Sunday, June 12, 2016

The washing machine and the circuit breaker

Helpless. That's how it feels when "normal" problems occur in a foreign place where your language skills are minimal.  My Italian tends to desert me in emergencies. 
Two days ago the washing machine starts leaking. After much mopping and wringing we get our landlord to take a look. He says "technico". He then has me look on the Internet to find a repair service for our machine. I write down the number and off he goes. A vague hand wave about telling us when they will come. A few hours later he appears with a calendar. Wednesday or Thursday?  Is morning ok?  We ask for Wednesday morning. Wednesday comes and we wait until 2 pm and ring their bell.  They don't know, no call has come. 
At about 7:00 pm they come over and say "domani"- tomorrow!  Between 8-12. Progress. 
Thursday morning at about 9:00 the repairman and our landlord appear. I follow them to the machine trying to catch any words. Finally it is determined the is a leaking tube that must be replaced. They will be back in the afternoon.
Meanwhile the laundry is piling up.  We just had guests so there are sheets and towels and all our exercise clothes and the place is starting to smell like a gym on a hot day with no air conditioning.  
8 pm the daughter of the landlord comes bearing fruit (loquats!) and the news that they could not find the part- "domani!"  Tomorrow !  At this point we have stayed home for three days waiting.  I am amazed that this happens in other places besides the US!!
Finally today at 5 pm he shows up with the part. It took 2 minutes to remove it and 30 to replace it. 
We are ecstatic!!  We have 5 loads of waiting laundry.   
I finish one load and get it on the line.  I start the second load and dinner at about the same time. Right when I'm about to throw everything into the oven the power goes out!  
Yes, you've seen this here before. There's only so much wattage we can use at a time. So I go flip the main circuit breaker- this has worked three other times!  No dice. No power. I ask a neighbor who in the parking lot washing her car for help- she speaks some English.  First she looks at the breaker- not the problem, then she reads the message displayed on the screen.  She says "this is Italy. You used your allotment".   What?!?  How can that be?  It's only June 10?
I go try the landlord. Not home. We sit in the dark. I try the breaker again, no luck. We turn off everything. No luck. 
Finally I text our host family to ask for help. As before, Mom comes downstairs to see what's what. She speaks no English but she knows us and is comfortable with our bad Italian plus sign language. She gestures downstairs to the breaker box. I shake my head no, I did that already. She then says something I don't get and goes straight to the kitchen. She's pushing on the wall and I realize she needs to open up a panel there. I show her where to push. She pops open a small box and inside are two small switches. She flicks each up and there is light!!  
She smiles, says "buon appetito" and is gone. 
There is no way to express gratitude. There is no expression for the relief. 
It boils down to relationships. If we did not have a host family. If their parents didn't live upstairs. If our landlord was not as willing to help or try to overcome the language?...
We would not be watching Euro 2016 after a nice dinner. 

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