Tico street corner, looking up at power lines

Costa Rican street corner

It was relatively late Saturday night, some time past midnight, when the transformer blew across the street from our house, waking up the whole neighborhood. I swear it looked and sounded like lightning in our living room, leaving a shadowy imprint on my retina and a ringing in my ears.

The explosion woke up the whole neighborhood – everyone came outside in their pajamas to investigate, thinking a bomb had gone off. The electric company, ICE, was not answering their phone, so everyone called 911 and the operator called the fire department. A whole truck full of Tico firemen (yippee!) showed up almost immediately to assess the sparkage for possible fire risk. ICE didn’t come as fast as the firemen, but the amount of time we went without electricity (12 hours) was not bad considering it was Sunday. Plus we don’t have AC, so it’s not like we could complain about the sudden onset of heat like we would have if we were in the same situation in South Carolina.

electrical wires in Costa Rica

Close up of our electrical wires coming into the house off the city lines.

According to Julio, this is about as rare an incident in Alajuela as it is in the US, only occurring under extreme weather conditions such as lightning or heavy winds…although I didn’t think the wind was blowing that hard…AND we had another one the following Friday as I was writing this. So two in one week. Still, not as bad as Puerto Viejo where the electricity flickers on and off several times every night. The part of me that is addicted to the internet is really happy to be living in Alajuela, close to the bustling city of San José.

electrical wires in Costa Rica

The electrical wires coming into our house.

San José, the capital of Costa Rica, was the third city in the world to install public, city-wide electrical lighting. Seriously. 1) Paris. 2) Manhattan. 3) San José, Costa Rica. This is something all Ticos are taught in school, so maybe it is this fact coupled with the pura vida lifestyle that allows them to be more relaxed about electricity than we are in the US?

Tico shower head

The shower head in our bathroom.

When I think about electricity in the United States, I think about fluorescent black and yellow warning signs and light bulb cartoons singing songs about avoiding contact with power lines, wall sockets, and toaster ovens. Switch gears to electricity in Costa Rica, and I have visions of Julio swinging from the haphazardly hung power lines. I’d describe the Tico philosophy on electricity as…pura vida electricity. Keeping the electrical current within the wires really isn’t their first priority. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shocked myself on the shower heads, especially the ones that have been installed incorrectly, causing the water nozzle and water itself to become electrified.

But I’m still here. Pura vida. FYI our new shower is installed correctly and I can now turn the water on without a shock.