¡PANAMÁ! Sábado y Domingo
It was like Christmas morning. I ran downstairs to see if Agua Claus had come to fill our water tank during the night.
The tank was full! Finally, we would have running water. I went upstairs, plugged in the pump, and heard it running.
I turned on the bathroom faucet. Nothing happened.
I listened to the pump. It sounded like it had air in it that needed to be bled out, a sound I recognized from maintaining my parents' pool growing up. I went down and looked at the pump but couldn't see an obvious way to bleed it. I went back upstairs and unplugged the pump.
After breakfast, I stood on the kitchen pondering the pump problem. I had to get the air out. I opened both sink faucets and did the same in the bathroom. I plugged the pump in and waited. Ten seconds. Twenty. A minute. Nothing.
All at once water gushed out of all three faucets like a glorious fountain. I triumphantly flushed the toilet. It didn't flush. I triumphantly plunged it, then flushed again.
I knew it was a simple fix.
Water problems resolved, I turned my attention to our second most pressing need.
We still hadn't fully resolved our internet setup. The wifi at the house was limited to three gigabytes of data transfer, which Erin could use up in a matter of days working remotely. We could also use our phones as wifi hotspots, but they each had only 4GB for $15, the most we could buy on our sim cards.
Having gotten some information from the cell phone store, I had been up the night before trying to understand our data options on the website en espanol. We couldn't change the wifi subscription at the house. Adding more data to our phones incrementally was expensive. Perhaps we could keep renewing the $15/ 4GB package?
I discussed all of this with Erin after lunch. She wasn't pleased.
"What time does the cell phone store close? We should go back today. I have to work tomorrow. We should have dealt with this earlier today!"
"Earlier today I was trying to get last night's excrement to flush," I retorted.
I called the cell phone company's customer service, hoping for an English speaking representative. After pushing buttons through a circular system of prompts en espanol, I hung up. I got on the website and started a customer service chat. Finally, I got an English response, but it wasn't the one I wanted.
The only way to renew the $15/ 4GB of data on our phones was to buy new SIM cards. Erin didn't want to keep changing her phone number, but I volunteered my phone to be her wifi hotspot. I planned to go to the cell phone store with the kids the next day to buy five additional SIM cards.
Contractors came to the house that day to work on the downstairs apartment and finish some odds and ends for our unit. They took the pump to get compressed air added, then reinstalled it. When we returned from the beach in the late afternoon they informed us that we finally had running water.
That's when it got bad.
Erin took both kids into the shower to rinse off.
"GAAAHH!" she exclaimed, "I think I just got shocked by the shower handle!"
"Are you sure? Touch it again."
"AAAHH! It electrocuted me! Oliver, Vera, get out!"
I hurried out the back door and unplugged the pump. She had gotten the kids out of the shower as the water slowed to a drip.
"OK, now touch it again," I said.
"No!" she snapped back.
"I unplugged the pump, it should be fine. I just want to make sure that was the problem."
Erin timidly reached out one shaking hand, then pulled it back.
"I don't want to! I can still feel it in my body."
"Go ahead, I'm pretty sure it's OK." I said reassuringly, trying to remember if Panama had 110 volt or 220 volt power.
She braced herself and touched it again. No shock, luckily for me.
I went downstairs to report my findings to the contractors, who were packing up to leave for the day. My Spanish is not great, but apparently "ZAP" means the same thing in every language.
They came up to assess the problem, although they took our word about the electrocution rather than touching it themselves. They puzzled over the homemade ungrounded pump extension cord wrapped in electrical tape plugged into a interior grade outlet on the exterior of the house in a saltwater environment. Then they left.
We weren't about to plug the pump back in. For the third night in a row, we couldn't flush the toilet.
Storage is limited in our apartment, so the watermelon we had bought the day before had been left on the kitchen floor. I walked into the kitchen to find Vera standing on the watermelon to grab her sippee cup off of the counter, next to a pile of glasses and knives.
As a parent, there are many times when I think, should I remove my child from this dangerous situation, or take a picture?
I pulled her down and handed her her cup.
"I'm going to put the watermelon on top of the fridge," I told Erin.
"Do not put the watermelon on top of the fridge," she said, still on edge from her shock treatment.
"Because it's going to roll off and break someone's foot, that's why not."
"It would not break someone's foot, it would just smash into pieces."
"How is that better? Put it on the bedroom floor."
Erin started trying to make dinner, which meant scrubbing our breakfast eggs off of a stainless steel pan. As she poured a gallon jug of water into the pan, the bottle squeezed and sploshed water all over her and the floor. She threw the pan in the sink.
"I cannot cook like this!" She shouted, and stormed out of the kitchen. I waited a minute but she didn't come back. She meant it. Dinner was on me.
As I was putting the finishing touches on the feast, Erin came back into the kitchen to get drinks out, still visibly aggravated. When she opened the refrigerator, a glass juice bottle fell out of the door and shattered on the tile floor.
"Are you frigatebird kidding me?" She exclaimed, but she didn't say frigatebird. She said a different word. A bad word.
We locked the kids out on the enclosed front porch and cleaned the glass up as quickly as we could, then served up dinner.
"Why are we having sandwiches again?" Oliver asked.
After the kids were in bed, we checked to make sure we had picked up all the glass.
"We need to pull the fridge out," I said.
"Good thing you didn't put that watermelon on top of it," Erin teased.
Erin went to bed early while I finished cleaning under the refrigerator and oven. Luckily, the oven was easy to move, because instead of being hooked up to a gas pipe in the wall, it was hooked up to a propane tank that sat next to it in the kitchen.
When I had finished cleaning, I held my nose and went to the bathroom, did not flush the toilet, brushed my teeth with bottled water, and shut off the lights.
I took one step into the bedroom and tripped over the watermelon. I think I broke my foot.