Monday, September 26, 2011

Water - or lack of it

Water is something I have always taken for granted. You turn on the tap and out it comes - always. In my previous house here we had a well, and unless the electricity was off and the pump didn't work, there was always water. OK it was a bit smelly at times, such as when a cat fell in the well and we didn't discover it for a week, but there was always water.

In this house we have proper water from
the street, which is a lot more hygienic. I assume it comes from a reservoir somewhere. It comes into a cistern which is in the back garden and from there comes into the house, and some of it somehow goes up to a big black tank on the roof which is known as a tinaco. The idea is that if, for any reason the street water goes off then the tinaco should be full and will come out of the taps easily as it is on the roof. Up until a couple of weeks ago the system had worked perfectly and the landlord had told us that the street water hardly ever went off. Hmmm. The street water did go off a lot, in fact every week for 2 or 3 days

and once for 2 weeks at a time when I was told they were scrubbing the main tanks with bleach to get rid of cholera - a comforting thought.
Most houses have a tinaco on the roof and the only issue with ours was that it didnt seem able to stop itself filling with water so when you could see it overflowing you had to turn a knob on the feeder pipe to stop any more water going into it.

One day I noticed that even when I turned the knob it was still leaking water and mentioned it to my husband. He, like many Dominicans is not 'a stitch in time saves nine' sort of person. So he ignored me. I phoned the landlord and said "the tinaco is leaking", and he ignored me too.

A week later, we had no water. None at all, so I called
the landlord and he came round. "The tinaco is empty as it is leaking", I said. He said he would connect an electric pump which would pump street water up to the tinaco. I told him it was a waste of time as the tinaco was leaking. He ignored me.

He spent all day on the pump and set it working. It pumped for a couple of hours and then we checked the water. Nada, nothing. He came back the next day to look. "The tinaco is leaking", he said.

The next day he returns with PVC glue stuff in a tube and mends the tinaco, and pumps water and hey presto the tinaco starts to fill up.

Whilst we were without water we could fill buckets up from the cistern, but as there was no street water the cistern was going down and down, and in the end I had to hold onto my husband's legs to stop him falling in as he was filling up buckets and pans.

It is certainly not the same showering with a saucepan, and fingers crossed the tinaco will stay full, and I won't be taking water for granted again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A day at the river

Dominicans love going to the river, and last Saturday we were invited by some of our neighbours to join them for a river outing. Some of them piled into an old Nissan and the rest squished into my jeep and off we set. The journey didnt take long, although the road became worse and worse the closer we got. In fact on two occasions the passengers had to get out of the car and walk while it struggled up the hilly bits. My old jeep coped admirably though. Eventually we parked, took out all of the supplies, ice box, chickens, big cooking pans, and set off on what they told me would be a short walk.

The hill in front of us was the destination, to
where the river actually began. We were going to trek to the other side. So much for a short walk! I was wearing flip flops as I had no idea we had to walk so far, and anyway I have no 'tenis' as they call trainers here.

We walked upwards through jungles, crossed the river 5 or 6 times, precariously balancing on rocks. The water was beautiful and clear and also very fast moving and often came well above our knees. I felt like I was in a war film carrying my rifle above my head. More than once I had a piggy back courtesy of my husband. All of the
Dominicans took off their tenis so as not to get them wet or dirty and did the whole trek bare foot. No idea how.

We eventually arrived at a beautiful clear pool with the water cascading down into it. It really was gorgeous.

The fire was built, the men stripped down to their underpants and the preparation of the food began. It was discovered that the lady in charge of the food had forgotten the salt. I said it didn't matter but I was informed that water will not
boil without salt in it and therefore the rice would not cook. I didn't bother arguing and so one of the lads was sent back down the trail to find some salt. He returned an hour later.

In the meantime, the bottle of rum came out and everyone had a slurp and jumped in the river - the women fully clothed as is usual. Some of the boys climbed the rocks at the side, including my husband, and they went off to explore, returning with arms full of wood to light the fire. It was like being a girl guide again.

The food was great: chicken and vegetables with
fluffy salty rice! All washed down with copious amounts of rum and cranberry.
After lunch it was time for the obligatory sleep - I
have no idea how Dominicans can sleep anywhere and at any time!

Eventually as the sun disappeared behind the top of the hill, it was time to pack up and wend our way back down the track and home.

A great day, full of fun and rum and laughter.