Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26, 2012

It must have snowed through the night for the courtyard and every car in it sported a deep layer of the white stuff when I got up this morning. The sun was trying to come up from behind the clouds, and fortunately it wasn’t too cold when I headed to my Russian class.

Once class was over, I headed to the Kyrgyz National University to meet with Gulnara, Elvira and Willoughby and flesh out the tentative schedule for the winter break professional development workshops we’ll be offering for secondary school teachers. Willoughby got a couple more Peace Corps volunteer to agree to participate along with a Kyrgyz teacher from the American Corner.

Lunch was a disappointing affair at a nearby canteen for students where my request for a soup with vegetables, noodles and meat was met with a watery, oily broth, minced pieces of beef and zero vegetables. Willoughby declined to eat anything as she was going through a diarrhea bout.

Elvira and set out for the first of three appointments to look at apartments just as the sun disappeared completely and the temperatures plummeted significantly. The first stop was an apartment that looked like an attic with sloping ceilings and the look of a studio where there was no room even for a desk. They were asking for $800.00 and it didn’t even have gas for cooking.

The second, located at a busy intersection just like the first one, had been renovated and the owner was asking for $1000.00 a month claiming there had been a misprint in the newspaper add where it said $800.00. The inside of the building looked like it was ready for demolition though and I didn’t like the traffic noise coming off from Chuy Avenue anyway.

The third one, located on the ninth floor of a nine-story building, was reached by the usual rickety, rusted tin car that makes me feel claustrophobic the minute I set foot inside, and the apartment had no flow to it to the point that the stove was located in the balcony in an unheated area. For $700.00 a month, this unit didn’t even have a formal dining area.

The real estate agency guys showing us this unit informed us there was another flat on the fourth floor of a building closer to where I’m currently living they’d be willing to show me but it might not be available for another two weeks. Elvira had to go back to her house and I told her I’d be fine going with the two guys to the last viewing and they drove me there.

The young woman showing the apartment said was from Bulgaria, even though she looked Kyrgyz to me, and proceeded to lead us into an ugly building with broken windows on the landings and a narrow staircase. There were four units on the fourth floor and construction workers could be seen in the one next door.
The apartment looked gorgeous, even though it was very small, but everything was brand new including the gas stove and stainless steel fridge. She said the unit wouldn’t be available until the end of January as she was traveling out of the country for a while. The guys dropped me off near my place and promised to keep their ears open in case something similar turned up.

My landlady showed up with her mother, the real estate agent who had led me to this place and an unknown young woman. Apparently, she needed reinforcement to let me know I couldn’t live in the flat for an undetermined number of days and to complain about the way Gulnara had spoken to her on the telephone. She thought I was going to fall for her scheme of paying her ahead of time for whatever time I thought it would take me to find a place and that she would graciously return any amount not spent.

But I knew I couldn’t trust her as she walked to the foyer, where she unwisely had placed the washing machine, and she started to complain that the laminated floor had been ruined by water coming out of the washer. Gulnara had already told her I wasn’t responsible for such damage, if in fact it existed, as it was her responsibility to check and make sure her appliances were working properly. I had never witnessed any water gathering there, period.

As luck would have it, the neighbors upstairs started their furniture scraping, drilling and other infernal noises just them and the entire group simply agreed that such noises were typical of government buildings and that some tenants found comfort in them for it let them know they were surrounded by other people. Moreover, they said, I’d find the same situation no matter where I moved unless it was to a private house.

Although she demanded payment on the spot, I just agreed to draft a document stating I’d be out of the unit by Friday and would pay $20.00 per day plus utilities. They finally left and I started to pack hoping I could find a suitable apartment in just two days. The tenants continued their noise-making activities until past 11:00pm. I could have gone postal indeed should I have had the right equipment tonight.

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