Sunday, September 6, 2015

Water... Water? Water!


Note to reader: Hi Reader! I wrote this one week ago. I thought the story would peter out, die and I'd be able to wrap it up neatly for a post. The universe had other plans. I shall now publish this first fragment and continue the saga in a subsequent post. Love, me
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This is the end of day EIGHT. I'm beyond mustering hope or feeling disappointment. This just seems to be what it is.
So we've been packing.
To move elsewhere.
We don't have running water. We haven't had running water, with the exception of four precious hours, in eight days.

Take a moment to visualize this and imagine the smells that it all entails. The kitchen, the bathrooms, the laundry, your own bodies during the hottest, sweatiest, most humid time of year in a tropical country. The toilets not being flushed (we've taken to flushing with bottled water for #2, but don't tell anyone).

The abusive relationship with our building's water system began the day we moved in. No water. Everything to clean and seven people who bathe, poop, wash their hands, cook, eat and clean up afterwards (a lovely family of three lived with us for three months starting the day we moved into our current apartment). Like most people I know.

The following is standard operating procedure for many Dominican apartment buildings:
Water "from the street" (city water) comes and goes, without a great deal of regularity, just like electricity. To help correct for some of this government-sponsored insanity, cisterns (water storage receptacle) are installed underground and range in size and effectiveness. Each cistern receives the city water if and when it comes. Cistern water is then pumped up to roof-top water tanks which are connected each to an individual apartment. Our roof-top water tank holds 240 gallons of water when its full. The average American family of four uses 400 gallons of water per day. (Side note: Josh visited his friend, a plumber, in San Jose, California earlier this month. You know what the city's maximum daily usage limit is per residence? 4,000 gallons. Gasp.)

We slowly learned the routine of our particular apartment building. At 8 am, Monday through Saturday, the maintenance man, Jonaton, turns the cistern pump on to fill our roof-top water tanks. He is generally able to get everyone's tanks filled to full capacity within an hour, which they then need to make last until the next day when he turns on the pump again. Except for the weekends. Since we moved in, eight months ago, we have frequently run out of water sometime late morning on Sunday. Its irritating, sure, but we managed and learned a few things about serious water conservation in the meantime.
There have also been several days in a row where there wasn't any water in the cistern, so we'd go days without water. There is a service, however, which will deliver water by truck and fill your cistern. For about $52, the truck will come and fill your cistern. This is great, albeit painful to pay for something that the city should really be taking care of. It isn't so great, however, when you are one of only three families in a building of 12 apartments that is willing/able to chip in for a water truck. Granted, $52 may not seem like a whole lot, but you have to put it in perspective of your own income. As a percentage, that is almost 6% of my monthly income (Would you pay 2-6% of your monthly income for a day's worth of water? If so, let's be neighbors). Our neighbors aren't and the cost definitely makes us cringe.

Because I went through the last two+ weeks in a daze of exhaustion, soaked in my own sweat and filth, mopping up other's plumbing sins from my kitchen and retching from the smells in my building, I'm going to let you use your powers of inference and just post pictures with some explanation (you might not believe it all anyway) of the fiasco that continues as I type. Here we go:
This water came seeping up our kitchen sink, Friday, August 21st.
Turns out, it was also happening in the neighbor's kitchen while they weren't home. Flooding the apartment building.
It continued regurgitating and flooding for several days. A common combination of misunderstanding, miscommunication, incapability and dishonesty meant that a plumber didn't arrive to start solving the building-wide problem until Monday, August 24th. At which point, I wouldn't say things improved, but they did become... different.





































In desperation, I thought to advise my fellow neighbors above that they needed to stop using their kitchen sinks and this was set up in the common hallway outside my apartment door. The engineer who created his diploma on Photoshop and built the building, installed one three-inch pipe in the middle of the building which all of the kitchen sinks empty into. Shown are sample containers of what had been spilling out of our kitchen, chicken fat, fish bones and all. The sign basically says that the pipes don't generally like these things, so please stop putting them in there.
I then fashioned a pipe-stopper for our kitchen sink using a flip-flop, plastic bags and a fat roll of tape. We didn't get flooded again. The flood found its way to the third floor, where our LandLady lives. Then she decided it was a problem and things started happening. Thanks, FlipFlop.
The plumber decided to cut the tube leading from the kitchen sink to the building. Perhaps he'd find a solution then. This is on Wednesday, August 26th. He'd come to work, but would need water to start/continue/finish a job. "I guess I'll come back tomorrow. We'll see if the street water has arrived by then." And it went on.
We'd been doing our dishes in the utility sink of the laundry room, from Friday when things started until Sunday when the water ran out. And the water didn't come,

and didn't come...

and didn't come.


Hours turned into days. The dirty dishes piled up, the toilets filled (but not with water) and the floors collected more and more dirt on top of the kitchen sink water that had spilled out several times over the weekend.





We received water twice over a ten day period. It was probably about 200 gallons total. Just enough for the kids to bathe, for us to wash their uniforms and for me to wash the dishes. I showered at a friend's house and we went apartment hunting.

Its not over yet. We still haven't found an apartment and last night was the worst plumbing night thus far. I'm hoping last night was the climax of the story, because things look good now. I'll post soon--there are silver linings! In the meantime, send us some prayers, good vibes and happy thoughts that we find a new place to live since the one thing we've learned in the last several weeks is that this building is not for the faint of heart. 

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