28 July, 2007

From frigid water to no water

Not only are we living until the end of the month without hot water here in Dyerbishky, we are now without any water at all. The first interruption occurred a few days ago and lasted an entire afternoon and evening. The water began to peter out again last night, so the family immediately started filling bottles, buckets, and the bathtub with what little water there was. A neighbor informed my mother-in-law that the water would soon be cut off completely, and sure enough it dried up at some point last night. We went all day without any running water at all. My wife says this happens on occasion, although it's not a regular occurrence like the yearly shutoff of hot water.

We went for a walk in the evening around 6ish, taking the baby to a park where she can walk around and touch the tall grass and flowers. As we walked back, we passed two policemen; walking further on we saw three more, although I suspected that two of them were the originals. These were ordinary policemen as I understand it, but here they don't wear pressed shirts and pants like American or Italian or even Moscow police wear. No, they wear loose, dark, green-gray outfits that resemble army uniforms.

No big deal, right? The three strolled around. Perhaps coincidentally, their stroll took them in the direction of two women whose clothing reminded my wife more of belts than skirts. We were heading home, in an opposite direction, and as we came to the next intersection, we saw two more policemen on a corner. These two reminded me of the ones I had seen earlier, too, and even better, three more policemen stood on the opposite corner. So in the space of twenty minutes and two blocks, my wife and I saw eight policemen, not counting the one sitting in a car that we had seen earlier, sitting in a driveway.

Why were they out? We don't know. My wife noted that nearly all the officers were quite young; they didn't look past their teens. So her first idea was that it was a simple matter of police training. As we passed a store that sells water—ключь здоровья, "the key to health," a chain of cylinder-shaped kiosks that dot the district—she wondered if perhaps they weren't out because of the water problems, to give a sense of order. I had been wondering this myself, only in less polite terms ("intimidation") but I hadn't wanted to say it.

It's also possible they were out because there are rumors of a serial killer about. (Strictly speaking, a "maniac".) A couple of weeks ago, a policeman stopped my mother-in-law to show her some pictures and ask about it. That was a couple of weeks ago, and I haven't seen any policemen except for the usual traffic controls on the road.

Returning to the question of water, the evening news showed film footage of water overflowing from underground onto sidewalks and roads. They reported that four districts of Kazan are without water, and then showed a giant hole in the ground that workers had dug out to gain access to another hole. Hopefully, the repairs will be complete by tomorrow afternoon.

Do such things occur in the United States? I don't recall reading about water disruptions except when I have seen the rare story in the news about extraordinary accidents. I don't think the recent explosion of a steam pipe in New York is the same thing, but I only looked at the headlines, so I don't know if anyone's water supply was actually disrupted. I've taken the train through the poorer parts of West Virginia and New Mexico and wondered whether those houses that looked like little more than shacks with piles of trash next to them had conveniences that I would consider standard. If they do happen, I'm very sure that they are rare; otherwise I would hear about them or experience them, right?

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