What do you do when the water supply disappears nearly every day during the daylight hours? No showers, dish washing, clothes washing, etc. For the past several weeks we have had a lot of issues with the water here in Peña Blanca. Make that, the water has been cut off most of the day.
I had already dealt with it on a personal level – tired of being sweaty when I didn’t want to be, I bought five gallons of drinking water and a couple of five gallon buckets to fill and stash in the shower for household use. But the larger question remained – what was going on? I was beginning to detect a pattern in the cut-offs, and yesterday my intuition was confirmed.
The answer came from an unlikely source. An expat couple told me that their landlady had told them that the water authority had told HER that the town was going to work on the pipes. The big ones. And the work is scheduled to continue for the next several months.
Aha. So those buckets I bought are going to be good for more than just making me feel more secure about having a water supply on hand. But why doesn’t “anyone else” know about this? My landlady hasn’t mentioned it, and I’m not sure she knows. Of course, since she lives next door, she can’t help knowing the water seems to go off every day except Sunday, but unless her estimate of my Spanish is worse than I thought, I would expect her to say something about planned outages.
Here we have a classic illustration of walking on cultural eggs. “I would expect.” That’s my North American expectation talking. And because I recognize it as such, I am not saying anything to her for fear of saying something that might be offensive, and she may be doing the same thing. If she doesn’t know about the planned outages she may be hoping it will just go away at some point, and that in the meantime I am tough enough to put up with it and won’t move out. Or maybe she does know and fears to try communicating with me, lest I maintain potentially delicate, spoiled-gringa sensitivities that might cause me to leave. I’m not one, but for all she knows, I could be a princesa at heart.
It’s times like this that I REALLY wish I had studied Spanish more diligently. Fortunately, one of the neighbors is quite fluent in English and is willing to help me with things like this. So I plan to take advantage of this as an opportunity to learn more about the cultural nuances of such situations. I want my landlady to know she has nothing to worry about, and that I think it is always a good thing when the infrastructure is upgraded. Washing from a bucket once in a while is not that big a hardship, once you have the bucket.
NOTE: Peña Blanca is a charming, small pueblo in Panama’s interior on the Azuero Penninsula. It is a short ride from Las Tablas, which is considered the center of old Panama’s cultural history and which is sometimes called “Carnival Central.”