Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cyprus plumbing and construction...part five

Nope, still not the final installment. Sigh.

So Tuesday morning my friend C and her husband T came over and had a look at everything. I kind of lost track of how many times T asked, "Why did they do it THIS way?" "Why did they use THIS connection?" etc. The plumber did NOT arrive at the agreed upon time of 10:00--normally, I'd never expect them to, and lack of punctuality is part of the culture and I'm not generally bothered by it...but after the past week, it wasn't taking much to annoy me, and seeing as C and T had come over TO meet with the plumber, not to mention that I was actually supposed to be leaving the house at 10:00, I was irritated. After yet another phone call to Mr. George (I don't have the phone numbers of my husband or children or any close friends memorized, but I do have Mr. George's telephone number memorized now...), the plumber finally arrived. He didn't even greet us, just walked through the house into the laundry/shower room. We followed him, and after glances and shrugs at each other, I was very glad when T stepped forward and started discussing things with him in Greek. We showed him all the leaks (after my post of the day before, I'd found a couple more--I think there were seven or eight altogether?), and when T asked him why he'd done such-and-such, he said that it was because he wasn't paid enough.

This was one of the leaks that I found while looking over everything with T, before the plumber arrived: according to T, that black connection is the wrong kind for the white pipe, and it was dripping quite a bit. This is the supply of the water for the whole house, from the tank on the roof. (Edited to add: this is actually only the HOT water supply.)

So the plumber asked if I would be home and said that he would fix everything. Marie and Jacob were here, with Katie, and Jörn was at his usual Tuesday morning art session and had taken both Lukas and Helen, so I headed to Sue's house as usual on Tuesday, although nearly an hour late and only with Elisabeth. I tried again and again to get a decent photo of Sue, Elisabeth, and Sophia (the cat), but this was the best I managed:

I had quite the text exchange with Mr. George while there:

"Did they come?"


"Please tell them all your trouble with the pipes. The rest I will handle them."

"I had a friend to explain things in Greek. The plumber said that they did things the way they did because they weren't paid enough."

"He is saying (explicative) you know. They were paid as you know even before they finished. They were paid as much as they asked. So Mrs sheilla you know the truth"

"I'm not blaming you. I think they did a bad job because they're bad plumbers. I suggest you don't hire them again!"

"Of course I will never give them a job or recommendation"

I'm not sure I was entirely honest about saying I didn't blame Mr. George...I do, partly, but he's only the mediator for his aunt, who owns the house, and who doesn't ever want to spend any money, so he told the plumbers to do it as cheaply as possible. However, I found out later that they were paid TWO THOUSAND EUROS for this job! So skimping on a correct connection which probably costs a couple of Euros is obviously absurd, and it WAS planning for Mr. George to pay them before they were finished.

After Elisabeth and I left Sue's, I finished cleaning their guest flat, which is where we had stayed for a week, and while we were walking home, Jörn phoned. He said that the plumbers were gone, Marie and Jacob didn't know anything, and the toilet wasn't attached. I of course took a photo as soon as I got home:

More phone calls...Mr. George said that a new toilet was going to be installed. Eventually, someone else showed up, carrying boxes with a toilet, a tank, and a new seat. He commented that he hadn't seen the house for 10 or 15 years, and I asked if he was also a relative of Mrs. Panaiota, and he said yes, he's Mr. George's brother. He's "in the renovating business", but had been very busy on another job, which was why he hadn't been able to oversee this one, and he was very sorry.

Anyway, the plumbers didn't show up again until about 5:00 p.m., and then the new toilet didn't fit. Lots of phone calls back and forth, and eventually another toilet was delivered. We heard banging, etc., while we were having dinner, they went in and out the front door multiple times, and then...we realized that they were gone. The toilet was installed and water was working, and they'd left quite a muddy mess all over the bathroom floor and down the hallway to the front door:

At this point, we discovered that the phone and internet weren't working, so I texted Mr. George yet again: "The plumbers left without saying anything! Is everything fixed? Can we use the toilet? Can we use the washing machine?" He texted back "I tried to find you but nobody answered the home phone. He suggest we wait for tonight for the toilet so the glue dries. Only this. He said everything is ok" I don't understand why he didn't phone one of our cell phones, since he obviously has the numbers!

In the meantime, Helen HAD already used the toilet. I didn't (still don't) know if "wait for tonight" meant wait some certain number of hours until the evening, or not use the toilet overnight, or what. I just told everyone to sit very carefully. We'd been using the toilet in the guest flat all afternoon, which is fine during the day, but not very practical for the middle of the night. (Not to mention that the light bulb in the guest flat bathroom is burned out AND the fluorescent tube in the guest flat kitchen is flickering horribly, neither of which I knew about before.)

So in the mess of the bathroom we have a shiny new toilet:

And, I noticed later, a shiny new tap:

Nothing in the bathroom is visibly leaking, nor is the shower anymore, and the other leaks in the laundry room and outside had only happened while using the washing machine, and I haven't used it again yet. All they did, as far as I can tell, is squirt on a whole lot more silicon. I didn't go outside last night to see if the pipe outside is still leaking, nor have I been up on the roof yet to check out everything up there.

And of course, all the painted concrete floors still need finishing of some kind, so no, the adventure isn't over...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cyprus plumbing and construction...part four

This was supposed to be the happy ending, all done, everything working. It's not. We moved back into our house today. We maybe shouldn't have.

Friday morning I wrote three posts about the first three days of our plumbing saga. They'd repainted that morning and said that there was nothing else to do. Friday, it was hopefully ending. Mr. George had called and said everything was finished, and I went over after lunch to check it out.

Except for it being a bit odd having white stripes everywhere, the kitchen terrace certainly looked much neater:

Well, until one looked closer and saw some more cat prints...

The shower was dirty, but the tiling seemed neatly done, and with a brand-new drain. No idea what the board leaning against the wall was for, though:

The connection under the bathroom sink to a new drain hole looked somewhat sloppy, and I wasn't impressed with the use of flexible hosing and silicon, and the paint was soaking wet, but naively, I was still believing that they knew what they were doing:

I went back to the flat where we were staying, and Jacob stayed to use the computer in the peace and quiet of the empty house.

A little after 3:30, it started absolutely pouring with rain, and then hail, and with a lot of wind. I got the very nearly dry laundry inside, then took a photo out the front door of our car, and the street running with water:

A few minutes later, my phone rang. Jacob was calling to tell me it was raining. Yes, I'd noticed. Then he explained that the kitchen terrace was completely under water and the paint was floating all over the place. Jörn called Mr. George, and he and a plumber showed up at the house to discuss things. I've kind of lost track of the order of things. At one point (before the rain, I think?), while Marie and Jacob were both in the house, the plumbers and/or construction workers and Mr. George had been there and had all screamed at each other, running from room to room and finally storming out of the house and to their respective cars and driving away. Then this scene was repeated when Jörn met with them after the rain. In the bathroom, Jörn pointed out that the paint on the floor was wet, and the man argued that it was dry. Finally, he scraped the paint off and said it was fine now, we could move back in, and Jörn said no, it was WET, we could NOT move into the house and have small children here. So then the guy grabbed a roll of toilet paper and sopped up a bunch of water and said NOW it was dry!!

Later that evening I took a photo of the bathroom floor where the paint was scraped off:

And while I was at it, I took a photo of what was left in the laundry room:

Saturday and Sunday I didn't take any photos. I came and checked on the paint often, and it was still pretty wet, but photos of wet paint aren't much more exciting than watching paint dry. Although come to think of it, it WOULD have been nice to have been watching paint dry, considering that what we did all weekend was watch paint NOT dry...

This morning I checked, and the paint on the kitchen terrace was dry, although rubbery and easily scraped off (like silicon or rubber cement), as on the bathroom wall. The shower wall was still wet, and I discovered that the handle was dripping. The paint on the floor in the laundry/shower room was still very wet. The paint under the bathroom sink was dry-ish, and the floor was of course dry, because the paint had been removed. This afternoon I called Mr. George and he and I looked at everything together. I showed him the dripping handle, and also that the bathroom sink tap was dripping, and that even the dry paint easily rubs off. He said yes, he knows, they did a bad job, but there's nothing he can do because he already paid them. HE ALREADY PAID THEM???? Personally, I think that shows a distinct lack of...forethought, at the very least. Anyway, we discussed what to do about the bathroom floor (he wants to retile half of it with a tile-high step running across the middle of the bathroom. I said NO. We're still considering options.) and he said that at this point, we should just wait for everything to dry, and next week they will come and re-do the paint, which will dry quickly if the concrete is dry. I said that that is maybe okay for the walls, but NOT for the floor. He's still thinking about things.

So anyway, this afternoon, in the middle of all the other regular Monday activities (Elisabeth's drama class was cancelled, at least--she loves her class and I love her class, but it was helpful today not to have it, not to mention also helpful that Lukas, Katie, and Helen had a party at Discoveries, so were gone for two hours instead of one and a half), we moved back into the house. And...I put on a load of laundry.

And...I decided to check to see if there was water leaking anywhere. There was.

Water all over the laundry room floor, AND outside on the kitchen terrace, and NOT coming from the washing machine. (That is, the water had been in the washing machine and back out, but it was not coming directly from the washing machine and not a fault or problem with the washing machine.)

So I looked under the sink in the laundry room and saw this:
 Water was dripping out of the "connection" (sorry, but I'm not a plumber, but sticking flexible tubing into another pipe and slathering it with silicon is NOT, in my opinion, a proper "connection"...), AND squirting out of a pipe in the back (not visible on the photo). The dishwasher (which we don't use, but that's beside the point) was partly hooked up, and it appeared that water was coming out of the part of the sink that would/could connect to the dishwasher.

Outside, there was dirty water everywhere, quickly covering more and more of the terrace:

Closer inspection proved that for the drainage from the dishwasher, they'd cut a hole into the drain pipe from the laundry room (that's the vertical black pipe below) and stuck the dishwasher hose in and coated it with, yet again, silicon. It doesn't show up wonderfully on this photo, but those grey drips below the grey pipe are not bits of dried silicon, that's actually the water squirting out.

While I was taking these photos, a child came to tell me that the toilet was leaking. I went and had a look, and of course took another photo:
That white milky-looking stuff around the base of the toilet is coming from UNDERNEATH the base. And the whole toilet is wobbly.

I texted back and forth with Mr. George. The plumber is coming at 10:00 tomorrow morning. I also messaged with a friend on Facebook whose husband I don't really know (I've met him twice, I think), but I do know that he speaks both Greek and English and is very practical and knows lots of things about construction and plumbing and such, and she said she thinks he can probably come over tomorrow morning, too.

No idea when the final installment of this saga will be...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Cyprus plumbing and construction...part three

Finally up to Thursday, the third day of chaos. At some point on this day, I suddenly realized that I was, in a way, experiencing a certain amount of culture shock, something unusual for me. If we'd known in the first place that we'd have to move out for several days, I would have been much less stressed with it all, and there wouldn't have been all the encounters with the workers saying "Today! Today!" because of the culture of just wanting to say positive things. I'd been to the house in the morning to open it for the plumbers and had had some disagreements with them before I ever had breakfast, and there were quite a few telephone calls back and forth with Mr. George.

It was wonderful going to Tots with Helen and Elisabeth and escaping it all for a couple of hours. (It did amuse me greatly when one mother said, "What?? You're staying in a flat with only one toilet?? No wonder you're having the teenagers stay someplace else!!" At home, we only have one toilet anyway. Well, when we have one at all...) Back with everyone else...not so wonderful. We are of course VERY grateful for this place to stay, but the children are used to playing outside a lot, not to mention having a lot of space even inside the house to spread out. Marie has had her own room for three years, and Jacob and Lukas for over a month now, Jacob is upset about not being able to bike ride or walk much (he hurt his leg a week ago, another topic), and Jörn and I were both very upset about what was going on at the house and not being overly patient with anyone, so nobody was handling the being on top of each other very well.

After lunch (well, I think I actually left DURING lunch...) I went over to the house to check on things, get some clothes, and of course, take more photos.

They had painted the concrete (which had been poured the day before and was very obviously NOT dry) with something that's supposed to be waterproof and approximate tile.

While I did think it looked fairly awful, aesthetics just aren't one of my worries. For the most part, if things WORK, I don't care much how they look. But then I noticed this:
 There were also some cat prints, but cats are CATS: they don't know where they shouldn't walk! (I do hope that this stuff doesn't hurt them if they licked it off of their paws...) But the workers who were DOING this?? Shouldn't they know better than to step in wet paint??

They'd retiled the shower, at least, which looked decent, although the floor outside of it didn't:

And the toilet and bathroom sink had been returned:

But the paint on the floor was very wet, and it looked to me like there was water standing on it, although the worker I asked about that insisted that it wasn't:

They'd cleaned a little bit of the concrete off of the bathtub tap:

But not off of the shower hose:

And outside, above the door to the flat outside, they'd put the drain pipe for all the water in the house!
It wiggles easily with just barely touching it, so aside from looking horrible AND the fact that I assume that every time anyone flushes the toilet there will be a lovely rushing sound through this pipe, I'm concerned that it can be easily damaged and the odds of getting a very disgusting leak are very high.

Lukas and I then watched with amusement as they came to pick up the leftover sand. They discussed which side of the crane for picking up the skip to use for picking up the bag of sand, and then backed a pickup truck under it. Lukas and I then spoke German with each other so as not to be TOO rude (just in case any of the workers understood English or were paying any attention...) as we noted that the way the pickup truck was standing, the side of the crane NOT holding the bag was going to bash into the cab of the pickup truck. They did notice it, however, suddenly shouting "Stop! Stop! Up! Up!" and after much more discussion, re-parked the pickup truck at a different angle so as to avoid the problem:
 They then took the skip, nearly taking a tree out with it, again, a problem that Lukas and I easily anticipated and giggled over, while the four men working on this didn't notice until it nearly happened.

A few hours later, Jörn and I went to see how it was going. They had re-attached the dishwasher (which we don't use, but that's a different topic), and put it ON TOP OF THE WET PAINT!!!!

Sliding it around had made quite a mess of it, and the paint was STILL quite wet.

We then went into the bathroom to be told "Oh yes, you can move back in now, the toilet is fine," despite there still being STANDING water on top of the paint on the floor. More arguing, more phone calls with Mr. George. He phoned the plumbers and phoned me back, saying that they said that the paint would dry in one hour and they had waited two, so everything was fine. I was so upset, that I even started speaking to HIM in Greek, despite his good English. I suppose it's quite a compliment to me that he even answered me in Greek. Still, it doesn't matter how long the paint is "supposed to" take to dry, if it's wet, it's WET. Even my three-year-old understand that. Finally, it transpired that if applied to DRY concrete, yes, this paint should dry in an hour, and the workers hadn't understood that it would take longer if applied to WET concrete.

When we got home, I was still fuming (it was kind of funny, because I'd spent the first couple of days telling JÖRN to calm down...), and he pulled me into the bedroom and closed the door (a very cool thing about the flat in which we're staying: our bedroom has a door! At home, we just have a curtain) and...showed me a stash of hidden chocolate! There are lots of reasons to love this guy, that's one of them. :-)

This morning (Friday) I opened the house for the plumbers again, and noted that all of the paint from yesterday was still extremely wet. And at 7:50, they started painting it again. They claim it will be dry in "one day." At the moment, I don't believe anything they say.

Cyprus plumbing and construction...part two

Wednesday evening, while playing a game with Sue, Richard, and Tim, one of them asked or said something about my parents leaving, something like, "Did your parents departure go well this morning?" I said, "Yesterday, but yes, it was fine." It took the three of them and Jörn a few minutes to convince me that it HAD been that had been a very, very long day. (And I'd also fallen asleep while putting Helen to bed, so, well, I HAD slept again, so surely it was another day??)

So Wednesday morning, Jörn went over to our house to await the plumbers, and I piled the three girls, my parents, and my parents' luggage into the car. (They didn't have so much themselves, but they also had two suitcases from my brother, since my brother and his wife and daughter are moving back to California next month.) Then we went to Dena's house for my parents to say goodbye to Jacob and Lukas. While they were saying goodbye, though, Jörn called that the plumbers had arrived, so then Jörn picked up the boys and met us at the airport. Marie had already said goodbye the night before.

Jörn then went to work and the children and I went back to the flat. Konstantin took Helen and Elisabeth to the playground and Jacob went back to the house to work on his Coursera (free on-line classes from universities around the world) classes, and I did something approximating schoolwork with Lukas and Katie. (I think we read several chapters of Naya Nuki, and one of them maybe did math??)

The plumbers had told Jörn that we could move back in that afternoon, that the toilet would be done and we would have water. After lunch I'd gone over to talk with them (but couldn't find the camera...I'd put it somewhere too safe) and they kept insisting that it would be done, but I was extremely skeptical by this time. At 3:30, Jörn and I went to the house again (by which time I'd found the camera) on the way to our Greek class, and I took more photos and had more arguments in Greek with the plumbers. They'd laid new pipes and filled it all in with concrete, right up to the level of the tiles!

The shower was still a mess:

The toilet was still in the hallway:

The bathtub was a mess:

There were still piles of construction material on the sidewalk in front of the house:

And the man was insisting that that they would be finished TODAY, that the toilet would be fine, that we could move back in!!!

Finally, one of the plumbers/construction workers who spoke more English admitted that they were trying to hurry so we could move back in, but really, it would be better to wait. I said that he should PLEASE not hurry and do a bad job, but take the time they need and do it right. He seemed very relieved.

Apparently, he understood the "not hurry" part, but I really don't think that ANYONE understood the "do it right" bit. After our Greek class, we went back to see what had been done and lock up the house.

That morning, Lukas had remembered seeing pink tiles in the attic (a crawl-space above the laundry room and bathroom into which nobody bigger than Lukas will fit, but he'd explored it a few times...) and we'd gotten them out, so the workers used those for part of the bathroom floor, putting them in very badly, not to mention that they hadn't even taken OUT all of the tiles that they had chipped:

The bathtub tap was covered in spilled concrete:

The tiles were crooked in three dimensions:

And there were cat paw prints in the concrete on the kitchen terrace (okay, that's not really the fault of the workers, and I wonder whether these are prints of Makenzy or Connie, two very confused cats at the upheaval in the house).

That wasn't all we found...Marie, who had been over during the day to use the computer and bake a cake (not for us, though), had decided to add her own mark:

That evening we distributed teenagers again (Jacob to Panos's this time) and Lukas got the sofa bed, as we got the master bedroom.

And Sue, Richard, and Tim came down and played a game with us, the only relaxing time of the entire day.