Expat Life: What Happens in Your House When You’re on Vacation

by Miss Footloose

Our expat house in Moldova stands empty, since we, the renters, are on vacation many miles away in the Netherlands, the place from which I hail.

As my man and I are innocently roaming Amsterdam, the water decides to take a break as well. It’s been so boring following the same old rut of pipes every day for months and years. Okay, only two years, because the house is new, but nevertheless, the water needs a vacation and a change of scenery.

It decides to pick the water pipe to the uppity French bidet on the top floor to make its escape.

The water flows happily along the shiny bathroom floor, into the guest bedroom, dampening the carpet. Nobody is around to notice, so it can do as it pleases.

But it’s a boring place, this bedroom, and getting more adventurous, the water decides to go spelunking below, shimmying down walls and seeping between ceilings and floors.

falling water

Full of enthusiasm it rushes down into the garage, the first floor bathroom and the hallway closet. This is so exciting! So much space to flood and slosh around in!

Drunk with happiness, the water runs and flows and shimmies and drips for days, soaking door frames, walls and parquet flooring.

running water

It likes the parquet flooring a lot, so it sneaks into the living room and dining room as well. But hey, there’s more territory to discover! Down the stairs into the basement rooms! Mildew, mold, warps, here they come to join in the fun.

High on freedom, the water has the time of its life for days. Days! Then it escapes the garage to the great wild yonder of the outdoors. A new adventure! It rushes out with great joy and abandon. Sunshine! Sky! The Moldovan neighbor.

And that’s when the water’s brazenness costs him.


When it is clear that we, the expat renters of the house, are not at home, a frantic phone call is made to Canada, where the homeowner lives, a continent and ocean away from the crisis. The panicked (I assume) man calls the property manager in Moldova. The property manager rushes over to the house, watches in horror the river issuing forth from underneath the garage doors and stands there, helpless and keyless. The neighbor is also keyless.

He calls me, Miss Footloose, but I don’t answer because I am footloose in Amsterdam and my Moldovan phone is not set on roaming. I have a Dutch phone, which is of no use because they don’t have the number. He finally gets through on my man’s BlackBerry. To make a long story short, more phone calls are made across space and time and the key we had left at my husband’s office is located and delivered.

The property manager, so he tells me later, sloshes through the water down into the basement where the electrical as well as the water switches are located. He wades through ankle deep water to turn both of them off. Needless to say I am horrified when he tells me this later, thinking of him being electrocuted, thinking of his young wife and baby girl. Well, he says, it was the only way to get there to turn off the switches.

Water is pumped out. The ravages are enormous. Entire floors and ceilings need to be redone. Three (imported) doors and door frames need to be replaced, and they’re not the standard hollow Home Depot variety. Walls need to be cleaned, dried, and refinished.

Fortunately the home insurance will cover he repairs. Fortunately the electricity was back on the next day as I had a freezer full of meat and fish. Fortunately none of our personal stuff was damaged.

But we do need to move out for a few weeks while work is done. So I’m packing clothes and office stuff and food from the freezer and we’re moving into a furnished apartment nearby.

I need a vacation. Oh, I forgot: I just had one.

* * *

What  happened in your house when you were away?

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Yes, sorry all this has happened and, as we’ve had a lot of water disasters here, I really can imagine how you feel!


OMG what a nightmare, but love how you manage to turn the worst disasters into a rollicking good laugh. I’ll never forget the time the water pipe broke in my bidet in Paris. Oh la la! Luckily my Frenchman arrived home just in time to save the apartment!


Oh no! I was afraid it was something like this. But I can’t tell you how happy I am that the landlord is fixing it and making it nice again, and that your stuff is okay. If you were in Mauritania, the landlord would blame you, not really fix anything, and charge you an arm and a leg nonetheless.

Wow! That was a story beautifully told though. Sorry, Mr. Homeowner, it’s all in service to the reader. 🙂


I knew it would be a water pipe. For some reason while I was reading your entry on Amsterdam I felt it in my bones. I came across your blog a few months ago when I was doing research on Armenia as that was the other choice my husband was given when he was taking up the current job offer. We chose chisinau. I actually forgot about this blog until I signed up with “internations” and came across your profile. Love what you’re doing. Good luck with the packing. We usually shut off the main water source while leaving for… Read more »

What fun that sounds. And you weren’t even there for it….

We don’t actually have a house at the moment, so one less worry. Although I have some small concerns about the state of all my furniture that sits in a container somewhere on the Indian Ocean…

Our house burned down and was totally destroyed while we were on vacation. The house was in Nigeria, we were in Kenya, and got a call in the middle of the night: “Buy some stuff in Nairobi, you will need it”.
My wife was six months pregnant with our second – so we lived in a two-room guest house while the house was rebuilt.
Everything turned out OK – the rebuilt house was better than the old one, and our son was born healthy and well!


This my worst nightmare! The only time we had excitement while away was when our neighbor came over to feed the cat and the house was ransacked. He thought someone had broken into the house. It was our cat who was angry for being left alone for several days and decided to seek his revenge.

I have to admit that you got me thinking with your previous blog entry that your home had been burgled rather than damaged by water! Glad to learn that home insurance will cover the repairs and also that none of your personal stuff was damaged — that sounds miraculous, actually!


Oh, Dear. Oh, Dear. I am an unwired traveler so I am out of touch for weeks or months at a time and rely upon a Benign Providence to look after things.

When I shared my home with cats I would leave a key with a cat-person-neighbor to come by every day to feed the pusses. I only lost one cat that way.

guyana gyal

Whoa. Water World.

It’s a good thing you weren’t there…oh wait, you weren’t…

When I went to see my mother in Florida, nothing happened, fortunately.


Oh no! Sorry to read about this. This is my worst nightmare … or that the power will go out and we’ll return to a fridge and freezer full of maggots.

I hope the time in the rental is like an extended vacay for you.

maggie myklebust

Oh, no!
What a horrifying story, that you by the way, did a great job telling!
Good luck!

finland blog

Sorry for ylou and the inconvenience caused We have a house that we own in Eastern Finland,of all places on the Russian border Only last month we recieved a call from one of our 3 neighbours,that the front window had been smashed Only for the neighbours good will did he call the police and a substitjute board was put up. These things occur and we learnt that it is worth getting to kmow your neighbours if you expect to be away for any length of time In our case it had been 6 months visiting the UK. Also having good… Read more »

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