Just another day in Mongolia

by sumpteretc

Blog? What’s that? Do people still use these? Is there a certain number of characters I have to keep this under? 

Oh, hello, there. I didn’t know anyone was still reading this. After the demise of Google Reader and the painful transition to Feedly, I assume there can’t be more than one or two of you out there. But, if you’re there, thank you! 

I just thought I’d share some of the fun that was today. A couple days ago, we had a notice pasted to the door of our apartment. Tiffany was home, so they could have just knocked and handed her the notice, but they chose rather to superglue it to the door. So, a large chunk of it is still out there. But the chunk that she tore off the door said something about the warranty being up on our water meters. The whole thing baffled me a little, so yesterday I asked our friend Gantuya about exactly what it was they wanted us to do. She borrowed my phone, made a phone call, and then explained things to me. (She explained it in Mongolian, because somehow I can understand her better in person than some stranger over the phone.) She said, “Tomorrow at 9:00, they will come to your house and take your water meters off. Then you take them to a laboratory and get them tested. Then you call them and they will put them back on.” Simple enough. 

This morning at 9:00, nobody came… of course. But, at 11:00 or so, somebody did come. He asked, “Did you get your water?” I glanced at Tiff uncertainly, and she shrugged. We had 15 liters on reserve. She asked, “Do I need to fill the bathtub?” I shrugged. I didn’t figure it would take me too long to take them to a lab to get tested. Surely 15 liters would last an hour or two. Before we had come to any kind of resolution, the plumber was at work, rendering the discussion moot anyway. He had the meters off in a jiffy and said, “Call when you’re ready to have them reattached.” I figured I’d better hurry if I was going to have them back by lunchtime. So I bundled up and headed out into the negative whatever temperature, looking for a laboratory. There were five listed on the notice, and you could choose whichever one was closest. One was in a familiar neighborhood, but another was much nearer home so I tried that one first. It’s in a district called 100 Ail, which is the hardware area of town. I wandered up and down the main street of the district, asking people if they had any idea where this company was located. The first guy didn’t know, but suggested I ask someone else. I couldn’t even find the person he wanted me to ask. Then I asked 3 or 4 ornery-looking guys, and they pointed me off to some building that I’m sure wasn’t even close. After wandering back alleys for a while, I decided to call the company, although my Mongolian phone skills are atrocious. After a few minutes on the phone, though, I learned that that lab wasn’t doing any testing today or tomorrow.

So, back to square one. I headed to the lab whose general vicinity I knew. My wife called and said maybe I should call that lab first. I told her I would rather beat my head against the wall looking for it before I started beating my head against the wall talking to them on the phone. Fortune smiled on me, though, and I found the laboratory, very close to where we had gone to language school. I looked at the schedule on the door. 12:00 to 1:00 lunch time. I checked my watch–12:15! Of course! I tried the door, anyway. Surprise, it was open, and the folks seemed willing to wait on me. I handed over my water meters and answered all their questions. Then they said, “Okay, tomorrow after 3:00, you can call and see if they’re ready.” Yikes! Tomorrow?!??! 

So, we’re learning to live on a little bit of water. For Mongolians, the daily water consumption is only about 5-10 liters per person per day (http://www.unep.org/roap/Portals/96/Documents/MongoliaWaterReport2011.pdf), so maybe we’ll live a bit more like them. Actually, I think I already used more than 5 liters just to get some dish washing going. I think what we’re probably going to learn is how to get some pre-meter water out of the pipes without flooding our bathroom. I’m glad we only have to do this every four years.