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Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Life & Times of Louis & Amber - Leaky Ceilings

In the interest of full disclosure, we attempt to be as candid as possible here on this website. At times a bit too candid in Amber’s opinion. She is now insisting that I add a disclaimer absolving her from any responsibility. So, please be advised that the opinions expressed are those of the host, guests, and callers and not necessarily those of Amber O’Tool.

With that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, I want to share with you some of the goings-on around The Pines. The weather in South Africa is generally fabulous, with normal daytime temps in the 70’s-80’s. The sun shines about 90% of the days, and there is typically a light breeze. Strong wind is rare. When it does rain, the clouds usually do their business and then move on and there is nary a hint of humidity afterward. In other words, think of the weather in Iowa and imagine the exact opposite.

Sunday night however was one of the exceptions. It started raining about 5:30ish and didn’t let up for several hours. It soaked everything then began to run off, as water is wont to do, along the path of least resistance. We held a Bible lesson for the kids and housemothers from 6:00-7:00, and ironically the lesson was on “Contentment”. There is a passage in James 3 that warns people about seeking offices of leadership because leaders will be held to a higher standard. It seems God decided that if I was to teach about contentment that He needed to do a bit of teaching to me.

After the lesson was over everyone went back to their flats. Mama Martha quickly returned to tell us there was a leak in the ceiling of her flat. Phil Carmichael, the missionary in charge of maintenance went to take a look. Leaks are not uncommon during really hard rains, and since this one was just dripping we put a bucket underneath and decided to look into it further during daylight hours. Phil and his family left soon after, leaving the O’Tool family as the only administration at The Pines. Brian’s parents are visiting here for a short time and they had taken last weekend as a chance to spend some time away. Seems like these things always happen when everyone else is away.

Therefore, when the mothers came back saying the leak had worsened, the task fell on Amber & me to check it out. When we arrived at the flat it became quickly apparent this job couldn’t wait until daylight hours. Water was pouring from the ceiling like a faucet, soaking one set of bunkbeds and other miscellaneous items. It took a veritable bucket brigade of mamas and children to keep empty buckets under the leaks.

While Amber took charge of rearranging everything down below went up into the attic crawlspace to have a peek. It didn’t take long to see that there was no actual leak in the roof but it wasn’t immediately apparent where the water was in fact coming from. What was immediately apparent was there was about 1.5 inches of water/muck covering about 25 square feet of attic space and subsequently filtering down into the living area. This building was built in the 50’s and while there is no insulation required due to the normally ideal weather, a fact for which we were quite thankful during this little episode, there has been a significant build-up of dirt, dust, and various types of droppings. These are normally dry, unless such a time arises where water is able to penetrate the buildings defenses and create a wonderful new variety of mud. Such was the case on Sunday night.

With the capable and willing help of 4 young boys we were able to get enough light in the attic to allow me to scrape out most of the water and muck using a dustpan and bucket. You can imagine the adventure of climbing around a wet attic when they were supposed to be in bed and it helps you understand how they were so eager to pitch in.

The next step involved an outside inspection to see if we could determine the source of the leak. The view from the ground wasn’t sufficient so we had to get the extension ladder and climb about 30 feet up to the gutters. Had we taken time to think about the situation we may have reevaluated the expediency of a 30’ aluminum ladder in the rain and lightening. It was all we could do to keep the boys from climbing the ladder themselves. It obviously didn’t take much coaxing to get 4 pre-teen boys outside in the pouring rain and mud puddles.

Once at the top of the ladder I discovered the problem was the condition of the gutters in this particular portion of the building. 50+ years of buildup had filled them to the top with the same aforementioned materials as had accumulated in the attic, although this time a greater percentage appeared to be pigeon droppings. I think we may actually try to market this gutter sludge as some type of fertilizer, as it appeared to be ideal growing conditions for a variety of weeds and even a couple watermelons. The problem originated when the water ran off the roof into the gutters and finding no place to go. It then ran back toward the building and up under the roof into the attic, eventually ending up in buckets placed strategically under the leaks.

It took about 20 minutes to clean the gutters in this section sufficiently to allow the water to escape on the exterior of the building. The process would have been more difficult if not for the fact that some of the gutter was so rusted that several holes caved out of the bottoms when I was pulling the muck out. This allowed Newton’s theory of gravity to be demonstrated firsthand and the water flowed directly off the roof, through the holes and down to the ground.

While this was the end of the 5 of us boys playing in the mud, the mamas still had some cleaning to do. Amber also had a bit of laundry to finish up from the wet and soiled bedding. And while we were anticipating a restful Sunday evening we learned that if you teach something God will make sure you learn it yourself. Hopefully our lesson in contentment has been learned and we have no need of additional lessons.

Thus ended a splendid evening. And somewhere in the distance a lone wolf bayed at the moon.

1 comment:

  1. Love it....See proof that I do read your blog and love you!