Generators, Weddings, and Rust
Alberto came to the house last week to administer to our sick generator. Alberto is a jolly chap with an easy laugh and a rosy outlook on life. I like the guy.
The generator is three years old, which makes it ancient by Chinese manufacturing standards. We purchased it, reluctantly, when a typhoon knocked out our power and it looked like it wouldn’t be restored any time soon. The blackout lasted for three weeks.
Two weeks ago we were hit by another power outage that had stretched to 16 hours when we decided to drag the generator out of storage so the Sweet One could cook the rice. The machine practically fell apart when we tried to start it. The corroded connector to the fuel line broke off at the tank, dripping gasoline onto the patio floor, which, according to my Sweetie, was all my fault.
I called Alberto.
The tank was removed and Alberto took it to the village to see what could be done.
Alberto returned in an hour with a repaired gas tank, although the repairs were unconventional, to say the least. Let me say something here about Philippine ingenuity. I have always been impressed by the ability of Filipinos to improvise, to make do with limited resources. They are very creative.
The old connector port had been plugged with a one-peso coin soldered over the opening. A new port was drilled and a short length of copper tubing soldered in place. Very creative.
We attached the fuel line and installed the tank (I say ‘we,’ but of course I mean Alberto) and Alberto inspected and spruced up the machine, cleaning out the accumulated gunk without directly commenting on my shameful neglect. The thing started on the first attempt.
Our power outages up here in the far outreaches of civilization occur quite frequently, but usually last only ten or twelve hours, which doesn’t seem long enough to bother with the generator. But Alberto explained – with a tone that sounded a lot like condescension to me – that the machine should be operated at least once a week to keep it in good condition. As you know, I am not happy to interface with anything that has too many greasy appendages and eats gasoline, but I’m also not happy to listen to the Sweet One reminding me that a real man wouldn’t need to be told.
It’s getting harder to maintain this oversized opinion of myself when I have to deal with these unreliable machines. Even my gargantuan ego is not enough to compensate for my feeble mechanical ability. Maybe I can get one of the neighbors to babysit the generator in exchange for a beer or two.
In other news: The wedding is off. The Sweet One’s nephew, Epinephren, and his live-in lady friend, Lomein, were planning to take advantage of the church’s annual Freebie Wedding Day, the one day of the year when wedding fees are waived and couples with limited financial means can get their knots tied free of charge.
Like many social customs, marriages have changed over the years out here in rural Luzon. Most couples these days decide to live together without marriage, something that was considered scandalous only a few years ago. Many weddings now include the couple’s children as part of the wedding party.
In Epinephren and Lomein’s case, Epi is a widower and Lo has been separated from her first husband for 30 years, but apparently the Catholic church has strict protocols about re-marriages, so they nixed the idea unless, I suppose, Lo can get herself officially disentangled from that other guy.
In the Philippines, of course, there is no divorce, but after a separation of seven years, the people are free to remarry. The Catholic church, I guess, is more strict.
We have embarked on a major project here in the castle. Again, when I say “we,” I don’t actually mean we, I mean the actual workers. The castle’s security consists of steel grillwork on all the windows, which is a standard precaution all over the Philippines. We have a lot of grillwork, not only on the windows, but also surrounding the dirty kitchen, the front porch and the balcony. A lot of steel – a lot of rust.
Although we have repainted the grillwork twice already in the past six years, we haven’t been able to prevent it from rusting again. We went to the village seeking expert help.
There is a shop in the village that sells only paint. I explained our situation to the young guy in the shop.
“I need a good primer and a good top coat that will prevent the rust from returning.” The guy stared at me. I repeated my request.
“What kind of paint do you want?” he asked.
“Well, I was hoping you, as an assumed expert in all sorts of paint, could tell me what is best. I’ll need a good primer and some green paint.” Another blank stare.
“Do you want some of this primer?” he said, pointing to a can of paint on the shelf.
“Is that the best primer?”
“Do you want gray or red?”
“I’d like you to recommend what you think I should use.” Blank stare.
He took a can off the shelf and another, smaller can, of catalyst.
“Is that all you have?” I asked, “two-part primer?”
“Do you want gray or red?”
“I’d rather not have to use a two-part primer. Is there something else?” He pulled another dusty can off the shelf.
“Is this as good as the two-part primer?” I asked. Blank look.
And so it went, not a sentence of advice, no help in solving my problem, no information about controlling rust. I am a flexible guy – not physically flexible of course, but I am willing to roll with the cultural oddities. But if there is anything about Philippine culture that drives me up the wall, it is this inability of Filipinos to engage in helpful conversation. Am I being unfairly critical? There are several western ex-pats in this wide audience; how do you handle this kind of situation?
We bought some paint and hoped for the best.
Another wet thrashing by the northern monsoons the next day put the project on hold. We’ll have to wait for drier weather.