Lightning!

Here’s another thing — as many are — that goes on both the “we’ll miss” and “we won’t miss” lists: lightning storms.

The ones we’ll miss happen very frequently late at night, way out over the water.  They’re too far away to even hear the thunder, but give us dramatic light shows many a night that are positively breath-taking.  I’ve been known to prop myself up in bed in the middle of the night and just watch in awe until I finally can’t keep my eyes open any longer. THOSE we’ll miss.

The ones we won’t miss are the closer-to-home thunderstorms that come many afternoons during the rainy season.  Some days it’s not too bad — in fact, some days there’s no lightning at all — but other days we have to unplug the computers, slather Peace and Calming essential oil on the dogs (and sometimes ourselves!), and just wait it out.

Thursday, in the last hour before sunset, we had the mother of all lightning bolts that came out of absolutely nowhere and zapped us.  It was cloudy, but there was no rain, no other lightning or thunder, no sense of impending doom.  Mom and I were sitting in the living room watching TV while I worked on my laptop and David was up on the third floor, resting and reading.

There don’t seem to be appropriate adjectives to describe the intensity of the boom which we heard at the very same instant — as much as is humanly possible to distinguish! — as we saw the lightning.  Now, speaking for myself, I’m going to stick with my story that I “saw” the lightning here in the living room, right in front of my eyes, along with hearing and feeling an incredibly un-nerving “sizzling” of sorts.

I understand — and am grateful for the fact — that if the lightning were literally here in the living room, I probably wouldn’t be here to write about it today.  And although David and I shared the perception that the lightning had hit our house, the electrician who came the next morning to discuss if we were adequately protected against actual danger said that no, it had to have hit very nearby, but not the actual house.

No difference to me — it was as close as I hope to ever come.  And in the sense that the odds are in favor of not being struck by lightning twice, I’m hoping that was our one near-death experience!

While clearly *I* didn’t actually sizzle (again relying on that fairly simple reality-check which suggests I wouldn’t be here if I had), I did actually feel odd and tingly — and not in a particularly good way — the rest of the evening.  I also discovered a couple of hours later that I was all stiff and sore in my neck and shoulders — sort of a “whiplash” type of feeling where I had clearly jumped and tensed so extremely (and involuntarily) in the moment of the very, very loud kaboom.

But, the enormously good news?  The exotic grounding system we’d installed a couple of years ago seemed to do the trick and our master breaker blew, safely protecting the rest of the house just exactly as one hopes it would do.  After a few moments of complete disorientation where we tried to figure out what to do next, we settled on our universal answer to “call Oscar.”

Oscar and Alexa Gamboa are near neighbors and literally from our first experiences here have been helpful in so many ways. (More stories on that in the future.)  Alexa speaks English and Oscar is one of those quintessential “can do” guys who just knows how to do everything.  Sure enough, although *we* had enough sense to go outside, and look at the master breaker for the house, Oscar could look at it and immediately understand that, yes, it had “blown” (as was its job!), and he even had the mysterious little piece at home to repair it.

Once he replaced the blown part (a weird little bit of metal that looked only one step up from tinfoil), everything in the house came back on. My nightmarish visions of having to deal with the critters, Mom, us, and everything else for the next how-many-hours-or-days-to-come without power were rapidly (and happily) vanquished as the TV, lights, computer equipment, refrigerators, etc. all hummed back to life.

Unfortunately, the one thing that was initially visibly not working was the internet.  We tried our usual “bag of tricks” of resetting the router and antenna, restarting computers, and so on, but clearly something was wrong.

Although there’s a story in and of itself about dealing with the internet company, the unexpectedly pleasant result was that they had a technician here within an hour Friday morning after we’d called and he fairly quickly isolated the problem as a “blow-out” of sorts in the electrical line that supplied the power to the internet antenna.

(As is so often the case when dealing here with our Spanish, we got the “gist” of it, but feel like we probably missed some subtleties.  It was clear from what was said that there was a “hueco” [hole] in both the electrical cable as well as the actual roof overhead as a result of the lightning, but exactly what was cause and what was effect was a tad fuzzy.)

The bad wire was cut and taped off with our electrical tape so that our power could be turned back on and quite happily we were told that they would be back the following morning to make the repair (for $75 which they would just “bill us” for), but even as I’ve been writing this, the intervening hours have gone by and it turned out that a tower in a nearby town had been hit yesterday so the entire technical staff was there today and then tomorrow is Sunday when they don’t work, so it’ll be Monday morning before they can get to us.

Okay.  So it goes.  It’s incredibly disorienting to be without internet for this long — which means no email, no web, and no international telephone — but I’m quite sure we’ll survive.

Yesterday I had driven the car down to the plantel (flat building site) below us where I knew I could probably pick up the wireless signal of our nearest neighbors just below that.  But I hadn’t reckoned on how soft the land was after the rains, so got the car lightly stuck. (I say “lightly” since I knew I *might* be able to get it out, but also recognized that I might just mire it further down, so decided to just hike back up to the house and give ourselves until tomorrow with a nice dry sunny day to hopefully extract the car.)

Today is a Saturday and I’m “on-duty” with Mom, so I didn’t have a chance to get down to the plantel to borrow internet service again, then by afternoon (and all since then) it’s been pouring so not terribly conducive to walking down there.  I’ve already called our neighbors and will go down there hopefully bright and early tomorrow morning to download the several hundred emails that will be waiting for me and hopefully send a critical few out.

So — conclusion? I’m sure no place is exempt from occasional lightning storms, but the frequency and intensity of the ones here will not be missed, at least not when they hit this close to home!

[Final note — it’s now Sunday and I did walk down to our neighbors house this morning but wouldn’t you know it, their internet was out too.  So I’m actually now sitting in the parking lot of the mall in San Ramon, using the free wireless at the local “discotheque” — figured I just couldn’t wait until tomorrow!]

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