Thursday, June 14, 2012

Physics is Against Me...My Roof Still Leaks

     It’s raining inside my little brick hovel. Two days ago, the biggest storm I have yet experienced in Paraguay charged across the rolling hills during the course of a long day and an even longer night. My tin roof, which I had previously attempted to fix several times, leaked like a sieve. This inevitably led to what I imagine would have been a comical scene to any onlookers: a wildly cursing, laughing Peace Corps volunteer running his bed and furniture in and out of his house in response to the arbitrary leakage patterns which seemed to change as frequently as the strong winds. By the end of the storm, my house had been turned inside-out, there were plastic bags tied to my roof in order to catch the water (with buckets on the floor for back up). All of my clothes and sheets had been hung out under my patio to dry (a fruitless task as the air became both saturated with moisture and very cold immediately following the storm).
    By nine or so in the evening, I realized that I hadn’t eaten all day. During the confusion of the storm and my frantic attempts to mitigate the damage, the water lines had been shut off. This meant that I was both without water (meaning without coffee as well--possibly the greatest crisis of all that day) and without a means to wash my food or my dishes. That night was cold and wet, but certainly one I will not forget. These are the kinds of experiences that one only gets in the Peace Corps. I count myself lucky as well, seeing as a section of my community does not even own homes; there are a group of landless peasants down the road from my house who live in a sort of make-shift shanty town of tent-like structures made of plastic bags and recycled materials. In total, about 20-30 families live like this (I have been given different numbers by different residents). I cannot imagine that my experience with the rain is anything compared to theirs.
    The weather took a splendid turn yesterday, however, as the Antarctic winds have begun their surge northwards heralding in fall (and eventually winter) here in the southern hemisphere. The sun broke through yesterday around noon giving way to what I could only compare to perfect autumn weather in the US northeast; the only thing missing was leaves changing colors and apple cider. It was a perfect day--not too hot, hot too cold, just right. The ample midday sunshine dried all my clothes and sheets and last night I slept snug-as-a-bug.
    My only possible complaint is that, as the weather turns colder (yesterday peaking around the mid-60’s, today starting out in the low-40’s), my outdoor shower without hot water has become a bit of challenge. It takes a certain frame of mind to motivate oneself to bathe in 50 degree weather when the water in the lines is no warmer. There is nothing like the feeling of being nice and clean, but this fall and winter, that feeling is going to come at a price. I always told myself that loosing my hygiene would be the first step toward loosing my sanity and therefore, promised myself to maintain both while serving in the Peace Corps. It seems that this will not be a commitment easily fulfilled, especially while living in a brick house without a heating system or insulation and without a fellow cuddle buddy to keep me warm. If there are any takers back there in the US, feel free to join me--my thin, drafty, wooden door is always open (figuratively speaking that is; nowadays it is almost always closed, literally).

Dew on some leaves in front of my house.

    This morning, with the temperatures so low, it is once again raining in my house. The warm, moist earth seems surprised at the sudden cold and leaks its condensation over every possible leaf and blade of grass.

Water condensing on the inside of my roof in the early morning.

     My tin roof acts like a greenhouse in the morning sunlight and thousands of small droplets of dew trickle down my walls. In a way it is beautiful, so long as I am properly bundled and tucked away in some dry corner of my house (hard to come by when you are living in a 3 meter by 5 meter brick box). It is so crazy to think that just 2 months ago, I felt as if the heat might kill me. I can’t say which one I like more, but give me a few more months of the cold and I will be sure to let you know.

From Paraguay,
little hupo


  1. Sorry to hear about what happened. And it is good that you have the initiative to fix the leaking roof and try to mitigate the problem. But it would be best to call on an expert to deal with the problem. Like what you said, you are lucky to have a house, unlike other people that do not have a roof to save them from harsh weather. So, it would be good to regularly do maintenance with your roof for it to avoid problems and protect you from different kinds of weather.

    Brendan Gertner

  2. Well, you being in a subtropical country means that there will be more rains, so the roofs need to be ready at all times. Hehe. There's a saying that "after the storm, there's a calm," and I think the thousands of small droplets of dew on your walls are nature's gift to you. I hope all is well there for you. :) - [Joanne Barragan]

  3. If it helps, I think a lot of people have their share of hard rains and roof leaks. But there is always a remedy for everything, even roofing issues. I would hazard a guess that you’ve probably dealt with this issue by now, but I would suggest that you regularly conduct roofing maintenance to avoid leaks in future. Check your roof for cracks and holes, and if you do find any, immediately seal them. Also, it would be best to prepare your roof before the rainy season comes. Adding a protective layer and replacing the damaged part would do the trick.

    -Norbert Floth

  4. Do not lose hope. Always look at the brighter side of things. If the case gets worse by the day, an urgent roof repair should be done. The longer you wait, the more damage your roof will have. Try using a high quality epoxy for the meantime until a professional handyman comes to the rescue. By the way, I admire you joining the Peace Corps! Good luck Mario!

    Sierra Nordgren

  5. I agree with Brendan, Mario. It would be best to contact efficient roofing contractors, who can help you with your roof leak. They’ll help you understand what has been causing your roof to leak, and they’ll give you reliable solutions on how to fix and prevent this dilemma next time.

    Allyson Sunde

  6. I lost electricity for a week during Sandy, it was ridiculous that the hamlet only a couple miles away from my town got their electricity back within a day though. There was luckily no damage to home done by the darn thing.

    -Keystone Contracting Corp.
    Staten Island Roofing

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