Thursday, July 31, 2008

PG&E in the village

Today was Frank's 3rd birthday, and we didn't have power for about 8
hours. Jonelle was left with one cake ready, one in the oven uncooked
and one not yet prepared. We served small pieces to about 30
neighbors, adults and kids and it worked out okay. As night
approached my very American wife came to me and said, "what will we do
about our food in the refrigerator, we still don't have power." I
began to ask around and I heard from one neighbor that our transformer
(1/3 of the village) burned up, and that we wouldn't have power for
So that neighbor and I worked out a plan to run power from his house
where they did have power, but before we executed, we thought maybe we
should ask the town electrician or the equivalent of the electrical
side of PG&E. The younger brother came to our aid and said that I was
the first to complain after 8 hours (that is almost 100 families who
didn't say anything!) So we went up to check the transformer and
after smelling something burnt, flipping a few switches and nothing
happening we gave up and headed back down. We were met by the older
brother who (usually collects our power money when ever he needs
money, there is no real schedule), and he was carrying a pair of
pliers and some thin wire in his back pocket. He suggested we grab a
pair of rubber gloves and a flashlight, so we did and up again we went.
On the 10,000 volt side, of the transformer, (the dangerous side,
that they are not supposed to work on) we found two of the two three
phases were burt out, and by burned out I mean a wire not much thicker
than a strand of hair that stretched about 2 feet was missing. I
found it very hard to believe that the power for a third of the
village ran through such a thin wire, which acted as fuse. Looking
closely I saw that this was not the first time this had happened as
there were about twenty old wires still tangled about, as the older
brother was yelling at the younger brother who was cleaning it up, to
leave the mess and hurry up. A couple of switches were thrown and the
lights brightened in the houses around us. I left the gloves as a
thank you, and said that next time if we don't have power for five
minutes I'm coming to your house to tell you.
To continue my description of the other half of PG&E, we recently had
gas run to the house, by some "independent contractors" from the
village. I use the term loosely because we are still not sure really
how much they over charged us. Although according to the official
paper work they showed us, we along with our neighbors bargained the
price down about 20% over coffee on our balcony, yet other neighbors
said we paid too much, and others said they are waiting until it is
free (which may never be). One mayor of a neighboring village,
refused to let anyone of his villagers pay to have gas run, insisting
to the authorities that it should be run with out payment, they still
don't have gas. What ever the case, these guys hooked us up, we still
haven't done any paperwork and we have gas, which Jonelle is enjoying
very much, by the way as her fingernails have returned to their normal
soot free color.
The exciting part of the gas experience was hooking up to the main
low pressure line, which runs along the street parallel to the high
pressure line. The welder was using an oxygen/astatine type torch
although the astatine I think was some other gas he produce from
dropping a manufactured "rock," that they call carbide, into a
pressure tank filled with water. Once he had all the welding done he
came back to the main low pressure line, welded a short piece of pipe
to the line that would fit into the larger line we ran to the house.
Then with a metal punch and hammer he proceeded to create a hole
inside of that fitting, and gas began to spew forth. Once the hole
was large enough he fitted the larger pipe over, gas still hissing
out, and lit his torch. Needless to say a ball of fire flamed in the
very area he had to weld, and for about 10 minutes he welded in the
flames. Just as he was finishing and people were congratulating us on
having gas and wishing us well, one of the oldest men in the village
silently walked by with a giant wrench in his hand, and everyone was
yelling around him that the water was going to be cut off.
So poetic justice in Armenia, just as we got gas, our water was cut
off, only to be rationed for a few hours each day, this was to go on
for the next two months while the water was diverted for watering
potatoes. Thinking I could beat the system, a few days later I
installed a water storage tank in the basement to accumulate water,
and a pump to create the pressure to lift the water and fire the gas
powered hot water heater. Then as you read above the power went out
and we didn't have any water either! So this is our life here in
Armenia in the village. But, just when we tried to complain about the
conditions, we were told that they lived without power, gas and
minimal water for over five years after independence in 1991, and that
they are all use to things not being. So we are grateful for what we
do have, and trying to make the best of PG&E in the village.


mona said...

Does anyone live in a subdivision where there are several people who ignore the subdivision rules?
I do. No one is supposed to have those ugly fences on the top of their pools, and it seems that everyone in the sub with a pool has one of those. My neighbor has one, and I have to look at that hideous thing every time I look out my window. Then there is my other neighbor who has three dogs.
The maximum number of dogs is supposed to be two. I wouldn't mind the three, but two of them are pit bulls who viciously snarl and growl and act like they are going
to eat my dog when they are outside. Even the owners scream at them to stop. It is very unnerving. Then one of the board members is delinquent by 3 years on the dues because she has decided she doesn't need to pay since she is on the board. I can't take the neighbors around here. I was looking for a forum to vent about the jerks around here and I came across this site called and I sent all of those idiots on the board and all my lovely neighbors with the ugly pools an anonymous card. LOL I loved it. I know it sounds stupid but I feel better. He he he

Keidi said...

Hi Kalem and Jonelle- Reading your post made me immediately stop wondering why you can't just hook up some super-fast internet in your village. Ah-haa, I understand, now. Wow! It also made me appreciate the safety rules and regs, here, that often seem to get in the way. Safety first! 8) Keidi

Mick Fuller said...

Totally cool way to weld! Kalem, when you get back here you'll have to teach me how. In the mean time, I think I'll just practice on my barbecue grill propane tank. You said the guy used a punch and a hammer to make a hole and... oh never mind I'll figure it out.

have you tried setting up a 12 volt pump that you could run off of the car battery or use the car as a generator to pump the water?