Cuenca, Ecuador: Anner’s Epic Birthday
Most of you already know that I (Anner) celebrate Birthday Month with unabashed gusto! As I dozed off to sleep on the 16th of January, Aaron sang the happy birthday song to me at 12:01am. Now, for the next eight months I can lord my seniority over him and insist that I know more than he does because I’m older after all. We woke up ready to take on the first day of being 44.
To get to the point, I’ll rush ahead and say that a lot of things didn’t happen as we planned for my bday (though it did start with a mighty nice cappucino). The horseback riding was full, the museum of modern art was closed, the restaraunt I picked for my birthday was shut down because of some tax issue…I could whine about these, but let’s cut to the chase and get to the juicy part!
Reader’s Digest Version
(This is for the folks who don’t have a lot of time; for the full meal deal skip ahead to “The Real Story”):
For my birthday…the Ceiling Couldn’t Hold Us! #44 will be the birthday we remember as the year the ceiling caved in on us. That’s right – torrential rains came and due to really faulty construction on our room (which was brand new – we were the first guests) the rain came right through the roof, ruined the sheet rock ceiling and within hours our bathroom was pretty much rubble! Walking the streets of Ecuador I have contemplated many-a-construction-method and wondered, “Will that really hold?” and last Saturday that question was answered with a resounding, “No!” Water poured in throughout the Inn, making a mess in every single room. Here’s the kicker: we were the only ones there and nearly no one helped us! It was the plot to a bad movie! We kept trying to minimize the disaster that was unfolding in front of us, but with almost no resources and just the two of us, there wasn’t much we could do compared to the rain that wouldn’t stop. Eventually, I insisted we abandon the Inn and head for higher ground. Well into the evening we left for a new place to stay, and over the past day or two, we’ve dried out and regrouped. That’s the gist of My Birthday in a nutshell. Definitely one for the memory books!
The Real Story:
Okay, that was the short version. Here’s the play-by-play. I think the way to make the best out of a bad situation is to have a good laugh. As Aaron’s Aunt Casey says, “Adventure happens when you least expect it!” and we think this was one of those times. Hope you enjoy!
We were renting one of two rooms in an Inn in a great part of town. There’s just one worker, Jose, and he’s there during the day. On nights and weekends we (us and the one other couple) are on our own. That’s not a problem since we’re all adults after all. We have Jose’s number just in case we need anything, but what could possibly to go wrong!?
As I sit in the kitchen during siesta time (post-cappucino) responding to the many awesome birthday wishes (thanks everyone!), the rainy season suddenly arrives. I mean torrential rains from out of nowhere! TORRENTIAL is NOT an understatement! Aaron heads to the room to relax, but returns moments later and says, “Hey, the skylight in the bathroom is leaking…I moved everything out of they way but we should keep an eye on it.” Fair enough.
Minutes later: “Um, Anner, I think I might need some help…” I walk in and the “little leak” is now a water feature! I mean full on water POURING down the wall. POURING! We start to gather the very few cleaning supplies we can find and use a dust pan of all things to bail water from the floor into the shower. I find a mop head, but no mop stick so that’s not helpful. The rain won’t stop and we can barely keep up with the water on the floor. I call the emergency phone number and explain the issue to Jose who responds with…and you’re going to love this: “I’m at home now” with absolutely no indication that he plans to help us. I am met with complete indifference. I think for a moment about all the smart-ass responses I could make to that…but then I remember Papa Barr said we are ‘Ambassadors for the United States’ (grrrr, saddle me with that voice in the back of my head!)… I re-think and just kindly ask Jose if he can help us even though he’s ‘home now’. He says he’ll call one of the owners and call us back. Um…yeah… never heard back.
As luck would have it, the Inn is constructing another room at the moment so there are a couple of construction guys on site. One of them comes in. He looks, says “What a mess!” (I don’t know spanish…so that’s what I imagine he said), and disappears, never to be seen again. Thing are getting worse and Aaron starts looking at the root of the problem – the roof. He figures we can move a heavy piece of corrugated plastic to cover the hole and the water will stop. Propping a ladder in 4″ of water, he and another worker climb up and just like that the leak is significantly minimized…at least for the moment.
Around the Inn water is leaking in everywhere. EVERYWHERE! I bailed water out of the area around the ladder that was filling like a bathtub… I feared it would rise enough to leak through the sheet rock wall into our room. Several areas had water streaming down the walls. In another part the ceiling was wet and there were puddles on the floor. I moved a few pieces of wood furniture to dry(er) areas to try and protect them. I would have mopped..but no stick for the mophead, remember.
I’m pretty convinced that things are not good and the sheet rock might come down. I’m ready to leave but Aaron wants to call Jose one more time. We call and he says he’ll send someone to look at it. The Someone shows up almost immediately and I am SURE said something like, “Holy Smokes Get a Load of THIS!” He calls Jose. We don’t understand what he says. The guy leaves and we never hear from The Someone or Jose again. Not a word. Not a chance of The Someone lending a hand or even a sympathetic expression. A shrug of the shoulders and he’s outta there.
Aaron keeps working on the bathroom as chunks of paint and sheet rock fall down. By now, it’s been HOURS of bailing water, saving furniture and cleaning up the mess, but it gets worse. By now, there’s no reason to be surprised because we are in full crisis management mode. I can say up to that point we kept a good sense of humor, “Whoa! Can you believe this! What a birthday?!” But we’re getting tired and just then the ceiling sheet rock crumbled, oodles of water gushed in and now we can see the sky from a brand new spot in the bathroom.
Aaron says, “It’ll probably be okay…If we stay here tonight…” I was absolutely positive I wasn’t staying on Noah’s Ark. I knew my awesomely analytical husband was weighing a multitude of scenarios and looking at the perpetual bright side (ahhh…to be him.). To me it was black and white…the place is flooded, shit is falling down all around us, who knows if/when the rain will stop, and no one who has any vested interest in this place (say an employee or owner) is showing a molecule of concern or interest… I am NOT staying here.
I have no problem pleading my case for a dry bed, so I call Doyle’s mom (our housesitting host, Holly) who says “come on over…I’ll make up your room.” Those were the most wonderful words I heard all day! Instant relief. The perfect gift. I grabbed Aaron by the arms, looked him in the eye and said “We’ve gotta pack…we’re moving out right now.” He was absolutely exhausted from trying to save the bathroom. He was wet from standing in the torrents to cover the roof. He had used all his Spanish brain he could to communicate with the workers. He was covered in paint and drywall that had fallen on him. He had done all he could do. Game over!
We packed in record time…once again we are thrilled about traveling light. We had just bought a week’s worth of goceries so we had four bags of food to haul with us. We both felt bad looking at the beautiful flowers Aaron bought me for my birthday, not sure we could carry our backpacks, day packs, four bags of groceries AND a bouquet of beautiful flowers. THAT might be just too much to handle. Still, we weren’t going to let the terrorists win, so we did the only thing we could: hastily shove the flowers into a grocery bag, too, and head out into the rain to hail a cab.
We arrive at Doyle’s house where Holly met us out front, grabbed some of our bags and welcomed us back. We were SO grateful! Doyle gave us just the best greeting with his nose pressed on the glass door, tail in full swing and a swivel in his tushy. Holly opened the door and gave him the “BACK” command. He waddled 1 centimeter back…technically complying. We walked through the door and for lack of a better description, Doyle went berzerk in the most wonderful way possible. It was the best birthday present I could get at that very moment!! He shimmied next to me, barely able to contain himself, doing an estactic Happy Dance and letting out little happy yips! My backpack was left abandoned in the middle of the kitchen and grocery bags strewn about for the next long while as Doyle welcomed us back.
We will remember this birthday as the one of the ceiling caving in…and Doyle’s fabulous welcome-home. A Birthday Re-Do will be planned at a time and place of my choosing. Stay tuned!
A few photos from the rest of Birthday Weekend: