Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shopping for Fan for Our Fridge in Tunisia

2012 06 21
Hammamet Yasmine, Tunisia

This is where the Bus Driver Dumped us in Tunis
Not Sure Where it Was
We took the picture to show a taxi driver
in case we needed to get back to it.

In the end the job of replacing the fan on our refrigerator compressor took only 30 minutes and three days.  Thirty minutes was on the job labour.  Three days was how long it took to find a replacement fan.

Such a Tiny Package
Such an Enormous Noise
Naturally the fridge started to exhibit signs of ill health just hours out of Menorca.  The thing was squealing like Skipperbob on income tax day.  It was embarrassing.

Knowing nothing about refrigeration we tried ignoring the problem thinking it might just go away.  This is a time honoured and truly stupid response to problems which we never fail to implement.  How stupid?  We were sailing our boat to one of the hottest destinations we have ever been.   Screech, screech, bloody screeeeeech.

Luckily for us Adler Barber fridge uses the ubiquitous Danfoss compressor.  When I was finally driven to look into the problem it was obvious the problem fan was a simple 120 mm computer cooling fan.  This is an off the shelf part in any computer store in North America.

Among the joys of travelling is the fact that you are never in North America.  Standard off the shelf computer fans are neither standard nor off the shelf in Tunisia.

A day of fruitless looking in Hammamet, the town neighbouring our marina, and another wasted on the internet decided us on taking the bus to Tunis.  We did not believe any of the twenty four computer shops and repair depots in Hammamet when they told us no such a fan could be found in Tunisia.

[An aside: when searching the internet for a part in a country that speaks French you must use French terms.  Searching for "fan" on Google Tunisia will not produce many or, in our case, any returns.  Searching for "ventilateur" gets a much better response which is still thoroughly useless.]

So it was off to Tunis, capital city.

To do this we took the local bus from marina to Hammamet centre ville.  There we grabbed the intercity bus to Tunis.  

The Metro Station at Tunis South -
You Pack the Cars Like the
Japanese Bullet Train 
On the way to Tunis, after a short chase, the police pulled our bus over and gave our bus driver a ticket for talking on his cell phone while driving.  After getting the ticket the driver got back on the bus, put the bus in gear and dialed another number.

Arriving in Tunis at the Tunis South depot (I know, where?  We had no idea) we found ourselves a bit misplaced.   In Tunis the bus station was not downtown where we expected it would be.  That is the old North America problem kicking up again.

 Acting on a hunch provided by the dubious woman at the Information booth we took the #6 metro car, standing room only, to Centre Ville Tunis.    Arriving at centre ville we found the Gare de Tunis, the main train station.  Our overly chatty bus driver on the way in decided us to take a train back to Hammamet.

At the train station we found  tourist information booth.  It had no maps.  Well, it had one colour map but there was only one copy and no one could remove it.  The info booth was handing out photocopies of their only map of Tunis which had been reduced to fit A4 paper.  The miniaturization had blurred all the street names into black smudge. The very nice woman in the information office gave us a copy of the map with no street names and directed us to Galerie 7 for computer parts.  Galerie 7 was a big shopping centre we were told.

We passed the main post office while looking for a fan
Yes, that is Razor Wire.  I Did Not Photograph The Armed Troops
Posted at every door.  It seemed wiser not to.

Uur unreadable map in hand we walked a few miles in search of Galerie 7 only stopping when we were half an hour past the "big" shopping centre.  Retracing our steps we missed the "big" shopping centre again.  Galerie 7 turned out to be little more than an alley with a couple of computer vendors.  Oh, and no cooling fan.  One shopkeeper directed us to Athens Street which was he assured us "the only street in Tunis where they sold the big stuff" like our 120 mm fan.  Puzzled by the smudges of street names he circled a spot on the map for us to find.

By now it was noon and the sun was high and hot.  Into the 40s celsius.

We walked past the street with the big stuff because the stores selling the big stuff were actually on "Sparta" street not "Athens" street.  The mistake disclosed a certain contempt for Greek history and geography residing in the computer guy.

Our Cafe Was Close to This Incredible Tree
Unable to continue further in what was then 45 degree heat (and no that is not after the humidex, they don't announce the humidex in Tunisia fearing it might cause public panic) we grabbed a table in the shade and ordered a coke, a beer and three litres of water.  We gulped it all down and ordered two more litres of water.

Rehydrated but still wilting we returned to the point where had last given up our search.  By total fluke we picked the wrong street and ended up on "Sparta" street.  Totally wrong and completely right.

First shop we entered was selling the correct size fan - 120 mm x 120 mm.  The fan they had ran on 220 volts AC and we needed a 12 volt DC fan. They had no 12 volt fans in that size.  We inquired if they could order the fan in a 12 volt model.  

[A further aside: Asking a store to order something for you is as stupid a question in Tunisia as it is in Spain.  No one orders anything for anybody.  That would be called customer service.  If you plug the phrase "customer service" into Google Translate and ask for the French translation your computer starts to laugh at you.  If you ask for the Spanish translation the word "SIESTA" flashes on your screen then the computer quits working.  It shuts down for 3 to 6 hours. ] 

Cost for the 220 volt fan, not that we could use it, was 17 dinars or about $10.

As we exited the shop we noticed a fan of suspiciously desirable dimensions in the display window of the very shop we were exiting. Looking into the window we saw that the fan would be 120 mm if we scraped the 5 mm of accumulated dust from its cover.  It was 12 VOLT.  OMG.  We had our fan.

Re entering the store we informed the staff that they did in fact have the fan we needed.      A clerk retrieved the fan from the window.

"Quel prix" we asked (what price in pigeon french).  The clerk looked to the tiger lady who manned the cash register, clearly the bosslady.

"Quarante huite Dinar" was the answer after brief repartee between tiger lady and the guy standing besider her.  She wanted 48 dinars or about $30 for this lost treasure of a 12 volt fan.  Rather steep pricing for a fan they did not know they had, which we found for them, which was years old and which was being compared to a superior fan for which they had just asked $10.

Wise to the ways of Tunisian trade I countered.  "Vingt" was my comeback.  I offered them 20 dinars or $12 which was about what we would have paid in Canada for a quality fan.  Quality was less of a concern at that exact moment.

The tiger lady's eyes stared a black onxy challenge at me.  "Quarante Huite!" she responded sharply.  She was firm at 48 Dinars.  Clearly she thought we were desperate for her fan.  I thought she was a bit ungrateful.

Now I needed the fan but we were hot and tired and I was weary of the Tunisian business model. "Stuff it" was my final bid and we left the store.  That bit of rebellion felt good even if we knew we might be defrosting every piece of meat in the freezer shortly after we got back to the boat.

Half a block down the street we came upon another shop selling sound equipment.  I agreed with Connie that this would be the last store anywhere in Tunisia which we would enter in search of a fan.  What chance was there that a sound shop had a 120 mm computer fan?

The store had a wall full of the correct fan in 12 volts.  Price?  15 dinars or $9.

The Train From Tunis to Hammamet Had Airconditionng
Here it is working hard while we travel at about 60 mph.
We bought two, just in case.  Then we staggered to the train station, drank another 3 litres of water and rode the train to Hammamet town.  Arriving at Hammamet town we climbed on the  bus and took off for Nabeul.  It was two stops before we realized we were going the wrong way - headed away from Hammamet not towards it.

It was four more stops before we found the energy to do anything about it. 

Next morning the fan was swapped out in less than 1/2 hour.  Thank you Danfoss.

Here is the costing for our days outing.

local bus to Hammamet town: 0.570 dinars
bus to Tunis South:                 4.200
metro to Tunis cenre ville:      0.300
Train back to Hammamet:       4.600
bus to marina:                        0.570      10.240 dinars or $6.00 CDN per person, $12.00 total

seven litres mineral water:      8.400 dinars
beer                                      5.000
coke light:                             1.800     15.200 dinars or $9.00CDN


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