16 April 2007

A tribute to my Dad, McGuyver's alter-ego in a strange parallel universe

Do you ever have one of those moments when you're really proud of something that you've done, that really isn't that spectacular, but you really need to share it and no one is around? Well, I just had one of those.

So my birthday is drawing to a close, I have "la gripe," I had 4 meetings with student research assistants this morning, and my shower was on the blink. The meetings with students went really well - mini-projects about ethnobotanic knowledge transmission, a study on the impact of REM on health and traditional medicine, historic climate change and bad weather, assessing the importance of plants in choosing home sites. My Portuguese is improving in leaps and bounds. The students and I are still speaking both, but mainly to make sure that what we are saying is completely understood by both parties. The percentage of understanding is rapidly increasing. Yay!

My second big score was having my family back home contact me to wish me a happy birthday. That really felt good. Thanks to everyone for the phone calls and e-cards. I also had friends here text me birthday greetings throughout the day.

But my proudest moment came when I fixed my damn shower all by myself. And for this I thank my Dad who turned 80 on 8 April. Since arriving, the water pressure from the shower head has never been great. I just assumed that it was just the way things were. But after not using the shower for the weekend (I was at REM, not just being gross), the pressure decreased even more to just a trickle. So, being my father's daughter, I decided to have a closer look. It was scaling caused by the extremely hard water. My guess is that by not using the shower over the weekend, any residual water crystalized up and there was no regular water flow to push out this new formation. I'm sure a real plumber could explain it better.

Scaling is something that I am used to, having grown up with well water full of stuff like calcium and iron and sulphur. I asked myself, "What would my dad do?" Well, take the damn thing apart and soak it in some sulphuric acid that just happens to be lying around the house (as my brother well knows). Or just soak the head if you can't remove it and pick at the scaling with a wire brush or toothpick or pin or something. I had found a small container and was prepping the head to soak it, when I discovered that it was screwed on. Even better.

So using acetic acid (aka vinegar), a Swiss army knife with flat head screwdriver attachment, a cereal bowl, a dental pick, and bubble gum, I have a fully operational shower head!!! Yay!! Now I feel completely silly for being so proud over something so simple, but I will be clean. Thanks Dad for teaching me some simple home and car repairs, letting me tag along when you fixed stuff, and for that old type-writer you brought home for me when I was 7 to tear apart and see how it worked. That's cool.

My dad is a big one for gadgets too. He gave me a hand-crank flashlight before I left for Mozambique that has been very useful - esp. this past weekend. My Mozambicans colleagues thought it was a little silly and really thought that the screwdriver attachments were over the top. However, the phillips head attachment came in handy when Sr. Jotamo wanted to fix a wobbly handle on one of the cook pots. When he saw how well the little tool worked, he set about fixing all the cooking pot handles. So, thanks again Dad for all the little tools and gadgets that you've gotten me over the years.

The bubble gum, by the way, was just to chew. ;-P I didn't actually use it for fixing the shower head. I only wish fixing my flu were as easy. I really hate being sick.

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