Thursday, August 22, 2013


Grab this related post Widget!
To say I'm not a fan of washing dishes would be a gross understatement. "Hate" is a word I try to never use, but it comes close to accurately describing of my feelings towards this activity. Yet there I was Monday morning happily scrubbing away.

Late morning Sunday our water went off. That has happened numerous times before and we proceeded with our day thinking nothing about it. In the past it always came on later so no big deal. Believe it or not, this is the kind of thing you get used to living here.

Cynthia had a lot of cooking planned, so I went next door to our neighborhood tienda and bought four big jugs of water. She proceeded throughout the afternoon to make a huge mess in the kitchen. The sink was full. Dirty pots and pans were everywhere.

No water.

We hadn't even showered yet and were getting a bit anxious. This had never happened before. Evening came.

No water.

Now things were getting gross. We couldn't flush the toilets but once, so even though we have five we were hesitant to do so since we didn't know how long this situation would last. I truly pitied the other folks in our building who have children and only one commode.

We enjoyed the lovely dinner Cynthia had prepared but honestly our mood wasn't very convivial. We weren't clean; the kitchen was a disaster; and we were sitting there creating even more dirty dishes. I had attempted to find a 24/7 emergency number for the utility company but, silly me, of course no such thing existed. We were now resigned to tough it out until the next morning when I could hopefully get something resolved.

The night ended early with Cynthia heating some water on the stove for us to at least wash our faces before bed. The whole day's experience felt so primitive and disgusting. We were glad to bring it to a conclusion.

Next morning, still no water. Cynthia, growing grumpier by the minute, went off to yoga and I headed over to ETAPA (our utility company), a short walk from our apartment. I'm not comfortable with my Spanish in situations like this, so I hoped to speak with someone bilingual.

No such luck. The customer service rep I sat with spoke zero English. I managed, as always, to stumble and bumble my way through explaining the problem. She looked up our address on her computer then explained that, even though each apartment is individually metered, the building itself has a main meter that basically feeds the others.

And that our landlord had a balance of $2.36.

That's right--water for the entire building was shut off, on a Sunday when nothing could be done, because of $2.36. Talk about the punishment not fitting the crime!

I told her to give me the bill and I would go to the window and pay it myself. While waiting I turned around and four people back was my landlord! Apparently one (or more) of the other tenants had called and chewed him out and he had high-tailed it over there. I handed him the bill and left. An hour later the water was back on. And after a l-o-n-g shower there I was in the kitchen merrily washing dishes.

This is not a bitch session. I was of course aggravated but never angry. What good would that do?

I'm sharing this story as an example of the kind of stuff you put up with living in an emerging 3rd world country. Obviously the good far outweighs the bad or we wouldn't stay here. While in many ways we are in truth "living the dream," it's not paradise 24/7 and occasionally life can get downright crummy.

When you're contemplating life abroad these are the kinds of things I think you need to know. How would you react if this story starred you instead of me? Would you be turning into The Hulk and tossing large objects around? Would you be reaching for your blood pressure medicine?

If you don't have, or don't think you can develop, extraordinary levels of patience, you might need to re-think your plans.


Sarah Vinueza said...

I have had to the water go out at my in laws in Cuenca many times, but always for a short time! I'm glad it got back on for you.

rozmazz said...

Hi Edd, I live in Upstate New York, and we have an electric pump that pumps our water from our well. Every time our power goes out (which is quite often especially if there is a big rain storm).When we call the power company,we need to get updates as to when it it wll go back on, sometimes it is a week if there is a hurricane,so we don't have water for as much as 1 week one time. I don't think 1 day is very bad at all. It's not only 3rd world countries, it happens right here in NY. So don't let it get you down.

Mike said...

If you find the weather so bad in Cuenca, I'm curious why you don't live in another Ecuadorian location (like Cumbaya which I understand has slightly better weather). The must some other reasons that are more important that makes you overlook the weather. I am curious what those reasons might be.

Edd Staton said...

The weather in Cuenca isn't bad. In fact most of the time it's terrific. We've just had a prolonged period of dismal weather through our "winter" this year.