Another thing to add to that list of things we took for granted before coming here… plumbers.
We had some difficult times in the Nigrey house recently due mostly to a major plumbing issue. It all started when Miranda did a load of laundry.
While I sat watching some TV waiting for the load to finish its final spin cycle, I just happened to look to my left to see a steady stream of water coming from the laundry room. After unplugging the fan that was now sitting in water and assuring the water hadn’t yet reached other electronics, I went to investigate. The washer had stopped, and no water seemed to be coming from the machine itself. Instead it was streaming out of a very small hole in the seal of what looks to be some sort of covered drain/pipe. At first this didn’t seem to be a huge issue, the mop is stored next to the washer, and there is a utility sink there too. So I began to mop up the water, but when it didn’t stop coming out of the hole I got a little worried. I went the long way around the house-towards the bedrooms, rather than back through the laundry room to avoid tracking water, on my way to the phone to call Mike in a bit of a panic. But as I turned the corner from the laundry room into the hallway I got an even bigger surprise. Water wasn’t just leaking out of the very small hole, it was coming up out of our shower drain, causing a small waterfall to come out of the bathroom, filling the hallway with a half inch of water! Now in total panic mode, I called Mike’s office, but he was in a meeting. I grabbed some dirty towels and started pushing the water out the backdoor with our push broom. Once I saw the water in the bathroom I knew this situation had taken an ugly turn. I know this because our shower and toilet drain into the same pipe. Yes friends, I was cleaning up half an inch of raw sewage.
The water eventually stopped pouring out of both drains and I was able to get all the water up, then boiled water for the strongest Pine-Sol solution I have ever mixed and proceeded to disinfect the entire area.
I wish that is where the story ends, I really do. But then our shower and toilet would not drain. We spent hours snaking the shower drain. I would have loved to snake the toilet too, but when our house was built they got a little creative when installing it. Instead of using bolts to secure it to the floor they used about an inch of grout. So we can’t take the toilet off, and trying to go through the toilet was unsuccessful because of the funny angle of the pipes. Though both were draining very slowly, something was clearly wrong. The next day Mike called the housing people and was told that they only fix “structural defects” and that if the drain was clogged it was our responsibility to unclog it, try Drain-O, right like we hadn’t thought of that and already dumped two full bottles down the pipes. We borrowed a drain snake from a friend and went to work.
By Saturday the issue seemed to be worse, with the water draining even slower than before, causing our shower to be unusable, and our toilet in barely working condition. We had to get creative. Mike’s solar shower provided him with a decent shower outside in swimming trunks, I washed my hair using the spigot on the side of the house, but just didn’t feel at all clean bathing in clothing on the side of the house (especially after our unclogging attempts). Luckily we are still turning on the lights to the vacant house across the street nightly and I was able to jimmy the locked bathroom door open with a steak knife, and took a very quick (but hot!) shower.
Mike called the housing people first thing Monday morning. The guy came out and took a quick look (I still wonder what exactly he was looking for?). He then contacted a contractor who came out and over two days was able to fix the problem. It took a 50 foot long pipe snake (well really it was a 50 foot long strip of metal being used as a pipe snake) and going in from the outside of the house end of the pipe.
At first they could not find the spot where the house’s pipe and the outer pipe are connected. Now I am no plumber, so I will describe this the best I can. There is a spot where the house’s pipes connect to a pipe that goes to the main pipe in the street. There is a small break in these pipes at this spot, where there is a small hatch-like chamber. Our house was at one point surrounded by 6 or 7 grown men looking for this spot. It was buried, and required an engineer to come out and point at the ground, saying “somewhere around here, dig till you find the pipe then follow it away from the house” So this is what they did, unearthing the hatch-like spot. They opened the “hatch” and a zillion cockroaches came rushing out.
Like I said, they were able to use the pipe snake to unclog the pipe. I was so thankful for these guys. It was not a fun job, but they were very professional, speedy, and didn’t make too big of a mess. I allowed them to take as many mangos as they wanted, and told them they could return for more another time.
We are thankful to have our home back in working order. The lesson of just how blessed we are here in Yap did not go unnoticed. At least we have a bathroom!
On a side note-
To add insult to injury, earlier in the week we had a one night only termite swarm infestation in the ceiling right above our couch. But even worse than that, was when we returned Friday evening after I picked Mike up from work, and Mike walked into the kitchen to find a brand new, blind baby rat in the middle of the kitchen floor stumbling around on it’s new legs. As cute as the little thing was Mike took it outside into the lawn where we are sure it met it’s fate sometime during the evening. But we can’t help thinking that it must have been born in our walls and had stumbled out of the same hole where Wally met his sticky trap death.
Our house keeps breaking, but at least it has four walls, a solid roof, and electricity. At home these issues would be “small stuff” but here it is all magnified by the limited resources. Causing momentary panic, followed by even greater relief when it is all resolved.