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Monday, December 6, 2010

Living in Cairo: Plumbing

Cairo is in a third-world country.  There are some aspects that might fool the casual observer - the Ritz Carlton is coming to downtown.  The airport is new.  Western-style malls have started to appear.  Apartments have electricity, air conditioning, and running water.  But the facade starts to break down when the details are examined, and it is those details that bely the underlying systems and attitudes that make Egypt a third-world country.

Plumbing, I am coming to believe, is a litmus test for any country's overall attitude and ability to keep things together over any length of time.

Our apartment is a 'wealthy' apartment.  It is paved entirely in stone, has four and a half bathrooms, central air conditioning, an enormous kitchen, and an old servant-bell pull system that no longer works.  However, I dream of the days when I can live in some tidy, snug little house that never has leaks.

There are five toilets in our house.  It is a physical law that at least one of the toilets must be running at all times.  It is also a law that when facilities comes to fix that leaking toilet, it has stopped leaking, and I can't find the new guilty party until after they leave.

Our air conditioning unit in the dining room leaked water into the floor, and bloomed out the wall beside it.  When facilities came to fix the wall, they asked if we had the matching paint.  Of course nobody had thought to give us the extra paint after they were done, and so I suppose the wall will be fixed for the next tenant.

There is an outlet in my hall that I never use because the wall is bulged and flaking around  it from another leaking air conditioning pipe.  And I noticed a suspicious bulge in another wall in the dining room just the other day.

So it was no surprise to me the other day when I noticed the girls' bathroom had a rather large, light brown pool of water that kept reappearing after it was mopped up.  It seemed to be coming from the bathtub pipes, and so I had Brandon put in a work order.

My friendly facilities workers came for their weekly visit, and started nosing around to uncover the problem.  I had visions of breaking up tiles to put in new pipes.  Either that or more layers of silicone.

And so I was surprised when they came in to the kitchen to talk to me.  It turns out that they leak isn't from our pipes, it's from our upstairs neighbor's pipes.  They were going to tell their boss who would tell our landlord who would tell the upstairs neighbors to tell their landlord that the leak needs fixed, insha'allah.

Thankfully we have another bathroom (four, remember?) that the children will be using until everybody plays telephone and everything gets fixed - for about a week.


Nancy said...

I always liked our leaky toilet--it was comforting. If it was leaking it meant the water was on. :)

Laura said...

My favorite part of this is the insha'allah. I can just imagine someone saying that.

Also, five toilets? I think my whole house would fit in your living room. Literally. (It's only like 650 square feet.)

Still though, I can't imagine having that many leaks in one apartment. That's crazy.

Unknown said...

Sounds like Cairo! And, surprisingly, here... You'd think that Nassau was a first world country by appearances too. So not! (Granted, I would say more second world than third, though some aspects...)