Friday, February 14, 2014

Cyprus plumbing and construction...part one

Today is Friday, which means that Tuesday was only three days ago, but this has been a looong week. My parents were here from January 28th until February 3rd, then arrived here again on Monday, February 10th, on their way back home to the U.S. (They spent the week in between visiting my brother, sister-in-law, and niece in Jerusalem, mostly just my sister-in-law and niece, as my brother left on a business trip they day after my parents arrived and got back the day before they left!) We managed to squeeze in quite a lot of activity during their visit (a trip to Nikosia, a trip to the mountains, lots of walks, lots of games, and more ice cream, cookies, and eating out than we normally have in a year...), and then gave them a send-off that was NOT part of the plan: the plumbers finally arrived.

Background: every summer that we've been here, the shower has gotten pretty blocked up with sand, and I've put in horrible chemicals and pumped it out and managed to pretty much clear it every time. Last summer, it was much worse than usual. Then after one of Lukas's showers (rare, but always very long and wet) there was water all over the laundry/shower room and out into the kitchen all the way under the table and running out the back door. That was irritating, but then the girl who was staying downstairs came up and mentioned that it was raining in her kitchen. It didn't do it again, though, so I figured that it was Lukas's dramatic mess which had somehow leaked through the floor. (We have a small room off of the kitchen, which the Cypriots call "the second kitchen" and which has a kitchen sink, which we've never used for anything except piling laundry on, and where we have the washing machine, probably in the place that once used to have a stove. Old houses often have a "nice" kitchen, where guests can sit, and a "second kitchen", where messy stuff can take place. And there is also a shower in that room.)

However, the shower has not only gotten worse and worse over the last six months, it's also leaked downstairs again several times, and then I started to realize that there was also water all over the floor whenever I used the washing machine, but it was NOT coming from the washing machine. (I sat on the floor and watched for the entire cycle to be sure.) And then finally, every time I used the washing machine (which is approximately 10 times a week), the SHOWER was full of water. So we finally called the landlord (well, the landlady's nephew by marriage, who emphasizes the "by marriage" part and that he doesn't stand to inherit anything from the house, and whose name is "Mr. George", which doesn't give away his identity at all because, first of all, that's his first name, as is Cypriot custom, and second of all, half of the men on the island who are not named Panaiotis or Kostas are named George), who said that he would send plumbers. A week later he said that plumbers would arrive Monday morning at 7:30 a.m.

This IS Cyprus, however, so when nobody had arrived by 8:30, we weren't really all that surprised. (Cypriots and foreigners alike tend to shrug and say "This is Cyprus!" when comments are made about situations that most western Europeans and United Statsians. Things such as trees PLANTED (not just growing, but put there intentionally) in the middle of the sidewalk, traffic laws being ignored, people arriving an hour or more late, stores being closed despite an "open" sign on the door, etc. A good friend of mine has a blog CALLED "This is Cyprus" for that very reason.) In the meantime, I had picked up my parents from the airport and really didn't mind that they hadn't started work, since they said they were going to "open up the floor" (tile and concrete) in the laundry/shower room. But Jörn did phone Mr. George, who said "Oh yes, his aunt decided to get a second opinion, so they weren't starting work yet." Later in the day, he phoned back to say that they would be there Tuesday morning at 7:30.

When my mother and I got back from our walk at 8:00, a skip was just being delivered. That was somewhat ominous, as I thought they were going to be opening up a small place, maybe half a square meter, in the laundry room.

As it turned out, two of the workers HAD arrived at 7:30, but the boss didn't arrive until quite awhile later, so they hadn't done anything except spraypaint some marks on the laundryroom floor...and on the terrace OUTSIDE the kitchen, as well. And then they started jackhammering:

Children found this fascinating and watched intently, the rest of us were less impressed.

We watched as it got more dramatic...

...and then my parents and the children went for a walk to the playground. Where I took one not-very-good photo, so it's not here.

We stopped back at the house to see the progress, and found this in the laundry room:

 Those brown bits that look like wood? They're tree roots. The distance of the thickness of a tile under the surface.

We grabbed some games and fled to where my parents were staying, in the guest flat of good friends. (In fact, this is the flat where WE stayed for seven weeks five years ago, when we first moved to Cyprus. It's a five-minute walk away if one walks slowly and there's a lot of traffic on the main road.)

It was really just as well that we'd planned to go out for lunch, as our kitchen was full of dust, and by this time, they'd turned the water off anyway.

After lunch things got yet more dramatic. This is the kitchen terrace, the hole on the left leading from the laundry room, the one on the left leading from the bathroom:

 Here's the laundry/shower room:
Helen used the toilet while I was taking the above photo, and a few minutes later, I saw them carrying the bathroom sink through the house! That was NOT a good sign, and at that point I said, "Wait! When will we have water again??" The man answered, "Two, three, four days." I kind of freaked. NOBODY had told us this. We'd known we wouldn't be able to use that shower for the rest of the week, but that was all. I couldn't have much of a discussion with the man about it, because he spoke no English and my Greek doesn't go a lot beyond that exchange. (I managed a bit more: "I didn't know this." "Mr. George didn't say it." "Nine people live here." "This is not okay." Etc.) While Jörn was phoning Mr. George again to find out WHAT was going on, I took this photo of the bathroom:
 Note: the toilet doesn't face that way, and the pipes on the right are where the sink had been five minutes before.

The shower:

Several phone calls back and forth with Mr. George, who first said it was not his problem, and that if we didn't like it, we could move out and they could find new renters next month, and then finally called back all apologetic. He said it was his fault, he hadn't understood how much would be happening, and that if we could find our own "practical solution" for the next few days, and our rent would be lowered by 50 Euros a month as of next month, would that be agreeable? We agreed.

So we moved in with my parents. First we ate the lemon merengue pies Jacob had made that morning while the rest of us were at the playground:

After dinner, Jörn took Konstantin to his friend George's house (a different George, of course) and Marie to her friend Elina's house, and I took Jacob and Lukas to our friend Dena's house. The three little girls got the second bedroom (two single beds pushed together made a perfectly large surface for the three of them who share a bed at home anyway) and Jörn and I slept on the sofa bed in the living room, as my parents, of course, had the main bedroom.

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