Friday, October 24, 2008

The 143rd good thing about Lagos: some things getting fixed

There's a classic Nigerian novel by Chinua Achebe called "Things Fall Apart." That seems to be the motto for this country. Over a week ago our internet changed from moving at a pretty good clip to an almost standstill, where even sending an email was difficult. The word on the street was that the fiber optic cable running through the ocean that provided the primary internet link to most of the country had been severed and so everyone was moved to the backup satellite servers and everything was bogged down. People said that it would likely take up to a month to fix it because they would have to bring a boat out from South Africa to find and repair the break. But they must have found some other way to repair the damage -- yesterday afternoon at my card group, my friend Josie got a text from her husband who works in IT that he had gotten word from the internet server that the repair had been made. I didn't dare hope that it was true until I got home and tried it for myself -- but, for now at least, the next morning, our internet is moving. I've been trying to plan our Thanksgiving trip and it's been agonizingly slow. I confess to being internet addicted, it's really my lifeline here. So once I've made some progress on vacation planning, I'll finish blogging about our trip to Northern Nigeria.

Lately around the apartment, it's been a continuing saga of breaks and no fixes. We've had a couple of plumbing floods since we returned from our trip in early October. They supposedly fixed the problem that caused the flood from the water heater in our master bath, but the floor beneath the water heater continued to be wet, so something was leaking. And we've had a constant drip -- almost a stream --from the master shower for 6 weeks that they've been totally unable to stop, though they have been trying one thing after another and continue to say they're trying to locate the right part. Early in the week when I was returning from my sub job I was afraid to enter the apartment because there was a huge verbal argument going on inside -- men's voices I could hear from down the stairway. The company facilities guy was really laying into the apartment maintenance manager for not fixing these continuing problems and there was loud shouting on both sides. The last word the apartment maintenance people were telling me at the end of last week was that the whole shower tile and floor would have to be broken out so they could repipe the whole thing and that was necessary to stop the drip. I told them that in no way were they to start that until we got someone else to confirm that that was necessary -- I knew that would be weeks of mess and workers in the flat. Anyway, the company got an independent plumber in here yesterday (someone who actually had a wrench that could take the faucet apart) and Brent insisted on being present when he was there to show him the problem. With Brent showing the plumber what to do, they took the faucet off and -- what do you know -- there's a broken rubber washer in there that made it unable for us to fully turn off the water. But in the process of putting things back together, the plumber totally messed up the threads in the faucet so now it can't be affixed on the pipe stem -- and the new faucet is the part that they've been looking for for weeks. And in the independent plumber's attempt to fix the leak under the water heater and tighten the connections, something else must have been broken because it's even wetter under there. This country really needs some plumbers that know what they're doing! But I doubt we can convince Joe the plumber to move over here. (Though after glancing at that Wikipedia article about him, I'm not convinced he knows much more about plumbing than these guys here that call themselves plumbers. But I'm sure they'd trade places with him in a minute!)

In our chatting while playing cards yesterday, one woman confessed that she dashes (tips) the workers on her compound who come to fix things in her flat. She said that she gives them the dash, telling them that if they are back for the same problem anytime soon, the dashes will end. She said things tend to stay fixed longer in her flat than in others. She thinks that they only fix things half-way because it's their way of job security. If things continue to break, than all these maintenance people continue to be needed to work on things. Brent thinks it's just that they are totally incompetent.

But I'll put up with a drip here and there and even an occasional flood as long as my internet is running smoothly.

On the home front, things are also getting fixed. We were very relieved to get word yesterday that our grandson Owen, who will be two next month, made it through his surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids. We hope the surgery will fix his continuing breathing problems and allow him to sleep better -- though there are undoubtedly a few sleepless nights ahead while he heals. Our thoughts and prayers are still with Owen and his parents through the recovery!

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