Saturday, January 11, 2014

75. Welcome Home! - Vacation Tales.

We had started the homeward bound journey early in the morning and after traveling by land, sea and air hauling our heavy baggage through jetties and airports, were quite exhausted. The usual ticketing troubles caused by the reservation errors and many other mishaps that we are destined to have on our return journeys, just to take the thrill of coming home, haven’t been very helpful either. On the way from Katunayaka airport, too, I had to get off the van we had hired airport taxi service, so many times in search of a 5 liter bottle of water. It was past midnight when we reached home as usual. After the taxi departed leaving us home, we hauled the bags into the sitting room. 

The lights were working but the faucets were dry. This wasn’t unusual and all I had to do was to prime the water pump filling the suction line using the last bit of water left in the overhead tank through the special plumbing I have made just for that purpose. In the worst case scenario I have to go to the well, bring a bottle of water and use it to prime the pump. 

I used the LED rechargeable torch we had brought with us to walk through the garden overgrown with weeds and covered with layers of dried leaves. While my wife was dealing with the spider webs and dust inside, my son helped me to deal with the water problem.
Using the water from the overhead tank didn’t help because there didn’t seem to be any. So, I went to the well and brought a bottle of water and started filling the line. Unlike other times the whole bottle of water just disappeared gurgling down the pipeline and never topped up. Five or six 5 liter cans of water later, we decided to use a huge Sheetrock bucket to bring the water. Hauling the bucket from the well was a killing job even though both my son and I were lifting the bucket from two sides. But just because we wanted to get the job done so badly, we ignored the soggy shoes and muddy water creeping up our jeans legs. 

We poured the contents of the entire bucket into the waterline and watched it disappear making gurgling noises. Anyway we switched on the water pump and anxiously waited for the noise of water pouring into the overhead tank. No such luck. The pump was running dry. We switched it off fearing a burnout, running it dry.

“Shall we bring one more bucket of water and try?” I finally asked my son who as disgusted as me.

“We have to get the water running somehow, don’t we? Okay let’s go,” he said.

Bringing another bucket of water was a nightmare but we did it. Not only once. We hauled bucket after bucket of water from the well and poured into the waterline. It never filled up as expected. I suspected the foot valve must be faulty and the water was pouring back into the well. Finally we brought another bucket of water and left it in the bathroom because we couldn’t even flush the toilet.
Wait a minute! I had a priming point under the driveway. Because it used to get damaged by vehicle tires, especially those of tractors and trucks which brought in building materials those days, I had buried it under a layer of concrete. Maybe a leak has sprung there. I got the gardening tools and started digging the driveway while my son shone the flash light beam. After many failed attempts, I managed to dig up the pipe line and find the place covered with the layer of concrete.  I hammered away at the concrete and after a long struggle found that the joint was dry.

At about 5 o’clock in the morning, after struggling to get the water for so many hours, we just flopped on the beds with sweat, dirt and mud and tried to sleep. We had tried to boil some water from the 5 liter water bottle and make some tea, but found the gas cylinder was empty.

I woke up in one hour as this water problem was bothering me. I woke up and tried to fill water one more time. After dawn, I went to two neighbors who were awake now and borrowed two lengths of garden hose to attach to my garden hose to get water from the front house faucet instead of manually hauling water from the well. At the same time bought a gas cylinder from the hardware store next door. Then we boiled some water and managed to have a warm cup of tea. 

The guy who is renting the front house saw me and asked what the problem was. When I explained he said, “Bro, I think your pipeline could be damaged in the middle.” 

“No way? This is a buried along my driveway. It is impossible for that to get damaged. And I checked it digging it up. It sure must be the damn foot valve.”

He wanted to say some more, but obviously changed his mind. He must have been listening to our struggle last night. 

I took a long pole and shook the foot valve underwater. Then tried to fill water this time with the garden hose connected to the faucet of the front house. Still the water gurgled down the pipe and disappeared. I bent into the well and tapped the pipeline to make the ball valve drop down in case it was jammed. The tried again. The same result.

Now my plan was to empty the well, get into it and check and replace the foot valve. I went to the neighbor who rents submersible water pumps. The sign on his door said OPEN, but he was still going through his daily religious rituals prior to business. I walked back home intending to return a little later.

I shook the foot valve one more time and tried to fill the waterline. Same result! Frustrated, I was walking along the driveway back to the well when I noticed the patch of water in the middle of the drive. Well as it had rained the previous day there was water on the drive, but this pool of water was different. I just thought it was growing. I squatted down and watched the edges of the pool of water. Hell! It was growing. I was overwhelmed with relief! At least I found the cause and I don’t have to empty the well!

This place was a few feet away from the place I dug in the night. And I started excavating with a lot of care. And the hole I dug started to fill with muddy water. The water, we have been feeding the pipeline with all night. And what I saw swept me off my feet. The pipeline was severed in the middle. Actually a piece about a foot long was missing. No wonder the water never topped up! And What I saw next made me throw a fit. The other end of the pipeline was neatly blocked with an end cap!

Then I understood. The neighbors have cut down a tree and a falling tree or a stub of a limb has pierced the earth and severed the pipeline. Why the hell nobody told me and save us all the back breaking labor we had last night? Actually the guy next door knew this but didn’t want to get involved. And why the hell didn’t they repair the damage and save us all the trouble?

I walked to my brother in law, who is always there to help. He was back from night duty and was sleeping. The thrill of seeing me didn’t last long when I explained the situation to him. 

“Oh my god!” he said. “Yes, they cut down a tree and a trunk fell on to your driveway severing your pipeline middle. Actually a stub of a branch had pierced the ground. I was the one to fix the end cap. I actually intended to repair that, but I forgot! 

He volunteered to come with me to help me. Together we cleaned the two ends and with an extra length of pipe and PVC Glue and managed to mend it. 

After that I watched the water filling up the line and top up and when I switched on the water pump the note changed and it started to pump water into the overhead tank, the sound of which was sweet music to our ears. I waited eagerly to see the tank fill up and overflow into the garden. 

I opened a faucet and listened to the sweet music the water made splashing the sink singing Welcome home!


I looked around the garden. The garbage pit was full of junk. There were broken glasses neatly packed in poly-sacks and left on my toilet pit. There were broken old fashioned four foot florescent lights which we don’t use. Windows glasses we don’t have, glassware we have never seen, perfume bottles we never used. And to top it off, I had huge pile of coconut branches piled up near the staircase from a tree that was cut. And we have no coconut trees. Anyway it was easier to remove than the tree trunks they had piled up last time when we came, which gave us a hell of a time to return to the proper owners. It was nice to be back anyway.

Simulblogged in  මගේ ඩෙනිම in Sinhala Language.