The other side to Expat Life

Last week was a crappy week, literally.  
Often the life of an expat is shown through the eyes of social media - the lunches, coffee’s, dinner parties, limitless holidays………. 

What often isn’t told is the crappy times, the times that you are left alone with small children whilst your husband is yet another business trip.  Enviably its those weeks when you are on your own that your sick, or the kids get sick, or generally something goes wrong. Whilst all of these things can happen if we were living at home. But living abroad makes them that much more isolating and complex. When you don't know the process for fixing things, or have family to rely on.  

The last two weeks have been pretty crappy.

expat life
expat life

With my Husband away, and kids full of cold,  I spent Tuesday night in the shower in just a pair of Hunters and my knickers attempt to plunge raw sewage back down the plug hole.  On a list of fun things to do on a Tuesday night it would be at the bottom (excuse the pun).  Plunging is hard work, but you cannot get a plumber at 8pm at night and you really can’t leave poo in the shower overnight, can you?  No… no you cannot.   I missed my husband.  This is definitely a bloody blue job and I know it wasn’t his fault he was away with work but at the same time it absolutely bloody was.   

So starts the story of the Parkhurst Poo Pile.   

Day 1 

After my heroic clean-up efforts, akin to cleaning oil from birds after the Exxon Valdez, our kind landlord sent round the plumber. He came round the next day, fully equipped for the job, and reveled in telling me the blockage was the biggest he had seen in a while.  

‘Maybe I feed the kids too much’ I said?  

He didn’t laugh but he did tell me that he cleared all the blockage he could but it continued all the way down into the street.  

This was confirmed but my Neighbor’s frustrated flushing too. 

Day 2:

 A call was logged to the Municipality, who came the following day- kudos JHB water. They came, they saw, but the failed to conquer, something around rules to how far away the access point was from the gate boundary! They did however manage to fix our neighbours blockage, and show me that the street water was all fine so it was between our gate and the street where lies the problem.

They tried to clear it but….  they broke the big iron rod thing they ram down the sewer and it became part of the blockage.    I worried that the kids had been secretly flushing toys….         


We waited all day.  I was miserable. Please bear in mind I couldn’t flush the toilet or run water.  

expat life

I was putting my three kids to bed, my dog starts going mental - I live in Johannesburg, and I notice my phone has about 10 missed calls - who on earth is at the gate at 7:30pm? I am pretty nervous. 

It was the lovely guys back to try reclaim their rather expensive equipment. They started to dig and dig and dig to reach the pipes some 8ft under, in the pitch dark.  
My Neighbors came round to keep me company (and safe) and brought shots.  If you are ever in the situation where you are thinking ‘what gift can I give a girl who has been plunging poo and deal with sewers’ then shots are a very good idea.   As we got steadily drunk the Municipality men (who will remain nameless for the purpose of he was working off the clock) told me that the blockage was caused by tree roots between the house and the road.  He had to break the pipes to get to the rod and didn’t have the equipment to do so.   

Day 4 

They arrive at 10:30am only to tell us that they clock off at 11am on a Friday!??!! I was loosing my humour. They returned at 4pm Friday to break the pip, gain the rodding and left the house with the pipes broken and still an 8ft hole in the front garden. 

My sense of humour was the only thing that had gone down a plughole in a week. 

Day 4 and 5  


No one works on weekends….even plumbers.  Really? Oh yes. 
My wonderful neighbors had me round so I could wash the kids and shower myself.  

Day 6 

Promise of arrival - left waiting 

Day 7

It was fixed late at 7pm but not sealed, they need all sorts of tools and equipment for that - which came 6 days later. 

I am now the proud owner of a working sewage system.  Sometimes I flush and watch the water go down just for the sake of it.  

It was a challenging time, balancing sewerage and kids, work without family or a husband nearby.  As I reflect back on the week, it seems funnier than I remember it being.  When I was in plunging in the shower or waiting for pipes to be fixed for days or washing the kids with a wet towel in a cold bathroom it was NOT funny.    
But now, after the event(s) it is good to laugh and more so to reflect that my neighbors are fricking wonderful people.  

 This one is for you boys….. 

‘When I needed a neighbor you were there, you were there. When I needed a neighbor you were there… and the poo in the shower and the wait didn’t matter because you were there…


Sometimes bad weeks become good memories, with the help of friends, who whilst living abroad become your family.  

Have you got a similar story?