The other day I wanted to hook-up the Epson printer I brought with me from the US. After looking it over carefully, I realized that it might not be 110v/220v switchable. Most electronics are both these days. I waited for an opportunity to get online to check the capacities on the Epson website. Sure enough, it’s only 110v.
I inquired to both Craig and Tracy for options. Tracy reminded me that you can take your 110v appliances in and have them converted to 220v. But that shortens the live of the machine. Craig suggested a small converter for only about 3000 shilling ($50) at an electronics store in Village Market (the nearest shopping mall on this side of Nairobi – about a half hour’s drive). Hmmph. Okay, no printer for a while.
While in Nairobi this past week I looked for an electronics place in a different mall I was in. I found a small transformer for the same price Craig has quoted. Before I left the store I checked with the salesman, “There is nothing more I need for this to work? Just plug it in?” He assured me it was all set to go. Back in the ‘old days’ appliances were sold with the plug detached and you had to wire it on yourself, England was the same way.
I set out to hook the whole thing up and actually print something today. I pulled the transformer out and began reading the directions.* They didn’t make sense to me. This doesn’t surprise me. I read them a couple times, even out load to see if it would click in my head. Nope. Since this converter would take 220v to 110V or vice versa I thought it fairly important to get it right, since doing it wrong could result in a blown printer.
So they I asked another native English speaker from the neighboring office to look at them. He wasn’t sure either. He thought it was maybe one way but he wasn’t sure. Then I took it over to Francis, at the main CCK office across campus. He was thinking it was the same as the other person. But again admitted the directions were confusing.
Francis had a great idea. The maintenance guys (fundis) at Bracken have voltage testers. Francis called and asked to them bring one down to check it. The fundi came down without the tester. He said in an authoritative way how to set the transformer without even looking at the directions. Tongue in cheek, I asked him if he would replace my printer if he was wrong. He had me follow him up to his workshop to show me he was right.
We plugged it in and found it didn’t work at all. Oh, the fuse is blown. I asked him how he knew it was the fuse. He showed me the wire that was fried in the middle of this tiny glass tube. I hoped that he would have and offer a new fuse for it. Instead he showed me the spool of wire in his tool box and proceeded to pry the little medal cap off the tube to replace the wire!
After a few minutes he had it working. But the test proved that everyone, including the fundi had been wrong in their interpretation of the directions. I was so glad we had tested the converter!
So plugging in the printer took several days, a trip to town, advice from several people, a visit to the Bracken workshop, and refurbished fuse. Now I have a working printer!
In Swahili we say it’s kawaida, it’s normal or usual.
*I am starting a collection of directions that come with things here in East Africa. They are often odd, funny, confusing or unnecessary. Maybe I’ll post some of the better ones sometime.