I love Spain. I really do. However, like any expat living abroad, there are some moments where you want to slap your host country in the face and ask it, “Would it kill you to be a little more like my home country?”
Yesterday was one of those days.
I have to admit, I live in a pretty ghetto apartment. Basement level of the building, no natural light, fridge has no defrost settings, the neighbor’s cat likes to periodically break in, and once in awhile we suffer black outs because this apartment is not equipped for power surges.
Whenever we had black outs in the past, I simply would go to the fuse box in my room and play around with the switches until the lights came back on.
However, while I was in the shower yesterday, the lights went out, flickered on and off a few times, and then refused to come back on. Oh and the water went cold in the shower. Fun times.
So I called my landlord to explain the situation. However I got really frustrated because I didn’t know the words in Spanish for “fuse box,” “lights flickering,” “the fuse box has been making crackly noises for awhile now,” and “I am not touching the damn thing, I don’t need to die of electrocution.”
So out of frustration, I put my Spanish roommate Ana on the phone.
Here’s the thing about Spanish landlords (or at least mine anyway): they are super stingy and will not send over a professional to fix the problem unless all else fails. So of course they made us check whether there was power in the rest of the building and wanted us to talk to the building super.
Once we confirmed that there was power in the rest of the building and that the super was off duty on weekends, our landlord’s husband told us he would come over to check things out.
Oh but he had to finish his lunch first. Which means he didn’t come over until after 5 PM, because the Spanish lunch lasts from 2 PM to 4 PM in the afternoon. He also probably took a nap–the post lunch siesta.
Meanwhile, I had gone to the chino store (basically Spain’s equivalent of a CVS pharmacy minus the actual drugs) to buy some candles. So Ana and I sat in the dark in the living room surrounded by small candles chatting for awhile.
Vicente (the landlord’s husband) finally showed up with his what I assumed to be his fuse box repairing toolkit. Like I said, unfortunately the fuse box is in my room but oh well.
Vicente fiddled around with the fuse box and as he did this, the lights kept flickering on and off, making Ana and I very nervous. This man is not an electrician and I knew from the start he would not be able to fix the problem. For the last few weeks, I’ve heard various crackling and hissing noises from the fuse box, but I didn’t think much of it. It’s been doing that all year, but once the lights went out, I realized something was probably wrong with the wiring.
Vicente then had to take a coffee break. Seriously, this is where I wanted to smack him in the face and ask him to call an electrician. Because Spanish people can’t get anything done without the requisite coffee break (Ana had also offered him some, being the gracious Spanish host). So then Vicente sat down and droned on about his life for the next 20 minutes, before making another attempt at fixing the lights.
Finally, after some “no me lo puedo creer” he FINALLY called an electrician, after realizing there was no way he was going to be able to fix it himself. While we waited, he talked some more about his life. I don’t understand our landlords very well because they have very thick accents so I mostly tuned out. Even Vicente’s wife, our actual landlord, showed up at some point and then got bored listening to her husband, so she announced she was going shopping down the street.
The electrician finally arrived. Within ten minutes, we had our power back. All of this could have been avoided if the electrician had been called in the first place.
But that’s Spain for you. Things will get done… eventually.
On the plus side, I now know how to say fuse box, loose cable, and black out in Spanish.
And I was also given a free beer at the pizzeria I bought my lunch at when I was forced to go find some food (couldn’t cook with no lights) so that I wouldn’t starve. So not all is lost.