Indonesia is not a nanny state like the countries I spent the last 30 plus years in. If I buy a hairdryer here there will not be a sticker advising me not to stand in the shower and use it, I must use my own common sense to assess that running water and electrical products don’t go together. This country will not warn me that I should not drive with my new sun shield in place, that my Windex window cleaner is not fit for human consumption or that my microwave is not to be used for drying pets. In Indonesia they assume that I can probably work these things out for myself and therefore keep myself safe. Well that is what I thought prior to Sunday.
Safety standards here are very different to those in Australia, New Zealand and generally anywhere in the western world. I have come to except it as normal that my power points spark during an electrical storm, scared the hell out of me the first time but I am used to it now. It has taken a year and many destroyed electrical items but I have also grasped the fact that turning something off at the power point does not mean that it is off and that the only way to make sure the hair straightner will not remain on until it over heats and dies is to unplug it at the wall. Apparently my house is not earthed, there is no automatic blowing of fuses when something goes awry electrically and every time I plug or unplug something I hope for the best.
Why is the lack of safety warnings and precautions relevant to this blog, well read on. Sunday afternoon my house caught fire!!!!! Well okay it wasn’t exactly the entire house, just a small part, but it had the potential to burn the whole house down. Home alone, sitting back relaxing there is a loud bang and suddenly flames appear from the roof fan in my lounge. After it registered that oh shit that’s not good I managed to jump up off my chair, trip over the golf clubs in the middle of the floor, launch onto the coffee table and beat the flames with ------- a tea towel. I know - a tea towel - really, what the hell was I thinking. The tea towel and I did manage to beat the flames out, the only casualties the plastic on the fan and the now burnt and holey piece of fabric that was left in my hand. With a sense of kick arseness I relaxed with a vodka admiring my quick reflexes and fire fighting skill. However, the remainder of the evening was spent stressing that my house was going to burn down around me.
The next day a small army of men descended on my house and replaced every light bulb (hmmm), serviced every air con (not the problem boys), checked every conceivable appliance (including the sink??????) and were preparing to leave when in my best Bahasa Indonesian I mentioned that I think they were actually meant to be repairing the fan. This is where it all goes bad and leads me to think that those safety warning tags should perhaps be used in this country also. One gentleman places a shiny metal ladder under the fan while three others hold it steady. Without turning off any power he proceeds to stick a screw driver into the mass of electrical stuff. Hmmmm, I know this cannot end well and encourage Princess Pants to step away from the impending disaster. After lots of head shaking (by me and them), he pulls out some duct tape, sticks the melted wires back in place (yep you read that correctly), reattaches the fan to the roof, climbs down the ladder and announces to me with a big smile on his face “bagus Ibu” (good lady). I think at this point my jaw hit the ground and I had a look of dumb confusion on my face. I gathered myself and replied that no, not good, not fixed. My maid has at this stage left for the day so I am left to try to explain in an odd mix of Bahasa, English and hand signals that he didn’t fix the fan and had just stuck it back together with tape. I thought I was making myself very clear, obviously not as the word “sudah” (already) was said a lot as this ‘electrician’ pointed at the fan. He couldn’t see my problem; he had already fixed the fan. Apparently my lack of knowledge of the local language and my hand signals (or maybe it was the look of WTF on my face) was amusing to all the men working in the house as they all came to investigate the crazy white lady, trying to give instructions. They eventually gave up on me and packed up their tool boxes, thanked me and left.
Needless to say instructions have been given that the fan is to remain OFF at all times and there will be an influx of smoke detectors arriving at Batu Putih 4 as soon as I can arrange them. Perhaps safety tags are not such a bad idea and may have come about from somebody actually doing something as stupid as using the hair dryer in the shower. I now believe that screw drivers in this county should carry a warning tag that states “do not use on live electrical wiring” and that duct tape maybe needs a tag saying “this product is not fire resistant”. I am hoping my fan stays attached to the roof and that I no longer need my new found fire fighting skills but am not counting on it.