Friday, August 17, 2007

Purple Monkey Dishwasher

Sometimes people don't listen, no matter how many times you repeat a very clear and simple request.

J. came back from his break back in the States. Of course, he doesn't have a place to live yet. But, he's working with another former co-worker near me, so I volunteered to help him hunt for an apartment (what a schmuck I am). I realized yesterday that Jia and I were extremely lucky when we found our home on the first day of searching. Apparently, getting what you want in this neighborhood is impossible. We had set limits of price and the request for a bathroom large enough for someone to take a shower while NOT having to sit on the toilet to do so.

We began our journey through the Dante's Inferno... er, Nanshan at around 11 am. We spent nearly four hours talking with various real estate agents (there are about 20 agencies within a 15-minute walk) with the help of my mother-in-law. The agents showed us two apartments in those four hours--both of them were terrible. The first one had a washing machine in the bathroom (and no other location for it) while the second one had a bathroom the size of my shower. Perhaps I should mention at this time that J. is not a small man. After the second viewing, the agent pointed to the building across the street from my home and said that it was very nice and in my friend's price range (Jia and I had seen an apartment in that building). I whipped out my Chinese at this point: "Tai xiao le! Waiguoren xi huan da ce suo." (It's too small. Foreigners like big bathrooms.) This point seemed lost forever.

In 11 hours of searching apartments, we saw a total of 5. Of those 5 apartments, only two were livable spaces and both were in the same building. The first of the two we were told was 2300/month. Unfortunately, it was unfurnished and the owner decided to raise the rent by 200/month because he saw foreigners. The second we were told was 2500 and furnished. It turned out to be 2800 and the owner refused to negotiate price with foreigners.

There was also the debacle of one agency making an appointment for us at 8 pm. This was the same one agency I told about how small the bathrooms were in that particular building. Guess where they took us--to an apartment that had a bathroom smaller than my shower, equipped with a child-sized toilet with a picture of Winnie the Pooh on it. At that point I was too tired to care and refused to talk further with those agents. Jia was with us at that time and started yelling at them in Chinese. I understood a bit of what she said (mostly things about bathroom size and them not listening to what J. wanted).

While having a few late beers, we spoke with J.'s future boss. Apparently, he has started looking for apartments near his school. He had a great idea--he typed up the demands for an apartment and passed it around to agencies with the note that they were to only contact him IF they found an exact match. Maybe we'll all have better luck today--I certainly don't want to walk around for another 11 hours in this heat.

On another topic: I must thank a couple friends for a lot of help with planning for the U.S. tourist visa application for Jia. I had lunch with them Thursday and got plenty of useful information--much better than what the consulate gave me last Monday.

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