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Electric shocks

by Alex on May.27, 2009, under Blog

The rain was torrential today in San Jose, I borrowed an umbrella from the hostel but of course my flip flopped feet were soon soaking. On returning to the hostel and reaching out for the light switch with a slightly damp hand I was greeted with a reasonable electric shock. There’s no point in saying anything to anyone as that’s kinda normal here, I simply put my trainers on before using the metal sandwich toaster.

It did though remind me of my best (or should that be worst) electric shock to date. I was staying with a family in Barranquilla (Colombia) in 2001, a city famous for Shakira and its carnival. On pressing the button to open the microwave one day I got a full on 110 volt shock sending spasms most of the way up my arm. Having never run through this scenario ever happening in my mind, as indeed why would one, I didn’t have any particular expectation as to the response I’d get from the family. I certainly wasn’t expecting laughter though.

Were this to happen where I and many of you grew up I imagine the response would be one of sympathy followed by the unplugging of the microwave with the intention to have it fixed. What I got was ‘what do you expect, you have wet hands and aren’t wearing any shoes’. My internal reply was ‘Well I don’t expect your white goods to be f’ing live!’ but then what’s to be gained by saying that.

It was interesting feeling indignant and knowing that, irrespective of the fact that to them this was normal, it was bloody dangerous (I’m sure strong enough to knock out a pacemaker or perhaps kill someone with a weak heart), yet at the same time recognising the futility of trying to impose my cultural norms on the situation. Feeling angered because of the discrepancy in our points of view, trying to internally demand that they saw it as did I would be silly, no matter how mental I thought their approach to be. I just learned the lesson and was careful to boot up before touching anything else that might electrocute me.

A few days later at a friend’s farm the same thing happened to one of the guys I was with. He’d forgotten that the electric stove was live and he got a full on shock when he touched the metal pan atop it. I was amazed that people are happy to live like this, laughing away rather than thinking ‘should I try to fix it’. Oh well, all part of life’s little learnings on the road…

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2 Comments for this entry

  • abbey

    ugh that sucks! my worst shock is funny only because i can imagine other sheltered privileged white girls falling into the same trap. i was pet sitting our neighbor's horses back in the day. it was a gorgeous evening, the sun was setting at the stables and i was hanging out feeding carrots to my favorite horse. While I was leaning up against the fence my elbow grazed the live wire and the shock went directly through my funnybone. i screamed, reflexively punched the horse in the mouth and fell backwards into the muck. he was not pleased. but really who the eff leaves a 13 year old in charge of that stuff? Happy trails yo.

    • afowen

      Sounds quite a crappy experience, was that like an eclectic fence then? They might have telt you beforehand… I know standard differ from place to place but having live stuff all over the place is a bit mental if you axe me, it's not like it'd take a whole lot of effort to sort a lot of it our either, oh well. Of to Colombia now, should be fun.

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