The Ponce Chronicles (Part 2)

Settling In—Without Running Water. 

The harshest immediate reality is that there’s no city water to the house. It was turned off after “Veronica” left, and the bureaucratic obstacles to getting it turned back on are formidable. We’ve arrived on a weekend, and Monday is (we learn to our unhappy surprise) a government holiday—something to do with the eighteenth day of Christmas, I think. And so on Tuesday at 7 a.m., we drive downtown and queue up outside the water department building to be 20th or so in line for service. The paperwork requires a letter of authorization from Allysen’s mom back in Massachusetts, passports and IDs for both Allysen and her mom, a death certificate for her father, her father’s will, and a hasty phone call to get her mom’s Social Security number. I’m not making this up, and I’m probably forgetting a few items. Presto, done!

Water meter_sm

The following day, some men arrive to turn the water back on at the meter pictured above—but don’t, because of a missing rubber gasket. They don’t say that, of course. They say that water is off for the entire hill. Freddie, bless him, calls someone he knows in the agua (water) department, who comes to our rescue.  Finally, we have water. We don’t necessarily have a clear sewer line, but that we won’t discover for another day or so. Here’s one tiny section of the serpentine maze of water pipes that Freddie, fortunately, understands.

Serpents nest of water pipes_sm

During all of this, we are utterly reliant on the amazing graces of our next-door neighbors Frances and Che, who take care of us like family. They feed us, give us the use of their showers, and line up carpenters, brick-repairers, electricians, fence-builders, and tree removal specialists for us. They are astounding neighbors, and blessed with an exceptional ability to make things happen in a culture where much depends on whom you know. Frances, as I think about it, could have stepped right out of the pages of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan novels. Perhaps a blend of Miles’s mother Cordelia and his Aunt Alys (Ivan’s mother). Just add a Latin flair, and you have Frances.

Internet—T-Mobile to the rescue

Folks like us can hardly be expected to survive two weeks without internet and email, can we? Actually, that’s not just pampered person’s luxury; much of the research we need to do here, as well as maintaining some semblance of connection to the world back home, requires getting online. Trouble is, getting two weeks’ worth of internet to the house will cost about $200. Excessive.

The answer comes at the mall, where I stop into a T-Mobile store to ask about getting a replacement for Jayce’s failing phone. There I learn that there’s an app on all of our phones that allows us to use the data connection on the phone to essentially turn our phones into home routers (wifi hotspots). To my surprise, it not only works, but works pretty well. Sucks a lot of power, as does the GPS when we’re driving, but that’s what chargers are for. We’re connected!

(Coming in Part 3, time starts to blur.)

[To read The Ponce Chronicles in order, start here.]

 

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