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Where the bathtub used to be.

Sometimes when you try to ignore leaks in the bathroom and chalk it up to living in Myanmar, you end with a real sewage problem and lots of flies hanging around the toilet. A problem that had to be fixed four times because all of the plumbing was encased in cement and tile and partially hidden under the tub – for easy access. Since the plumbers had to chip away at cement for the better part of the day just to get to the pipes, as soon as they found a leak they would quickly patch it up, seal it back up, and call it a day. As well, OSHA standards being what they are, all the men were in loungyis (Myanmar version of the sarong), barefoot, no goggles, and standing around in sewage.

We tried to convince the landlord not to use cement. This was ignored a couple times with the logic being that cement was necessary to stabilize and protect the pipes from damage. Yes, clearly. By the time the fourth leak was found, the landlord was convinced. No more cement. Also, if only I’d recognized these flies weren’t just harmless little critters, but are called sewer flies or drain moths, I would have realized sooner that we had a real problem going on.

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Psychodidae – aka sewer flies or drain moths. The City of Winnipeg website notes that they lay their “eggs in the scum lining of drains.”

One amazing thing about this story is that we were dealing with our landlord; a very response and extremely nice man who is in fact a building contractor as his day job. As in other countries, Myanmar rent is required to be paid in cash upfront for the entire year, which results in great big bricks of money being handed over in plastic shopping bags. This creates a system where landlords don’t really have an incentive to maintain the building, and tenants are on their own when it comes to fixing things inside the apartment.

In any case, one of our landlord’s initial responses to the bathroom woes was, “You know, construction in Myanmar is… not so good.” And is there ever construction going on in Yangon with a double-digit growth rate in the building industry over the past few years – investors dream or construction bubble? The result of last month’s national census was 10 million people less than expected (note that the Rohingya people in Rakhine State were not allowed to be counted in the census, but that is part of a much, much, much, much bigger issue), so investment speculations are supposedly being reassessed. In any case, I wish all those tenants the best of luck, and hope they have a landlord half as good as ours.

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