Friday, March 29, 2013

Plumbing puzzle

We are now in our 7th house in this country.  7 times we have simple mud buildings into homes.  We’re starting to get the hang of it.  One of biggest chores of the process of setting a house up is finding skillful help that can get things done in some rendition close to what we hope for.  Each time there is some job to be done in our house I have to think through:
  • What is the local interpretation in how to do this? 
  • What is the common capacity in actually getting it done well?
  •  Can I accept the finished result?

If I’m doubtful (which is common), then I think through:
  • Do I have the tools and materials to do the job myself?
  • Do I really want to spend my time doing the job myself?
  • If I’m doubtful on these questions as well (which is also common), then I come to the point of compromise, and work together in some way with a local man in order to get the job done. 

Plumbing is a great example.  Most plumbing here is added long after a house is built, so it sits outside the walls (which sure beats having a leaky pipe within a mud wall!).  A couple times I have borrowed tools and done plumbing renovations myself, but as we moved into our house this time I decided I did not want to spend my time changing the pipes so we could hook up our automatic washer.  So I found a guy named Fize who purportedly worked on plumbing, invited him into my bathroom, showed him what my problem was, and asked him how he could solve it.  This is one of my favorite questions, because it invites an open answer that immediately indicates what kind of projects or solutions the worker is used to providing.  Usually guys will answer very quickly with their first idea.  If that idea involves something drastic like knocking down walls, or something ridiculous like duct tape and twisty-ties, then I just smile and thank them for their suggestion (said in the right way, “thank you” in this language means “NO thank you”). 

Usually guys offer their ideas quickly, but when I asked Fize how he would solve my plumbing problem, he rubbed his chin and pondered it for several minutes.  Finally he answered, “well, I’ve never done something like this, but I think we could try…”  It didn’t really matter what he said next, he had already won the bid by showing thoughtfulness and humility.  I actually wasn’t sure if his idea would work, but I thought he was the right kind of guy to work with, so I sent him off to the bazaar to buy supplies and bring his tools.  When he came back he unloaded a whole bag full of plumbing fittings, and we started to figure the puzzle out together.  Fize laid the pipes and fittings out in the way he was thinking, then he looked for my feedback, and listened when I explained another option.  This is all so unique from the other men I have worked with on repairs in my home!  Not only did he come with plenty of supplies (as opposed to not quite enough, which is then sabotaged into a ‘good enough’ solution), he worked together with me, to make sure we both agreed on the best solution.

If you look at the picture below you’ll see that the pipes and fittings had to be tightened together in just the right order, otherwise the turning of one pipe would run into another.  We worked slowly, paying attention to the whole process of steps we were taking to complete the job.  By the time we were done, we had water flowing to the toilet, the bathroom sink, the cloth diaper sprayer, the shower, the washer, the kitchen sink, and a tap for buckets.  Fize was pleased that we succeeded, and said, “I didn’t know it would end up like that, but it works great.”  I was thinking the exact same thing. 

I’ve taken the time to tell you about Fize, because I think he’s a unique guy.  Usually trying to work together and negotiate solutions with guys here is kind of like taking turns stomping on each other’s toes.  Fize was interested in serving and in learning, and that’s really unique.  Since this plumbing project, I’ve also had Fize knock down a wall, cement a floor, and fix my motorcycle’s broken wheel.  He’s done great at every job.  I look forward to working with him more, and getting to know him better.  You can pray for this guy when you think of it, that God would be working in his heart, while I’m working with him in practical ways.  

1 comment:

  1. This is a great story - I appreciate your description of the kind of guy Fize, he sounds like a keeper.