|Top of the well|
When I first arrived in O'Leary on that sweltering day in December, I distinctly remember taking a shower. I didn't take another one for 2.5 months after that first day. Why you ask? Because we were in the midst of a pretty severe drought, and there was no water. Julio and Iris, my host parents in O'Leary, happened to be on the municipal water supply system, but where they live is on the extreme end of the supply chain meaning that their water would be the first to stop flowing so as to meet the demand of increased usage in the center of town. For me never having lived in a home where running water wasn't readily available, it was a bit of a transition. The water would run from about 1-5 am during those first few months. That meant the toilet tank would have one flush in the morning for the 6 of us in the house. When there was no water I couldn't flush the toilet at all. After a couple of weeks I swallowed my pride and asked Mathias, my host brother, how to the flush the toilet? He looked at me with befuddlement and told me all I needed to do was fill up a bucket and pour it in the bowl after I had done my business. I felt pretty stupid after that, but it was just one of many things I was unaccustomed to. For that family the water going out happened all the time, and I am sure installing a modern bathroom for the family was pretty big deal that didn't happen that long ago. As time went on, I got used to life without a lot water, but the drought kept getting worse.
When the prospect of living on my own came up a few months later, I was told they could put in a water tank for me. The house I was going to move into, didn't have a connection to municipal water, and left me with a choice. Do I spend the money to put in running water, or do I fix up the well so I can pull up water myself? The cost difference was pretty significant, but I decided to go with the pump. Four pumps later I sit hear telling you that maybe I should of not gone the cheaper route. Little did I know at that time how much those pumps would impact my life and teach me more about perseverance than I could've ever expected.
|Tank on top of my house about 20 yards from the well|
Auger was like that mid-life crisis Ferrari. He was shiny, was seemingly the solution to all my problems, and ran smoother than a slip and slide covered in vegetable oil. Julio helped me install him, and from day one we were in love. Powerful, consistent, and fast he could fill my tank in 8 minutes 27 seconds flat without breaking a sweat. Life was good with Auger. His name derives from the brand of the pump. The only problem with Auger was that he was expensive, and I unwisely didn't take out insurance. In mid-April I returned from being away for a few days, and flipped on the switch to see if Auger was working his magic. I heard absolutely nothing, and ran outside only to discover that he was gone. I let out an enraged wail with a fury that I didn't know I possessed, and realized that he was gone forever. He was like that promising rookie who had a career ending injury half way through the season. It took me a long time to get over him, but after two months of pulling buckets of water by hand I gotten fed up and decided it was time to move on.
Luck was just around the corner. A fellow Peace Corps Volunteer heard my of plight, and mentioned he had a pump, never before used, that he was willing to sell for cheap. He was like the test-drive sedan, functional, but never fully tested. His name was CJ Bomba because like Auger that was the name typed in bold lettering on the box. CJ had to wait around my house for a while as I provided extra security for him. This involved getting one of my friends to come over and help me install a metal cage top for my well, so the pump couldn't be so easily taken. I had learned my lesson from Auger, and was taking extensive precautions with CJ. My friend and I built the metal top by placing the metal cage it on the top layer of the existing bricks that made up the highest part of the well. We then cemented a new layer on top, and we were in business. We then took CJ out and put him in the well, and locked the cage. CJ worked well enough, but would time and again not pump water. I thought it was similar to the problem Frank had, but couldn't understand his inconsistency. Over time he stopped working all together. I thought it had to do with my electrical connection, but that wasn't the case. Turns out he was broken, and needed a replacement part. It was a cheap fix, but I needed some help putting him back in the well. Julio is as elusive as Bigfoot whenever I need his help, so one day I got tired of waiting decided to do it myself. I wired CJ, connected him to the tubing, and lowered him into the well. Having little to no experience in installing the pumps myself I was skeptical that I would get it to work. I held my breath as I flipped the switch on and sure enough I heard the sweet sound of water flowing into my tank. I literally jumped in the air with a fist raised in triumph when I heard that sweet sound water flowing out of the tube. The only problem was I had to reattach my tubing to my water tank, which I had taken down at the onset of CJ's problems. The next day I borrowed a rickety ladder, and put the tube back in the tank. I managed to break one the ladder rungs on the way down, but thankfully avoided injury. I was beaming with pride at my self-reliance. I was so smug about my accomplishments that I went about telling everyone how I installed CJ myself without help. The Paraguayans I talked to munificently praised me, but I knew full well that they thought I was an idiot for not knowing how to do it in the first place. Shortly after installing the tubing, however, I realized that water wasn't flowing. I had leave that day for a meeting, but figured it was the electricity again and left without a second thought that the problem might be more complicated.
|Vantage point from below|
Learning the harsh lessons from CJ humbled me significantly when installing Hiper, again named for what it said on his packaging. He may not be the fastest, or the best but he serves his purpose and I made sure I put him in the well correctly. Personifying these pumps is really the best way to describe the tragedy that befell them. One broke, one was stolen, and one sank to the bottom. In each instance I learned something about pumps that I didn't know before. In each instance I made effort to rectify the mistakes I had made with their predecessor. I am not totally sure what this says about my Peace Corps service, but I think that the process of resolving the problems with the pumps is a nice representation of the day-to-day challenges that pop up out of nowhere. It is easy to point to language, cultural differences, and food as the things that are most difficult to deal with, but there are so many other unexpected challenges that often times prove to be the biggest learning experiences. Things like getting your haircut, flushing a toilet, buying tools or specific materials, and transportation are just a few examples of those unexpected challenges. The situations I have had with my pumps have easily been one of the biggest tests I've faced. Do I wish that I never had to deal with these pumps in the fist place? You better believe it, but the fact remains that it happened and I have a lot of stories to tell that I'm sure will be funny to me someday. Maybe.