Monday, August 16, 2010

Finish the Job Already!

Part of the purpose of the last post was to set this one up. Remember how I said different doesn't necessarily mean worse or better. Well throw that out. In this case, this cultural difference is absolutely worse.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a pretty bad rainstorm. Backyard flooded, thunder shook the house, hours and hours of heavy down pours, et cetera, et cetera. I learned later that it was essentially a 10-year storm, which means that a storm that bad only passes through about every ten years.

This storm was so bad, in fact, that the ceiling in our converted-study sprung a series of small leaks. Nothing devastating, but we had been informed that it is our responsibility to inform the consulate in the even that any thing goes awry in our sparkly new home. Being naive and grateful for said home, I passed the word on to Natalie who sent in a work order.

Either that same day or the next, a Fast Service Networker (FSN)came over to assess the problem. I showed him the few spots that had dripped a couple of times during a pretty bad, and not too common storm. Structural problems are not the consulate's business, so they would have to work with our landlords. Besides, it was raining again, and there isn't much you can do to fix a leaky ceiling during the rain.

The next clear day, the FSN returned with a very old man; let's call him Tweedle Dee. He came and looked at where I said the leaks had appeared, climbed on to our roof and left saying he didn't have everything he needed to fix the problem with him.

Fast forward one week later, and another intense storm later - one that was so intense it knocked out our power for almost two hours, but not so bad that the ceiling leaked anymore - and the FSN arrives with Tweedle Dee and another guy; his name will be Tweedle Lazy. They get started around 10 a.m.ish, which was rather disruptive for me because I had planned to go grocery shopping that day and had dropped Natalie off at work so I could have the car.

Noon rolls around, and the FSN asks if I have some water I could spare the Tweedles. No problem, it was very hot out. They proceed with a two-hour lunch break, work for about 30 more minutes, and call it a day. They'll come back tomorrow. Fine. Works for me; I still have time to go grocery shopping.

Friday is the same routine. They start work around 10 a.m., take a two-hour lunch, mooch some more bottled water (they know they are taking a lunch break; why don't they bring their own damn water?), leave my ceiling looking like this, and leave for the weekend saying they'll see me on Monday.

Well, Friday night another bad storm arrives in the middle of the night. Knocked out power again, briefly, and it probably had more to do with the heavy wind than anything else. Natalie suggests we (me) should check on the study to make sure it isn't leaking. Nah. The only time it leaked, it poured for hours; this storm isn't another 10-year storm. Next morning, sure enough, there is a small stack of very wet papers. The Tweedles have managed to worsen the situation, and in only three weeks time. And there is a chance of rain every day this week, so it is unlikely they'll be here at all and likely that it will continue to leak with every storm. This is your reward for doing what you're supposed to do.

So to tie that exhaustive story back to the beginning of this post, for whatever reason, Americans are a very industrious people. And while not trying to be racist, that trait does not seem to translate to our neighbors in the South.

(Some would say it is our Puritan heritage, but I wholly disagree. Speaking of which, has any historic group benefited more from America's success than the Puritans? What if our nation had not come out on top and rather was a struggling nation? Would people blame the Puritans? After all, what do you expect out of a nation that was founded by Puritans who could make it in Europe? The Puritans and the Founding Fathers definitely are doing better today than they probably ought to be. And before you question me on that, remember that it was the Founding Fathers' failure to end slavery that sparked a civil war some four score and seven years later, so let's not try to invoke their visions when it comes to legislating this country today. But I digress.)

Cultural difference are bound to rear their head from time to time, and we need to keep our guard up so that our reaction will not be insulting to our host nation. But this one I just don't get. Finish the job already!


  1. AHHHHH yes..... Welcome to the FS! There's absolutely nothing more I can do except chuckle, tell you I totally know where you're coming from, and nod with a small smirk on my face.

  2. Your Google ads on this one are very appropriate. Perhaps you should suggest that the Consulate/landlord call one of these other services instead?

  3. We had a bad kitchen faucet in Iceland. It had a hot handle and a cold handle (the old fashioned metal kind). Hot water in Iceland was boiling (and I mean BOILING hot). I repeatedly asked for a new faucet, since I burned my hand turning it off each time. I also offered to pay for faucet AND installation. Nothing doing. "It's in the works..."

    One day, I turned on the water and the faucet exploded. It just blew off entirely and the next thing I knew, the kitchen was covered (as well as me) in an inch of boiling water. Got a new faucet the next morning.

    The GSO made some snide comment about how I "must have really wanted that new faucet". Somehow, he is still living and breathing after that comment, but thankfully very far away from me.

    Sigh, as Jill said, welcome to the FS. And if you have a relative who knows anything about house issues...invite them down for a 'vacation' might be the only way anything is fixed (unless you guys end up w/a huge pot of money at the end of the fiscal year..then magically, truly big repairs may actually happen!).

    Good luck!


  4. Getting our A/C's installed was quite an ordeal. I feel for ya brother.

  5. Hoping it is resolved soon. I would say say welcome to the FS buit at this point others have beaten me to the punch and you are probably sick of it by now. Fingers crossed for a dry spell.

  6. I can totally relate! It took our contractors a month to repaint our cabinet/closet doors in our tiny apartment here in Indonesia! First they tell us that Low VOC paint does not exist, next they ask for more money, then they don't do it properly so the paint peeled like sticker. We basically had to tell them exactly how to do them do their jobs (they are professional painters for godsakes) and then keep a close eye on them so they wouldn't do short-cuts. For an entire month.

    I want to blog about it, but I am still too emotional so I'm letting some time pass, else I might "insult our host nation" for sure.

  7. I feel for you. I hope your mood improves.
    Cultural adaptation chart:

  8. "Some would say it is our Puritan heritage, but I wholly disagree."

    Late to this post, but be interested to hear why you say that.

  9. Rob, I'm just not sure why the Puritans get all of the credit when it seems to me that almost every immigrant group had as much if not more success in carving out a living here. If anything deserves credit, I think it is the American Dream: the belief that the only thing standing between us and success is ourselves. (And I don't think the Puritans came up with that concept.) Everyone came here looking for a new chance and they worked hard or they starved.

    Now if only New England was flourishing and the rest of the country was lagging behind, then I suppose a case could be made for Puritan heritage leading the way.

  10. Ah, different perspective, then. Whenever I hear, or use, "puritanical work ethic" I don't think credit, I think blame. As in an unhealthy emphasis on work for its own sake, or work for its redemptive or salvationist aspects. Which indicates, to me, at least, why the US always ranks up in the top two or three of nations in terms of vacation days given/used - cultural holdover from our founders. Though we're usually second to the likes of Japan, occasionally South Korea, who have their own unique cultural justifications for extreme levels of work. imho/ymmv, of course.

    Side note - some attribute, though not sure how well it's merited, the distinction between the work ethics in Northern & Latin America to the culturally different interpretations of the value of work re: salvation in the difference between the Protestant and Catholic theologies.

    Thanks for responding...