Surge Protector, Anyone?

Well, for those of you who know me, you know it has been about 2 weeks since we left the US and moved to the Middle East.  Somewhat against the flow-of-traffic.  Or some might say common sense.   It has been a good two weeks and settling in has been both a joy and a trial at times.  Cross-cultural adaptation is never smooth, but is often fullfilling and always enlightening. 

One short vignette that characterizes our last couple of weeks.  Today I wanted to buy a surge protector and two extension cords so that we could get our computer up and running.  I had already been keeping my eye out for these items, but had not seen any in the shops near us, nor in the mall across town.  Today I asked the guy who hooked up our phone and internet if he knew of a place nearby.  I thought if anyone would know, he would.  So he gave me directions to a shop about a 15-minute walk away. I ventured out in the 90+ degree heat with high hopes.  I was happy because the outing was taking me down some streets I had not yet explored.  Half-way there I entered a computer shop, although it was not my intended destination, as I figured they MUST know where I could buy a surge protector.

 
After several minutes of jumbled Arabic, English, hand gestures, etc.  the conclusion was reached that very few people use surge protectors in Jordan.  I asked, “So, the electricity in Jordan does not cause problems for computers?” 
The clerk replied, “Oh no, it causes many problems.” 
I asked, “So what do you do when electricity damages your computer?”  
“Sir, I put in a new power supply,”  and the clerk gestured to a row of replacement power units waiting to be purchased and put into damaged computers.
Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy with this answer.
 
After some more discussion, my new found friend was certain he knew of someone who could sell me such a peice of equipment, and in fact he had an errand to run in that partof town, so he would take me there.  This began a 2-hour, 8-shop tour of 3 neighborhoods. After the 4th shop I was pretty certain that we would not find a surge protector, so I began asking about extension cords. 
“How long do you need these wires?”  asked the clerk.
“About 5 meters.”  15 feet or so. 
Silence.  
My companion shook his head, “No, I am sure no one will have extension this long.  But they can make for you.”
 
Finally, at the last shop we did find a power strip with a small fuse in it.  I don’t think this is really what I want, but how could I refuse it after the clerk from the computer store walked all around town to find it?   And the shopkeeper did “make” an extension cord for me.  He cut two lengths of electrical wire and handed them to me with the necessary end plugs, a smile, and a roll of white electrical tape.  My new project for the week is DIY 220-volt extension cords.   
 
My New Extension Cord

My New Extension Cord

In the end I didn’t really find what I had set out to find. But I did discover insights on a culture where it’s still common to go out of the way to help a stranger.  I never would have chosen to walk around the sweltering city for 2 hours looking for something I could have driven 10 minutes to get in air conditioned comfort back in the States.  But ultimately  I am glad I did, and I’m curious where this encounter and others like it will lead me in the days and weeks to come. 
PS – if anyone from Jordan reads this post – please, please tell me where to find a surge protector – or the Jordanian equivalent!
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11 Responses

  1. A pure surge protector you might find in lebanon, or else I would recommend you use a UPS (battery buffered power supply), which also serves as surge protector.

  2. […] – 130  Hits – Surge Protector Anyone? (August 19,2008): A life-in-Jordan post about my troubles finding a surge protector (They […]

  3. So here’s the deal with the extension cord wire – it only has two wires – no ground. The guy I bought it from insisted that even if the plate in the wall has three holes it does not mean that the ground hole is wired. But I’m not so sure of that. Do I really want to wire a 220V extension cord without a ground? Fortunately most of my stuff is 110-250V and 50/60 Hz. Except for the DVD player, which is kind of annoying – but truly a very minor problem.

  4. That exceeds even some of my wild goose chases! I believe 220v in those countries is 2 hots (110v each) + ground. In the states, the current standard for 220-240v appliances (at least dryers, and I think stoves) is 2 hots + ground + neutral. All the 240v outlets in my shop are 2h+g though.

    Interestingly, as I’ve been thinking of you as I’ve been looking at electronics of late, I’ve noticed that many things are using switching supplies that can tolerate either 50 or 60hz and of course 120 or 220-240v. Such PSes would make things easier for you.

    I agree with the previous comment though that the best thing to do for a computer is to put it on a good UPS with voltage regulation. I like APC products in general. OF course if you can’t even find an extension cord….

  5. Totally let me know, Bri! We would love to help out in any way we can.

  6. http://www.international-electrical-supplies.com/uninterruptible-power-supply.html

    And if you’re serious about keeping your computer safe/running, this would be the way to go. But again, the price is steep. And shipping these types of things (VERY HEAVY) would likely be pricey as well…

    But perhaps you could look around in Jordan for a UPS unit, and have better luck?

  7. http://www.world-import.com/90.htm

    The third down, I believe… the “SP-WSS505”

    should suffice for you… but thirty dollars is not to be scoffed at.. 🙂

    But I’d assume this is shippable anywhere…

  8. The good thing, Brian, as I’m sure you know by now, is that creating safe electrical cords using the stuff you’ve got is fairly simple. Usually (and I’m not sure about the 220-volt thing, but I’d assume electricity is the same everywhere, so…) there’s just three cords. A positive, negative and a ground wire. As long as you connect the wires correctly, (I typically tape these individually, and after that, then tape the whole thing up, to ensure no short-circuting), then you’ve got it made. Otherwise, could you purchase an adaptor for an American model? Because I could easily ship you.

    Let me know.

    -Larry (dorkmaster1@gmail.com)

  9. I’m sure this is only one of many more great stories to come…

  10. Hey – thanks Rebecca! I think the plugs are different, but the voltage is the same. They used to use the British plug system and then changed to be more uniform with the rest of the Middle East. So there are plenty of adaptors around. If I don’t find something suitable this week, maybe I’ll take you up on your kind offer!

  11. Is there any chance that the voltage and plugs are the same as in the UK?? I’d be glad to send you what you need. Webcam soon, and I’ll show you what ours look like. I’m pretty sure we are 220-volt.

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