what on earth was his predecessor doing?”
A genuine answer to this would throw the debate wide open again but meanwhile most of us are happy to see the new administration well out of the starting blocks.
Meanwhile seven years later:
Unfortunately that illumination at the entrance never extended to the end of the tunnel for even after a second re-election and a full seven years on the job Mr Fernandez’s government still sits with the same old widespread and frequent blackout problem. The one bright spot is that the peso has been held pretty constantly in the 37 to 38 to the dollar range. However, almost as a testament to the Dominican Republic’s occasional blind loyalty to tradition the man in charge of the very mess that Fernandez inherited in 2000 will be again the chief challenger at next year’s election to Fernandez’s PLD party.
Friday, July 2, 2004
Electricity is a word not far from the lips of anybody these days in this country because of a supply shortage. For those of you born in the economically developed world in the last 50 years it would be difficult perhaps to imagine how this could be.
We in the center of Boca Chica have been blessed over the last 3 years with a rarely faltering supply bearing on the miraculous, but the stories round the bar, in the newspapers and on the television make us realize that our little part of paradise is verging on an oasis.
One of the long-time acquaintances of Playa Vista came with the sad story that the situation where he lives in Santo Domingo was so bad that he went out and bought an inverter with two large batteries as a stand-by source, but the power cuts have been so severe where he lives that it is often the case that he can’t even recharge the batteries of his inverter. We spoke to another who told us he had 3 hours of supply in 3 days. Believing this to be the worst case scenario I related the story to another capitaleño (a person from Santo Domingo), who in true Monty Python parody fashion claimed: “He’s lucky!”
The outgoing government, the incoming government, the electricity generating companies, the fuel suppliers and even the International Monetary Fund are in daily heated discussions (no air-conditioning you see) about the power-crisis. It is bad enough to identify that the problem is that somebody is owed money, but what is worse is that there is absolutely no agreement as to who precisely is owed the money and certainly not how much. The new president, Leonel Fernández, has stated that it is one of his chief priorities to sort this problem out and we surely hope for everybody’s benefit that it will be done sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile if your beer runs warm or you are fed up with candle light then for now feel free to join us at Playa Vista where so far we have been spared not all but most of the trauma.
Meanwhile seven years later:
Nationally the electricity supply problem in the Dominican Republic remains center stage as it has for more than 50 years now. Boca Chica center continues to have a favored supply but the depth of the ongoing problem can be seen by following this thread. Power Blackout Forum thread