Prior to this weekend we hadn’t met our landlord — only his wife and mother-in-law — as he’s been busy being a bank VP in Mozambique. But, he is very responsive via email. So, when I asked him if the leaning water tower was a concern he said the tower has always leaned slightly and that we shouldn’t worry about it unless it was touching the side.
I went out and yikes! It was touching the side.
We let him know and he said he’d take care of it the weekend of February 26-27, as he was coming back to Zambia for his mother’s memorial service and tomb-unveiling (which apparently is a tradition here that happens one year post death).
It was a good thing he chose this weekend to come because before we even had a chance to meet him face-to-face our gardener ran and said, “come! come quick!” The electrical box was smoking and one of the rubber tubes enclosing a group of electrical cords was melting (see the middle tube).
We turned off the power (which means we turned off the power to the landlord’s mother-in-law, Yvonne) and texted the landlord that there was a small emergency and could he please call (this was like 7:30 am). Meanwhile, “grandma,” as the gardener and guards call Yvonne, called him and filled him in on what was happening. The electricians arrived before he did and found that the two houses had caused an overload because they were on one circuit. Yvonne was preparing food for the memorial gathering and we were using the stove and washing machine at that time too. The landlord immediately made arrangements to dig a new, separate line for Yvonne’s house so each house would have its own power and circuit box. By 5 pm Saturday evening the new trench was dug and the new line was installed today (Monday).
This is what I love about Zambia — people are eager to help you AND they actually get things done quickly. Compare that to Rome, where no one wants to help you (because they are going to the beach that day! or their car doesn’t work that day! or there’s a strike that day!) and when they do arrive they take multiple breaks, only work for an hour or two because the work is so taxing, and/or forget the parts and have to go and get them but by then it would be too late to come back so they’ll see you “domani” (tomorrow).
After our landlord checked up on the electrician’s work he checked out the water tower and said, oh, it’s always touched on “that” side (the south side). He was worried that perhaps it had slid and was touching the west side — that would be a problem but not this. Our gardener Danny, who helped build the house, later confirmed that the 10,000 liter water tank has always touched the rail on the south side and that we were not to worry, he would watch it for us.
The house must have known the landlord was in town and saved up all of its problems for him because no sooner was the electrical box almost-fire fixed that the water pump went out, meaning our house and Yvonne’s house lost a great deal of water pressure. When the water pump goes out on your well in the states you often are without water unless you have a hand pump. This is why in Zambia they place water tanks on very high structures — so that when power goes out you still have gravity working for you supplying you with water pressure.
Again, the landlord was over within a couple of hours with the plumber and fixed it (this was on a Sunday too!). He was apologetic about the problems and told us it’s hard to find good quality parts and supplies in Zambia and that was why when they built the house they had imported a lot of things from South Africa.
Of course, every new house goes through its growing pains whether it’s here, London or Los Angeles. But not everywhere has such a responsive landlord and service people so eager to help on a weekend. Viva la Zambia!