Sunday, April 16, 2017

Can we call the plumber? A lesson in Greece

The Oinofyta volunteer house, in Dilesi, Greece, is about six miles from the camp. It’s two stacked apartments, fairly basic. Each has two bedrooms and one bathroom and a small kitchen. Lisa, the camp manager, lives upstairs in one bedroom; the other upstairs bedroom has two Ikea beds, and the living room has a set of Ikea bunk beds. We live downstairs in one of the bedrooms; the second bedroom has two beds and a set of bunk beds. 

The keyword here is one bathroom.

When we arrived on March 22, there was a plumbing problem in the sink upstairs and in the bathroom downstairs. Upstairs, the sink was clogged and drained slowly. Downstairs, when the washing machine drained into the sink, water came up into the sink and also up through the drain in the floor. Six people sharing one bathroom made the situation worse. When someone took a shower, by the time they got out, they were standing in two inches of dirty water. And if you were using the toilet you sometimes had to lift your feet to keep them dry.

This is not an unusual situation; plumbing pipes are apparently not designed for use except by one or two people. “Greek plumbing,” a friend told me.

After a few days I asked if we could call a plumber. A plumber was called for the upstairs apartment. While he was there, we had an okay for him to fix the downstairs problem as well. But the plumber did not speak English, and the person opening the upstairs door for the plumber did not speak Greek, so the plumber left after fixing the upstairs problem.

After another few days I asked if we could call the plumber for the downstairs. I was told that the problem was hair in the shower drain and could be fixed by running hot water down that drain for ten minutes or so. I tried that one day and burned my arm when the flexible shower line escaped from my grasp and sprayed hot water all over me.

Two days later, on a Saturday, I asked again. I was told only one person had the plumber’s number and I should ask them to call, which I did. No plumber came on Saturday. On Sunday I asked when the plumber would be coming. The person said, “I didn’t call because I knew they wouldn’t come on Sunday.” I asked for the plumber to be called anyway. The person made the call and said, “The plumber will come out later today.”

The plumber did not come out on Sunday.

Monday the plumber came. In 15 minutes he unclogged the floor drain which had caused the problem. I paid him 70 euros for the work he’d done on both apartments. 

It’s been nearly a week now, and the six of us sharing the bathroom have had no further problem with the drains in the bathroom.

The residents at the Oinofyta camp have a different problem. There are about 500 people sharing the multiple bathrooms and showers. These were put in last summer. They now have multiple problems. Partly it’s the drain issue. Another is that the heavy use results in broken fixtures and pipes. For some reason the repairs have not been made. There doesn’t seem to be an easy solution for some camp problems, no matter how well intentioned volunteer agencies are.

A week from tomorrow our month-long volunteer commitment ends. My husband Art and I are planning on spending ten days traveling in Greece. We will stay at airbnbs with clean bathrooms. Then we will fly home where we have another clean bathroom and where we can call a plumber if we need one.

The four other volunteers who share our apartment will also fly home to their clean bathrooms, where plumbers can be called.

The 500 Afghans, Pakistanis, Iranians and Iraqis who live at the Oinofyta camp will not go anywhere. The borders are closed to them, unless they pay several thousand euros to smugglers for a risky trip - and few of them have the euros to do that. And they cannot return to their homelands, where their lives are in danger.

If I ruled the world I would invite one or two of these families to live in my house in the US. But my government will not allow me to do that.

For today, on Easter Sunday, I am grateful for a dry bathroom floor and a plane ticket home on May 5. And for my healthy mind and body which allows me to serve the people of Oinofyta.


Anonymous said...

We have a very privileged life in the United States. I am very grateful for all of the accommodations that we take for granted on a regular basis. Every time I walk by the washer and dryer in the garage, I pat them and say "thank you." Such luxury.

whalechaser said...

You are blessed to know compassion and gratitude.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

You are such a blessing to the people who live in that camp. Also, I believe that one day our borders will reopen because business people will figure out that it's good for business.

#1Nana said...

It's not just refugee camps that have bathroom problems. Our A Loop bathroom floor flooded from the drain when toilets are flushed. We got a notice that the bsthrooms will be closed for two weeks for repairs...the first two weeks in May. Things don't move quickly toward resolution here either..

Janette said...

Why are you not allowed to sponsor one or two families? I am not being obtuse- I really want to know. Iraqis are not on total restriction. The other two are on a 90 day hold for now- but I do know one family sponsoring another (military family sponsoring a non military family). It isn't easy, but I thought it was possible.
I am always glad to journey home to the place that I can lay my head with no bugs and take a shower (or pee) without repercussions. I know I am both blessed and spoiled. Enjoy your trip home.

DJan said...

I'm glad that plumbing problem was fixed, at least temporarily. That is a huge number of people using one bathroom. And the refugee problem is growing everywhere, it seems. It makes me very sad for the world we live in today. People like you are making a huge difference, though. Thank you.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

After all you are doing as a volunteer I hope your vacation will bea superone. Yes we are the ones in a saferplace for now. But history is in the making evert day. Stay safe and blessed.

Arkansas Patti said...

You make a difference with your volunteering--just wish all countries had the same compassion and desire to help. Enjoy your tourist time. You have earned it.

Linda Reeder said...

I just saw on Facebook that you have changed your plans. Now, even sooner, you will be back to your own clean bathroom, and your own bed. But I am sure your heart will still be tugged by those you are leaving behind who do not enjoy our blessings.
As for me, I will count my blessings.

Sally Wessely said...

I'd say that you indeed have much to be grateful for. We all do. The conditions for these people just break my heart. Thank you for all you are doing. You have had to give up much. Thank goodness the plumber came. Personally, the plumbing problems would be hardest for me to tolerate.