No one likes having problems with their homes – whether it be a problem with the plumbing, electricity, mold, or whatever else have you. Having these problems in America is frustrating enough, but imagine when you have a problem in another country and have NO IDEA how to even begin dealing with it. Well that just happened to me, and it was quite the ordeal.
On Saturday, a pipe behind the sink in my kitchen began leaking. At first I wasn’t sure if this would be a big issue and I was hoping that it would just stop (wishful thinking – I know), but still I didn’t really know what to do besides call my landlord who lives over an hour away in Tirana. So I decided that whatever the leak was, that it could probably wait a night because I had plans to visit some friends in Durrës. And to my defense, it looks like there is a drain on my kitchen floor, so I assumed that the water would just go into the drain if it reached the floor (again – more wishful thinking). Later on, I received a call from my landlord’s wife while I was eating dinner in Durrës telling me that she had received several calls from the nieghbors below me that I left my water on and it was leaking into their house. Whoops. I explained to her the problem and she asked me if I could go back home to turn off the water. One of the problem’s about relying on public transportation is that is was already 8:30 when she called, so there was no way I could travel back to Kavajë safely at that hour by myself. And they did not want to travel from Tirana to turn off the water either, so we just decided to wait and I told her I would be back home early the next day to deal with the issue.
Come Sunday, I left Durrës early to return home to a kitchen flooded with about two inches of water. Luckily the water stayed only in the kitchen and nothing in my apartment was ruined, but it still wasn’t an ideal situation to be in. I continued to call my landlords for several hours, but could not get a hold of them. So even though I was home, there was NOTHING that I could do about the situation because the water kept on flowing. There is no such thing as the Albanian yellow-pages. You have a friend of a friend who knows a plumber and that is how business is done. What used to be a steady leak turned into a mini-waterfall. Obobo. To top off this problem, I was having a fellow traveler come stay with me for the night on his way backpacking across Europe. Of course I would be entertaining someone the only day that I have had issues with my house thus far. At least I have a back-up supply of filtered water, so it wasn’t too big of a deal for him. In the early evening, my water supply was exhausted for the day, so the flooding of my kitchen stopped and I finally received a call from my landlord. They told me that the neighbors below were going to come up and check out the problem and then fix it, but alas, my neighbors never came upstairs. So finally, Spencer (my backpacking friend) and I left so I could give him a tour of my little city. On the way out the door we ran into the old man who lives below me and he kept talking to be in really fast Shqip that I couldn’t understand, but he hustled ups up to his apartment so I could witness the damage that happened from my flood. I kept telling him I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t have the key to turn off the mini water-tank outside my apartment and obviously I am no plumber. Plus the issue was behind the wall, so it wasn’t my fault – just normal apartment wear-and-tear.
Now it is Monday. And still nothing has been fixed. I was woken up around 6am because of a huge outpour of water from the pipes. Another flood – yay! I continued to call my landlord and told him he needed to come today to fix this problem because now the water has not only flooded to the third floor, but supposedly to the second and first floors as well. My landlord came over after work with a plumber and they eventually fixed the problem. It was interesting when my landlord finally showed up because my friend Spencer was still at the house and my landlord was more interested in discussing this problem with Spencer (because he is a man and should understand these things), rather than me because I am a woman living alone. My landlord actually mentioned to Spencer several times that I am “so lonely” here by myself and that I am “helpless.” Lonely and helpless are definitely not words that I would use to describe myself, so I was kind of annoyed. While at times here I cannot fix things myself it is not because I am helpless and I am definitely not asking for everyone’s help for every little issue that I face here. If anything, I am independent and strong – the opposite of helpless. I am a woman in a society dominated by men and I am crushing all those stereotypes, even though I may need help fixing a pipe that in no sense means that I am helpless. And while I can’t deny that life here can get very lonely, I don’t consider myself a lonely person. I explained to my landlord that there is a difference between being lonely and alone. I think it was a good learning experience for him. It is difficult to deal with the outright sexism here at times, but I just have to keep on keeping on. Women in this society are just not perceived the same way as men… and honestly this is still a problem EVERYWHERE in the world – including America.
So I thanked my landlord and the plumber with homemade cookies and they were on their way. I hoped that my problems would be over, but again – wishful thinking. On Tuesday, my pipes were no longer flooding, but now my apartment had no water. No water to take a shower with, no water to wash the dishes with, no water to flush the toilet with. NO WATER. Again, “helpless little me” had to call my landlord to have him help me out and bring me the key to the water-tank. He came over after work and informed me that he has been receiving many complaints from the neighbors regarding the water and that a guy that I spoke with the day prior broke into my water tank to turn off my water supply. He also mentioned that I told this guy I was going to call the police?! I have NO IDEA what he is talking about, I wouldn’t even really know how to contact the police in a situation like that anyways. But I guess that my water ended up leaking onto a $25,000 dental machine that is kept on the first floor and that it damaged the machine. I still have no idea what is going on with that whole situation, but my landlord told me not to worry about it. I guess I gave the impression in my broken Shqiplish that I was going to get law enforcement involved – nuk e di (I don’t know). The whole situation is confusing and weird. I don’t even know why someone would keep a dental machine in our apartment complex. After my landlord came back and turned on my water, we went out for a coffee and he spoke with me about how he has to be careful regarding how much he can help me. This is not because of his relationship with his wife because she doesn’t care, but other people in the community do not understand and would begin to gossip about our relationship.
On Wednesday morning I still had no water, but it finally came back in the afternoon. After several days of not having water it felt good to finally take a shower and do the dishes. I really hope I do not have another problem like this in the future, but if/when I do I think I will be more ready after this mishap.