Normal life: You press light switch and there is light. When you want a shower there is hot water. When you want to microwave something you just nuke it. Unfortunately it is not quite the same here in the Dominican Republic.
The electricity cables are all over ground, and not on high pylons but more like bits of trees, with the occasional concrete post. These run along the side of the road and then other wires come off them into each house. The wires are stuck together with tape and, in most neighbourhoods, if you look skywards, you can see this electrical spaghetti. Most houses have no earth, and if one of the wires falls onto the zinc roof or when people hook their washing machine up to the overhead line, they are often electrocuted. There were 100 deaths by electrocution last year.Not only are people electrocuted, but the standard treatment for electrocution is not to get the person away from the supply and perform CPR, but to cut them with a machete so that the electricity flows out of the body, together with the blood. If the electricity hasn’t fried them then they die of the attempted amputations.
There are supposedly four different electrical circuits. Those lucky enough to be in an A circuit have 24 hour electricity unless of course a wire falls down, tape comes unstuck or, as happened to me once, an inconsiderate snake gets fried around the fuse on the top of the pole. When the electricity goes off, you then call the 24 hour customer services line. You explain that you have no electricity and the first person will tell you there is a problem but they are working on it and it will be back on in an hour. You call again three hours later to be told that the circuit has been closed for maintenance. You call an hour later, and they say that they had no idea there was a problem. They just make up stories to placate you. The barbecued snake caused me to be without electricity for five days once and each call would end with, “Thank you so much for calling and have a nice evening,” to which I would scream down the phone asking how they expected me to have a nice evening sitting in the dark – yet again.
Those unlucky enough to be in a D circuit, which is half the country, including me now, have electricity for only 12 hours a day. It is on for five hours then off for seven then on for seven and off for five. The thoughtful electricity company has a pretty impressive website which informs you when it will be off on a weekly basis. In order to cope we have an inverter which is a box with a bank of 12 batteries – it kicks in when the electricity goes off. However, in order to ensure the batteries last, when we are on inverter we cannot microwave, iron, use the hairdryer, or put the hot water on. Thus each week, intricate planning is needed to work out when and what to cook and when you can have a hot shower. The joys of expat life!
Lindsay de Feliz lives in the middle of nowhere in the Dominican Republic with her Dominican husband, one stepson, 8 cats and 3 dogs. She was formerly Marketing Director of various financial companies in the City of London, and left the UK around 11 years ago to travel the world as a scuba diving instructor. She eventually came to the Dominican Republic on a 6 month contract, fell in love with the country and its people and stayed. Lindsay has a blog www.yoursaucepans.blogspot.com and is currently writing a book about her experiences over the last 10 years.