Niagra Falls in Costa Rica
Imagine your second night in your new home in your new country. You are trying to settle down, trying to get that feeling of normalcy, trying to find something to bind and encourage your family that things are going to be alright. You squish together on the inadequate furniture for a family of nine, feeling a little warm but knowing the air conditioner is doing its best to cool you down. Every channel is in Spanish, badly dubbed in Spanish or in English with spanish subtitles. Then you stumble upon a series of familiar looking shows, they sound normal, they look normal, they are American TV shows. A touch with home, something to ground you, to connect this new world with your old world. Together you find an appropriate show and relax.
What is better with some family TV than popcorn? That’s what we would do at home, as evidenced here, perfect. But since you have been unable to find regular bags of popcorn anywhere in your new world, you have to use microwave popcorn. Nine people, 8-9 bags of corn. Each bag billowing out the scent of corn that causes intense salivating for those waiting their turn for the microwave. Suddenly the finished ding of the microwave signals a new bag may be started, and the race is on. Two teens sprinting for their turn, their bag, eager to quench that nagging craving that their nose is making unbearable. As they sprint towards the kitchen, sliding on the orange terracotta tiles that layer the whole house, one decides to grab the handle of the fridge and use this to propel them to the microwave and sure victory. Alas, the plan works but the fridge is greatly dislodged from its location, it to not immune to the slick tiles. This causes dad to yell ” knock it off you knuckle heads, you’re gonna break something!” A nice little connection to the old world. “Sorry, Dad”, they echo in unison. As popcorn is being popped, one of the kids pushes the fridge somewhat back in place, at a slight angle. Minutes later the other decides that it needs straightened and pushed right up to the wall.
Now if you have never been to Costa Rica, most of the houses are built with concrete. Concrete walls, floors, decks, all of it concrete. In the concrete they run the electrical wires, water lines, sewers, all of it buried in concrete. Our kitchen is no exception. As the fridge was pushed into place, it stopped in its tracks, causing the pusher to give it a full-fledged shove right into the wall. As I sat on the couch and I heard the slight screech of fridge wheels, then the unmistakable sound of gushing water, I knew instantly what was happening. “STOP!”. I yelled out, knowing in the back of your head that once your hear the sound of the water is was way too late. I sprinted across the open space to the kitchen, using my bare feet as Goodyear tires and pulled the fridge out from the wall to see my worst fear, the whole water supply head had been shredded off the concrete wall, sheared off before the cut off valve for the supply to the fridge. Water was spraying into the kitchen just like the main hose on Fire Engine One. It wasn’t hitting the floor until it had cleared the wall by eight feet.
At home I knew right where to go. At home I knew what right to do. At home, in less than 30 seconds that water would’ve been stopped. I’m not home. Immediately, saying over and over, “no, no, no, no” I began running through the house looking for anything that looked like a shut off valve. I found the hot water tank and shut it off knowing that it wouldn’t help. I then looked for breakers to the water pump, all in Spanish, none of them worked.
By now the water was flooding from the kitchen down the two wood trimmed steps into the entry way much like Niagra Falls. I had to go outside, outside in the dark with the frogs, lizards and whatever else is out there in the dark. I had to go around and look for something that would shut the water off, surely they had something. Quickly I was provided and iPhone for light, and around the house I went. I crawled into the pitch black space for the pool, a granite tomb built into the belly of the home, a 5 star hotel for creepy crawly things, praying that something in there would work.No valves, no luck. I ran around the house two times, nothing. Then I remembered seeing something by the gate, a breaker or something, and I stumbled my way there. There I could hear a pump working overtime, and I knew I was close. In a small concreted bunker, covered in spider webs, ants and lizards I saw some familiar valves and I began turning them off, turning them all off. I knew I had found the right place.
As I made my way back into the house, the panick had subsided. I’d had time to think and I knew the house was made to withstand water, 5 minutes of water blasting into the kitchen living room, and falling beautifully into the entry way, I wasn’t sure it was meant to handle that. I saw that Tracy had rallied the troops and they had been catching as much water as they could and poured into the drains. The rest they were skillfully damming it right out the door, with brooms, towels, dust pans, mops, whatever they could find in this new world. At home, on our sheet rock and laminate floors, this would’ve been disastrous, here it was more of chance for me to vent, loudly as I ran around the house like and idiot with an iPhone as a flashlight. There was no lasting damage, other than the water spigot.
The water supply was fixed quickly the next day, done by chipping deeper into the wall with a screwdriver and using some simple PVC piping to make it all better, in fact making better than new. Oh, and the floor, I guarantee it has never been cleaner.Perhaps a wacky adventure is the best way to bond a family in a new world.