We're Jason, Beth, Lee Anna, Sawyer, and Sarah Claire, a family of five living, learning, and laughing lots in Northern Africa.
We hope you can learn a little (and maybe laugh a little too) as you read about our latest adventures.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Did You Do Yesterday?

So what did you do yesterday? I went to a store and bought a small light switch to replace the broken one inside a ceiling fan. For our American readers, going to the store to buy a light switch sounds like a 30-minute round trip to the Home Depot. Oh, that it were that simple.

Yesterday was actually the fourth trip looking for this rare, prized, pull-cord switch. The switch in question controls the light fixture on the bottom of the kids' ceiling fan. Why is it broken, you ask? Well, that's another story altogether. For now, let's just say it involves 4-year-olds and bunk beds.

My first two trips looking for this switch were here in our part of town. I went first to the electrician's shop where I frequently buy light bulbs and have their guy come fix things. The boy in there told me "Momken bokra." Now literally that would be translated "maybe tomorrow," but the deeper meaning behind his words was something like "I've never seen a switch like that, and I'm more likely to sell monkeys tomorrow than to ever carry that particular switch."

On Monday night, I took two American friends with me to the section of town where everything is for sale. It's a huge neighborhood with thousands of shops. The shops are conveniently grouped by the things they sell, so you might find a whole street of shoe stores, and another street that has accessories for your mobile phone. There are literally hundreds of streets, each with its own specialty. We walked through one area that had obnoxiously gaudy chandeliers and even gaudier wedding decorations. Tons of them. I don't know why.

So we wandered around until we saw the electrician shops. I had the old switch with me, and we went into dozens of little stores--each about the size of your American kitchen--or maybe your bathroom if your kitchen is very big. In each store, the proprietors were quite helpful, suggesting other places where we might find something like this switch. But after 3 hours, we headed back to the house, empty handed.

On Thursday, I did a good old-fashioned Google search for electric supply stores in my city. I discovered then that most of these stores were located on a particular street downtown--or at least the stores that had websites were located there. I knew right where that was, so I got one guy to go with me, for navigational purposes, and got back on the train into the City.

When we got to the area in question, we found most of the stores closed for the evening. Nice. But we did see a couple of electric supply places open, so the game was on. Here's how it went:

Me: Do you have a switch like this?

Him: No, but if you go down three blocks and look on your left, that guy has them.

We walked down three blocks and looked on the left, and asked that guy if he had it.

"No, but if you go down one more block and turn right, the second store on the left probably has one."

So we walked down one more block and turned right. We found another small store with tons of switches and wires and related equipment. I asked the guy at this store and he said, "Momken bokra" and told me to try the store upstairs tomorrow. He meant the same thing that our other friend meant when he said try back tomorrow.

We looked around and found another street with lots of electrical supplies. The first three guys we talked to all named the same store--just around the corner, of course--and all seemed pretty confident he would have one. He didn't. He did recognize the switch, and even knew what it was for. He went so far as to look in a bunch of drawers as if he really thought he might actually have one. We knew we were getting close.

This guy suggested that we cross the street and go to the fifth store on the left. He'll have it for sure. Well, we did, and he didn't. "But the guy right next door, he has stuff like that." Sure he does.

But he did! I showed it to him and he said "That goes to the light fixture on a ceiling fan. How many do you want?" I wanted to get a dozen, just in case we broke one again, but I didn't want to hog them all up and keep other fathers of active four-year-olds from being able to fix their light fixtures. So we took one, gave the man a dollar and headed back home.

And now the kids' bedroom is all lit up again, for the first time in several months. That means we've had several months to remind our active four-year-old that jumping from the top bunk and grabbing the light cord is not a good way to turn off the lights. Think he'll remember?

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