Somalia Falls

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A morning bath becomes a horrible flood!

Submitted: April 12, 2007

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Submitted: April 12, 2007



Several years before I met my husband, my family and I were stationed in Mogadishu, Somalia, East Africa. My father worked as the liaison between the Somali military forces and the American military forces. He worked at the O.M.C.: the Office of Military Cooperation. His post was the reason we were there.

I had been attending classes at Torrejon High School on Torrejon Air Force Base in Madrid, Spain, but now I was home in Mogadishu for the summer.

Mogadishu was desert country, but we had an unbelievable two-story house that looked like a tourist resort. There were two floors with a porch on each level, but there there was also a set of steps leading up to the roof. A wall surrounded the roof so that nobody could fall off. Sometimes we had parties on the roof. Other times, my two sisters and brother and I would just relax up there.

We had many kinds of wild pets. We had two female tortoises and one male, we had a flock of large guinea fowl that doubled as guard dogs (they would make all kinds of noise if a visitor came by), and we had dic dics.

Dic dics are miniature antelope that grow to be about the height of a Jack Russell terrier. They look like little deer. The females don’t have horns, but the males have two horns that stick straight up out of the tops of their heads. The four-inch horns are spiraled, like a unicorn’s. They’re pretty little creatures. We had started off with a male and female. We ended up with a herd of about thirteen. Only one was tame. Her name was Penny.

We had a chameleon once, too, but he climbed into one of the trees one day and got lost. (Go figure!)

The house was surrounded by a luscious garden, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. There were red hibiscus bushes and all sorts of other trees, including poisonous oleander. They may have been deadly to eat, but the pink oleander flowers smelled heavenly. They smelled like marshmallows.

There was a large thatched roof gazebo where we did entertaining.

My mom is Filipino and had close ties with the other Filipinos in the community. Sometimes the whole Filipino community came over to the house and put on traditional folk dances. My mom would be one of the dancers. The gazebo would be set up with tables so people could sit and eat. The Filipinos in our area of Somalia were extremely talented. They were even able to dance while balancing lit candles on their heads!

The whole property was surrounded by a high stone wall with broken pieces of glass sticking out of the top to prevent intruders from hopping over it. We had Somali guards twenty-four hours a day as well, for protection.

There was no water piping system in the city of Mogadishu. Most of the natives didn’t have running water, anyway, as many of them lived in huts. At OUR house, there was a large concrete water tank. This had to be filled by a water truck that came about once or twice a week, whenever we radioed that we needed water. (The majority of the Americans communicated by radio, as most people didn’t have phones.) We had to be conservative with our water because we knew that we only had a limited supply to work with each week. It was against this backdrop that I made a HUGE mistake early one morning while my parents were out.

I was getting ready to take a bath, but there was a stain on one of my garments that required soaking. I climbed the stairs to one of the upstairs bathrooms (there were four in the house) and put the plug in the sink to soak my clothes. Then I turned on the water and let it run over my stained garment. I undressed and got into the tub, fully intending to unplug the sink as soon as the water covered the piece of clothing. Soon the bathroom was steamy, and I became very relaxed. Before long, I drifted off to sleep.

I awoke to the sound of water running onto the floor. Still half asleep, I thought that the sound was VERY authentic to be coming from a dream. I knew that there COULDN’T have been water running onto the floor because I was sitting there in the tub, which was not overflowing. It took me a few minutes to get the cobwebs out of my ears and start thinking clearly. The water wasn’t as hot as it had been when I had first stepped in, which means that I must have been asleep for some time. Suddenly, I remembered the clothes that had been soaking and the water that I HADN’T TURNED OFF.

With only one eye open, I gingerly pulled back one of the shower curtains and peeked at the sink across from the tub. The sink had filled, alright. In fact, it was overflowing onto the floor. Oh, man, was I in trouble!

I stepped out of the tub and wrapped a towel around me to assess the damage. I turned off the water at the sink. As I left the bathroom, I could see that the situation was very bad. The water flowed out of the bathroom and into the hallway. From there it flowed over the two flights of stairs in a cascade I now refer to as "Somalia Falls". When the water landed on the first floor, it flowed into the kitchen, the first floor bathroom, the front hallway, and all the way into the spacious living room. There was an inch of water covering most of the first floor!

"Lisa!" I called. My little sister Lisa had spent the night in the downstairs guest bedroom with her friend Erica. (My other sister, Barbie, had spent the night with her friend Nikki.) I was glad that Lisa and Erica were home, because I knew that my parents would eventually come back, and I was going to need A LOT of help.

Lisa and Erica walked out of the guest bedroom half asleep, but woke up in a hurry when they found themselves ankle-deep in water.

"What happened?!" Lisa wanted to know. (She was about seven or eight at the time.)

"I was soaking something and forgot to turn off the water," I explained. "Can you and Erica grab some towels and a mop? Mom and Dad are going to be home soon!"

Lisa and Erica were great! They wasted no time soaking up water in as many buckets as we could find and pouring the water down the drain in the kitchen. Soon Amina arrived for work She was our boyessa. (Americans would refer to her as a maid.) I was sure glad to see her! Between the four of us, we got the upstairs and downstairs dry within about thirty minutes. It looked as though there had never BEEN a flood!

Then I spied my mom’s expensive throw rugs in the living room. We soaked up as much water as we could with towels, but if Mom happened to walk on them barefoot...

We had no choice but to haul the rugs out to the front walkway and dry them in the sun. That would surely raise questions when my parents came home.

I was hoping against hope that they would make a wrong turn somewhere and end up in Kenya, but they didn’t. I had a lot of explaining to do, and it was the only time during our WHOLE tour that we used up an entire water tank in one day!


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