As I mentioned in a previous post, there is never a dull moment in Kyrgyzstan. Recently, our water heater stopped working. Well, “stopped” isn’t necessarily a fair way to put it. Maybe it would be better to say our water heater started working too well. We would turn on the faucet, and steam would come shooting out. We would get in the shower, and the bathtub itself would nearly burn us. Our water heater was working too well.
So, I called our landlord to let him know, and shut it off. (The “power switch” would be called a “circuit breaker” in the U.S.) He came by and we looked at it together. We turned it back on with the little tiny power control knob turned down (to 50C/122F – aka not really very hot). Sure enough, everything was fine… for a while. The first day was great, because the water was an appropriate temperature and we could shower and wash dishes. The second day – steam, scalding hot steam.
I shut the heater off again, and we decided the temperature regulator must be broken. Our landlord tried to get it out of the water heater, but lacked the tools and finally called a plumber.
“This man drinks a lot, but he is a great plumber,” he tells me as he prepares to leave town.
Sure enough, the next day a semi-drunk plumber shows up with his apprentice in tow (they rode together to our house on one of those little machines Sarah loves).
“Some guy I don’t really know called,” he says, “But I knew his father. And I don’t know what the problem is.”
I show the plumber everything, straining to understand his mumbled, occasionally slurred, sometimes colorful Russian. After a few minutes, something hits him: “You aren’t Russian?” (This is perhaps more a sign of his state of intoxication than of my facility with the language, unfortunately.) He rushes home with the apprentice to get the right tools, and when he returns we begin to take apart the water heater. I, like usual, try to strike up a conversation with simple things, “Are you from here?” “Do you have family?” and so on.
As he’s telling me about how his parents and his wife’s parents fought in WWII and were either behind enemy lines in Belorussia or living through the bitter fighting for St. Petersburg (his father-in-law died not long after St. Petersburg from wounds sustained there, and his own father was moved to Central Asia for the good climate for rehab after being wounded on the Eastern Front), we are interrupted by a loud noise outside. A moment later, two cows poke their heads into the tiny room we’re in! We cry out in shock (they’re close, and they’re big!), and the cows proceed to make themselves at home in our barn, our driveway, and our orchard. I didn’t get to hear more about the war, but in the end we did get our hot water heater working (I know how to fix it myself next time), and I got to chase cows around my yard.