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November 25, 2008 Butagaz Blundering

Setting up my new buta stove took some serious effort, on the part of … five? six? … different people. First there was the clerk, who put up with my waffling and indecision for far longer than he had to, before I made up my mind as to which stove I was getting. Then there was the cart-guy – the man whose business consists of wandering around SouqTown with a big cart to help people transport their belongings for a tiny fee – who schlepped it across town to the tranzit, and then waited in the hot sun (yes, SouqTown is hot, even though Berberville is icy cold – it’s 140 km closer to the Sahara and several thousand feet lower in elevation) while my tranzit driver ran his errands around town. Then there was my tranzit jumper, who hauled it up from my outstretched hands up to the top of the tranzit, a good ten feet off the ground, and secured it for the trip back to Berberville. He also lowered it back down to me, 4 hours later. Then there were the Berberville youths – probably students from the high school – who helped me carry my things to my house from the tranzit station. (I’m really not as much a dilettante as this makes me sound; I’d acquired several bulky packages as part of my Winter Provisioning, and had much more than one person could carry. Two cardboard boxes that children could sit in, plus various bags and other things.) Then the biggest gold star goes to my buHanoot (shopkeeper), who first sold me the giant butane tank to supply it with, then ran back to his Hanoot (shop) twice more to get various accessories, like the gas regulating knob known as a magana and the little metal fasteners that guarantee it won’t leak at either end of the butane connection. He cracked open the seal on the buta tank, attached all the hoses and accessories, fitted the hose to the heater (which required a neat trick with his lighter, to soften the rubber), and waited with me for the better part of half an hour while we tried to get it working.

…because it didn’t work perfectly right-out-of-the-box. I followed the directions carefully – I don’t mess around with butane – and it didn’t work.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:
1) Open the buta tank.
2) Hold down the dial (a lot like the knob on really old-school TVs) for five seconds.
3) Press on the spark-generating button.
4) Voila! You have a pilot light.
5) Keep holding down the dial for 60 seconds.
6) Turn the dial to the highest setting, and release.
7) Voila! You have heat.

Here’s a more honest version of the instructions:
1) Open the buta tank.
2) Hold down the dial for five seconds.
3) Press on the spark-generating button. This does nothing.
4) Keep holding down the dial.
5) Press the spark-generating button a few more times.
6) Don’t panic at the thought of all the butane gas flowing into your room.
7) Keep trying to generate the spark. After seven or ten tries…
8) Voila! You have a pilot light.
9) Keep holding down the dial for 60 seconds.
10) Turn the dial to the highest setting, and release.
11) The pilot light goes out.
12) Repeat steps 7-11. A lot.
13) While you’re holding down the dial, gas is flowing into the heater, creating a whooshing sound and lots of exciting red flames and heat. But whenever you release the dial, the pilot light vanishes.
14) Hold down the dial for 120 seconds. When you release it, the pilot light goes out.
15) Wonder if you really need the pilot light.
16) Wonder if you’re going to die of carbon monoxide poisoning.
17) Hold down the dial for 5, 10 minutes. When you release it, the pilot light still goes out.
18) Wonder if the lightheadedness you’re feeling is the first symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning, or just a psychosomatically induced side-effect of the boredom caused by holding down the Same Doggoned Dial for ten minutes.
19) Wonder if your friends will mind holding down the button when they come over for Thanksgiving.
20) Decide you’re warm enough from the twenty minutes of heat, and you don’t really need it to work by itself.
21) Close the buta tank.
22) Get cold. (It’s 39 degrees indoors, after all.)
23) Start over.
24) Hold down the dial until your hand cramps up.
25) Switch hands.
26) Notice a sudden change in the sound. Instead of the roaring of an open fire, it’s now the low, gentle white noise of a distant waterfall.
27) Warily release the dial.
28) The pilot light stays on.
29) Voila! You have heat.

I’m hoping that it’s only this big a pain because it’s still shaking its kinks out, and will soon follow the six-step instructions. But even if not – even if I have to stand over it for twenty minutes every time I want heat – it’s still worth it. Because I’m WARM! My thermometer – a whole five feet away – still claims that it’s only 46 degrees in here. But here, next to my beautiful, pricy heater, it’s more like 75. :) It occurred to me that my thermometer is portable. I bring it next to me. 47…53…58…63…73…83…93. Hot diggety dog. :D And now it’s falling for some reason…83…75. Whatever. Maybe the flames generate an uneven flow of heat. Regardless, I’m snug as a bug in a rug, so llahyrhim lwalidin (blessings on the parents of) whoever invented this thing and whoever else imported it to Morocco.


  1. I cried this was so funny. I know that it was much funnier later than when you were struggling with it, but I'm really, really glad that you have something that keeps you warm. Yea!!!

  2. Yeah! Glad it made you laugh. :) And yeah, it was definitely funnier in retrospect...


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