20 May 2011


Paradise to me is three little words – three little words that fill my life with so much joy. On two occasions in the last couple weeks, I nearly lost them – for good. These incidences made my breath escape my body, my heart drop from my chest to my stomach, made fear of Paul’s disappointment overwhelm me and made tears nearly well up in my eyes.

When we left the United States, we did the best we could to sell as many of our non-essential belongings as possible. The people at Goodwill loved us because we took an entire car full of household goods to the local donation center (and by we, I mean Paul). We sold or donated furniture, clothes and appliances that we either did not want or did not need to take with us. I even threw away a curling iron and a straightener that had likely outlived their good life because I did not want to deal with the plug-in-outlet situation.

On May 6 when our shipping container arrived in our parking area and the shirpas, as I fondly call them, began unloading, Paul and I took inventory as we directed the men with boxes to the appropriate areas of the house. For the record, we had way more than I thought we did. Over the next few days we were able to unpack everything and organize the house to the point where it was actually livable. We furnished the condo so that each room had the essentials and a few things just to make them a bit homier.

I was truly excited to put away all of my kitchen gadgets with the hopes of using them one day soon. However, before we could use any of our American appliances, we knew we had to go in search of a converter. So Paul found a handyman and went off on his white horse to find a suitable device. He returned with not only a converter, but a power strip so that all of the kitchen appliances could be plugged into one unit constantly plugged into the converter to add convenience and save my sanity.

I remember the first time I used the converter. I woke up one morning, thrilled to make some breakfast and my first Singapore cup of coffee in the Keurig single-cup coffee maker I traded my aunt for Christmas (she agreed to buy me the Keurig and I agreed to buy her a leather Coach purse – it was such a great idea, I think we should play this game every year). I watched with much anticipation and glee as the Keurig lit up its bright blue color. I stood there and continued to watch it for the next 30 seconds as I waited to hear the sound of bubbling water bellowing from the back, but I heard nothing. Then, I watched as the blue light rapidly flickered, much faster than the Blue Light Special, and then…darkness. All that was left was an odd smell in the air and I was heartbroken at the thought of the tragic death of my Keurig. Another expat couple had warned me not to trust the converters with the good machines.

Dr. Paul came to the rescue and laughed as he diagnosed the problem and reported the prognosis. The coffee machine would be fine, he said, but the converter would need to be replaced. The converter, with a limit of 200 watts, could not handle to 1,500-watt power of the mighty Keurig, so I went on a holy coffee crusade to find a super converter.

Paul sent me to the handyman responsible for selling him the small converter, so I stopped in with my list: a hygrometer to see just how humid it is in our house at any given point in the day, a dryer hose clamp that did not end up fitting the back of our dryer and the super converter. And yes, I asked for it by name – super converter. The handyman and his wife had wide eyes when I responded to their question of how many watts with the joyful response. “2,000 watts,” I exclaimed excitedly. I figured since the Keurig was 1,500, I would add in some cushioning, just in case. I watched the handyman take 35 minutes to affix the wiring and the outlets on each end of the converter. The handyman’s wife asked how I was going to transport the converter and I simply replied that I would catch a cab. I admit that I did not realize how heavy this thing was until she handed it over and I began my four-story decent. I was amazed by my strength as I carried the converter, likely weighing as much as I do, four blocks until I found a taxi stand without an obscenely long line.

The next morning as I awoke to the joyous thought of an iced mocha to complement the end of my book about Starbucks, I nervously hooked up the converter to the wall and to the power strip. Nothing happened. I checked the plugs on both ends of the converter, I checked to ensure that the outlet was on. There was no switch on the converter and no light to indicate power like the last one so…what was wrong? Oh yeah, the coffee machine should probably be plugged in to the power strip. All was right in the world again when I saw the machine light up and heard the beginnings of the coffee-making process. Then, I saw three blissful words pop up on the screen: “READY TO BREW.” Paradise. I was so excited I made myself some toast to go with my coffee.

And then, I lost it again.

Last Sunday, Paul and I decided to go to the Late Late Church with Pastor Prince (who was actually off for his birthday), and I awoke with a desire for waffles. Since I had time – and a waffle machine brought to me by the shirpas – I began prepping. As I was just about ready to put the first round of batter into the waffle iron, I thought I would go ahead and start the Keurig so that my iced mocha would be ready with my breakfast. And then it happened again. And all three died – the waffle maker, the Keurig and the super converter. My heart sank and I was nearly ready to cry as I dragged my feet into the study to confess to Paul that I forgot to check the wattage on the waffle iron and that I may have killed the S$200+ super converter. Dr. Paul went into the kitchen for the evaluation and, once again, saved everything. He explained to me the two types of converters and how there are fuses that blew. All three of the machines were reset and working again, and so we had our waffles. I made my coffee once the waffles were done, all was right in the world again. 

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