Editor’s note: This post is the third installment of a three part series. If you haven’t read the first two, please click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.
With us being so sick, our appetites were gone but the kids were hungry. Somehow I needed to get out of bed, go to the store, and get food for dinner. So I forced myself out the door and to our car. That was around 3:00pm and it was the first time I had been outside that day. I remember thinking I didn’t even have the energy to drive the stick shift and it slipped out of my hand just trying to put it in reverse. I paused and tried again and got out of the driveway. Thankfully the store was only about a mile away, so it wasn’t too bad getting there.
At the store, I walked slowly and gingerly down the aisles probably looking like a crazy person clinging to my cart for support. My stomach was still hurting and nothing sounded good to me, but I needed to get anything I could think of for the kids to have food (I like how this sounds like a wilderness survival story all of a sudden). I don’t remember what I bought, except for some Sprite because we thought that would feel nice on our stomachs. I remember being sad because I really wanted ginger ale but couldn’t find any.
During the late afternoon (around 5pm) of that second day (Tuesday), I also managed to take the kids to the pool across the street. The above photo is all I have to prove that I was there. Bethany stayed back and laid in bed, while I laid down on one of those outside pool chairs and let the kids play in the mini pools. I felt so bad that they had been cooped up inside all day so again I just tried to push myself. Mostly, I just remember laying there and hoping I would feel better which was slowly starting to happen, although my appetite was still gone. I never got in the water despite the kids desperate pleas. Since there were two little kid pools I found a spot in the middle while the kids ran back and forth jumping in to both of them.
Beyond that I can’t remember what we did that night but I know we went to bed early again. I may have had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the evening, but outside of that I didn’t eat anything that day.
The Dark Day
On Wednesday morning (our third day of “vacation”), we woke up and felt a lot better but were still not 100%. We got a lot more sleep and I think Karis slept well that night too, which gave Bethany a little more sleep. By mid-morning my appetite had returned and I felt well enough to return to the store again for some fresh food and I told Bethany I would take the kids with me. When we got back from the store and walked in to the apartment the air conditioning wasn’t running which was weird because it had been running almost non-stop since we arrived (What can we say? We’re Californians!). I asked Bethany about the air conditioning and that’s when she said, “The power went out.” Come again? “About ten minutes after you left for the store the power just went out.” Oh no.
It was now a little past 10:00am. I immediately tried to find the electrical panels and breakers to see what I could do. I searched the entire house using my iPhone flashlight and found nothing so I went outside of the apartment and checked the hallways. I found an electrical panel wall for all the apartments but I didn’t see any breakers or ways to turn the power back on. I went downstairs and found another wall of panels, this one much bigger, but all I saw were these big buttons beneath each apartment’s meter. I tried pushing a few but nothing happened. Finally, I just texted the apartment owner and said, “There is no power in your apartment. Please help.” He didn’t respond right away so I tried calling his number and got no answer. I was really at a loss now.
The apartment only has electric appliances so now our lunch was on the line and this whole vacation was already so far off the mark it was laughable (however, I wasn’t laughing). I had the number of the apartment manager who doesn’t speak English, so I called him on a whim just hoping we could communicate. By God’s grace his wife was with him and he passed the phone to her and I was able to tell her we were without power. She told me he would come in 30 minutes. About an hour and fifteen minutes later he arrived, tried a bunch of switches, and left. Then he came back again with another guy, they pulled a picture frame off the wall which exposed an electrical panel, flipped all the switches, and still nothing. He left again. He came back a third time, said something to us we didn’t understand, and he was gone yet again. One problem: he never came back.
We waited and waited while the apartment got hotter (no AC), we got hungrier, and the kids got more restless. The power had been out for three hours now and we decided to just take the kids to the pool a little after 1:00pm, skipped lunch, and just ate snacks we had. At the pool area they had WiFi, so I was able to try and connect with the apartment owner via my iPhone app. I wrote him this message:
We have been without electricity in the entire apartment for over 3 hours now. [The apartment manager] came but we can’t communicate and I don’t think he can fix it. We are thinking of leaving tonight because of this and would like to have a refund on one of our nights.
Bethany and I had basically decided we wouldn’t be able to stay there without power so it was time to start making plans for what we would do next. To my surprise, I finally got a message back from the owner that said,
Call [the apartment manager]. I hope you did not destroy something.
Destroy something!? What?! It took me a while to realize that since English was his second language he didn’t really know how intense the word “destroy” came across to me, especially over a text message. Finally, he called me on the phone. Apparently he was in Miami doing some schooling but he called me to try to figure this out. He told me he couldn’t get a hold of the apartment manager, but that he called an electrician who was on there way. He then told me I was supposed to push the buttons on the electrical panel and I said I had already tried that. Eventually we just decided I would go back to the apartment from the pool area and wait for the electrician.
Let There Be Light
Not long after we spoke on the phone two men arrived, one of them was the guy you see in the photo above. He had a leg cast and crutches, was wearing one sandal, and the guy with him spent most of the time on his cell phone. He motioned to me and hobbled down the hallway to where the electrical panels were (the same ones I had already looked at earlier). He started explaining something to me in broken English and then pointed to this button (photo below).
That blank spot (the only one of about fifteen buttons) was our unit. He then hobbled with me back in to our apartment and asked me about a spoon. When I didn’t really understand he started going through the drawers of the kitchen until he found a wooden pasta spoon and we hobbled back down the hall to the blank button. He stuck the handle of the spoon in that hole and I could hear the air conditioning unit fire back up down the hall in our apartment. YES! We had power again! The electrician showed me use the handle to push the button in case it happens again and that actually ended up coming in handy later when three more times the power would fail.
When our family finally did converge back at the apartment it was around 3:30pm. The power had been out for over five hours. It took us another hour or so to figure out why the power kept failing, but basically it was that we couldn’t have more than two major appliances running at the same time (e.g. washing machine, AC, and oven). If we did that, the power would fail immediately when a third appliance was turned on.
Just End This Already
By this point in our vacation we were done. Bethany and I decided we had had enough and told the apartment manager we would be leaving around 8am the next morning (he eventually returned the apartment to check on us around 6pm). Even though I was feeling better, Bethany wasn’t feeling great but she asked me if we could seriously go find a McDonald’s. To be honest, we thought McDonald’s was our safest option at that point after the day we had. I found one on our GPS and we started driving there only to find out we were about 1 kilometer from accidentally driving in to Italy. I pulled the car around and ended up finding a McDonald’s in Slovenia where we enjoyed dinner. I tried explaining to Bethany that I wanted to take her to Italy on our vacation, but she didn’t think my joke was very funny (OK, she laughed at me, but it was a courtesy laugh).
That evening when we got back to the apartment I took the kids across the street to a little bounce house area. They had seen it the night before and since we would be leaving early the next day I figured it would be fun last thing to enjoy. After we put the kids to bed that night, Bethany and I spent the evening packing and cleaning so we could leave in the morning.
On Thursday morning (day 4) we were packed and ready to leave at 8am but the apartment manager didn’t arrive until 9am. We lost and hour of drive time (which I wasn’t excited about), but left for the 8+ hour ahead of us. The trip ended up taking 13 hours. I had planned for about 11 hours, but bad traffic, stops to eat and feed the baby, and intense weather extended the trip significantly. In the end we made it home in Czech around 10:00pm. As I said in the first post, I sighed a sigh of relief just seeing our driveway.
Vacation stories are a part of life. Everyone has one and it’s always fun to talk about later when you’re removed from the situation. It’s been a week since we were laying in bed sick and as I look back I can chuckle (we’re not laughing yet–that’ll take years of counseling). I found the above photo of the kids “relaxing” on the patio of the apartment just before we left and I’m reminded that even vacations are not about me. A good friend and pastor reminded me of that truth recently and told me “Remember: this life isn’t about you.” It’s not. If my kids had fun, then I should be happy. If Bethany had fun (verdict is still out on that), then I should be happy. Even a week later the kids are still talking about the pool time and the fun we had on vacation. My memories are a little skewed in that department, but again, it’s not about me. We had our plans and the Lord had His. He’s a better planner anyway.