Monday, April 18, 2011

Plumbing in Rwanda

I'm nearing the point where I can start getting sentimental about things I will miss in Rwanda. One of this things will most definitely be the hilarious plumbing. My thought is that indoor plumbing is still too new an idea in Rwanda for it to be fully developed. And I really don't mean this in a derogatory way...even when I visit wealthy Rwandan's homes, they have outdoor squat toilets. Indoor toilets and showers seem to be only a strange muzungu obsession. 

As a result, most showers aren't too developed, and consist of a hose and a drain. But even with this simplicity, some aspects still manage to be entertaining. For one, the hose is usually connected to the wall to most inconveniently spray water throughout the entire bathroom...often a stark 90 degrees directly away from the wall. Which also means that you usually must be either 3 feet or 6 feet (depending on the shower) tall to benefit from the shower. 

And then there are the efforts to fix the plumbing...which are mostly entertaining because it seems that the plumbers never know what the final product should look like. 

At my friend's house, for example, they had a perfectly good system of shower-spout-at-90-degrees-spraying-across-the-room-with-a-floor-squeegee-to-push-water-back-to-the-shower-drain...when their plumper came in and built a rim around the shower drain. Presumably because normal showers have rims around the drains....but without realizing that normal showers also normally have doors, or curtains, or at least spouts that point downwards. Let me spell out the result for you: the floor of his bathroom is now perpetually covered in 1 inch of soapy standing water because it is now impossible for the squeegee to get the water over the ridge back into the shower drain. Thank you for that new addition, plumber.

Thankfully my bathroom has 2 in the shower, and one elsewhere in the floor. But even with this new-fangled invention, we have plumbing problems of our own. We seem to pay our plumber on an hourly/weekly basis...not by project...and not by need. As a result, ever since I've been here, one of the bathrooms in the house has been out of order. Each for weeks at a time, seemingly because the plumber shows up, unasked, with a sledgehammer, takes out a pipe, comes down with amnesia, and does not return for 2 weeks. When he does return, he fixes the "problem" (which wasn't a problem until he knocked a pipe out with a sledgehammer) in a day, and then returns the next day to create a new problem. All the while, not fixing any of the actual plumbing problems that exist in the house, such as lack of hot water in some showers but not others, leaking pipes, leaking pipes creating mold in my room that require me to hang my clothes outside of my closet, sinks that break during Thanksgiving dinner, and sinks the are frightening to turn on because they spray in every direction possible. 

Just in case you don't believe me...2 weeks ago, my perfectly functioning shower was taken out of commission by the plumber who, as of the pictures that I took this evening, has yet to return to do anything about it:
Doesn't come out so lovely in the sideways picture...but that's a big hole in the wall of our shower, for no particular reason.
And just as a comparison, 3 feet away is our sink, which leaks 4.5 liters of water each day. I know this because we use a 1.5 liter bottle to capture the water. This is apparently not worth fixing. The working shower, however, was worth sledghammering.
Oh Rwanda, how I'll miss you...

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