I think the hardest part about moving to anywhere new is finding a place to call home. Whether it’s for a month or a year, working with a budget while trying to decide if you even like the space can be extremely frustrating. Also, this is my first time adulting in this area of life. I found a career, but paying my own rent? I don’t have a clue.
What seems to be working is trying every possible avenue in search of a roommate (if you need one, which I really do) or a place that’s renting in the area you want. I’m not sure if what I’m saying is old news to literally everyone else, but this is all new to me. I think what makes it interesting are all of the requirements. Here in Santiago, people come and go all the time. A lot of the renters I have been talking to want to know how long I will be staying, what my nationality is, if I am a professional. There are places available for 3, 6, 9 or 12 months. And of course longer if you want to make this your home. But clearly so many vagabonds have passed through here, all of this extra information is required.
So far Facebook and Craigslist have been the most helpful. Even in the United States, I found that to be true, which kind of makes it more ironic here; to me at least. There are a few websites specifically for apartment hunting, but it costs just to talk to the other users… and I’m cheap. So instead I joined a Facebook group called Gringos/students/foreigners in Chile. That is where I found the first apartment I visited, mentioned in my previous post. As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I was not chosen for that coveted 26th floor apartment… And yes I’m still bitter. Did you see that view?! There was a rooftop pool people!
Moving on, I am going to visit 2 apartments tomorrow, both in the area that I want to live in, close to metro stations, in decent areas, and at the price I can afford, which happens to be 250,000 Chilean pesos or less. No, I did not hit the lottery (yet), $1 U.S. dollar is equal to 650 pesos. Some places will give me a room for only 200,000 pesos, which is roughly $300. Not too shabby considering I could have my own bedroom and bathroom that’s not a studio in a city larger than Chicago.
Sunday is a great day to do some serious house hunting. Many Chileans observe the day of rest; there were a lot of closed businesses, not as many metro trains or buses. I was able to move around faster without being squished. I actually got to sit on the metro! Most seats are taken up by couples making out or aggressively cuddling. It’s not that I mind the PDA, I just don’t want to feel it against my side ya know.
So I saw 3 places today, and I will probably not move to any of them. The first place was nice and clean, It was a separate building in the owner’s backyard with 2 shared rooms. I was actually mostly excited about the fact that there was a backyard. Grass isn’t something you see every day in Santiago (unless you live by the park). What I wasn’t excited about was sharing a bathroom and a kitchen the size of a powder room with a guy. I am totally guilty on judging guys to be sloppy when it comes to living with ones my age. The owner is a man as well, which wasn’t my ideal situation. The thing is, they were very kind and welcoming. It wasn’t that I felt threatened or anything at all. The third place was run by a man, and had 4 other guys living there all together. I know I could never live there because what woman wants to live in a frat house, but they were all very nice and welcoming.
The second place was inhabited by 2 professional women, one was even a teacher as well! I only met the teacher, and she was very kind; we talked for at least an hour. However if I’m being honest, I probably won’t choose that place. They had good size rooms and beds, and I had a very small room and a single bed. The view was sad as well. I hate to sound picky when I keep expressing how tired I am of living out of a suitcase. But I at least want to be happy in my new home for the next 9 months. So for the next 2 days, I will be visiting 5 apartments. I hope I fall in love with one of them!
The hardest thing about house hunting is carrying on after the disappointment. Both houses I visited today were so very messy and unkempt, I can’t see myself living in either one of them. One would think that the residents would attempt to clean up a little before trying to sell someone on sharing the already cluttered space with them. The scary thought is, what if they did?
The first house had a living room filled with massive art supplies. Huge canvases crisscrossed the floor. The thin bed meant for me was supported by shipping palates; and what would have been my shared bathroom had a toilet with a chunk of porcelain missing from the lid of the tank. The only redeeming quality was that it was all girls. So I suppose I should keep it in mind.
The second place made me want to leave as soon as the gate was opened. But I didn’t because there was a dog. To my right was a an old vintage VW van wedged in the garage. Total stoner vehicle am I right? In front of the house were rows and rows of empty beer glasses. They were out for recycling (how nice of them), but I got the impression it didn’t take the tenants long to stack that many up. The guy led me inside ( I still don’t know his name) and I walked into a very messy kitchen complete with 3 refrigerators, 1 of which didn’t even have a plug. He excused himself and used the bathroom; when he came out, he was on his phone, and passed inches from me as if I wasn’t even there. My first thought was that he was messaging his cohorts and letting them know they could come kidnap me now. I couldn’t be more wrong. Turns out he was just extremely high. So we went for a tour, and I noticed one of the living room walls was painted with a mural of rural Chile. We went up the smallest stairs I have ever seen (no hand rail of course) and went into the room that was free to rent. It was quite a nice size, with a closet and a desk. I must admit the neighborhood was very nice and quiet with tree lined streets. And I made sure to walk quickly down those streets away from the house I would not be living in.
This morning started off with an early apartment visit by the Santa Lucia train station. Chileans are often late I’ve heard, so there seemed to be some confusion when I arrived at the apartment before the tenant did. Then again it could have been the language barrier. As soon as I walked in, to my left was a tall man wearing a blue towel in the kitchen. He had been in the apartment alone, I suppose I should be thankful he was wearing anything at all. It was small and messy, and the bathroom was grimy. I reeled immediately, but told myself if it came to it, I could survive there.
Later that afternoon, between classes, I visited another place. I was in a rush so I took an Uber instead of trying to figure out the bus situation. The farther we drove down the road, the worse the neighborhood got. Suddenly he turned onto the street and there loomed a brand new apartment building, as shiny as the aluminum roofs it overlooked. The flat was on the 16th floor, and had a stunning view of the Andes mountains. I could not look away. The apartment was almost still under construction it was that new. It felt unfair, because as soon as I looked down, all I could see were the slums, and a pack of street dogs on the move. I tried not to think about it, and instead pictured myself on the balcony with some coffee come winter when the mountains would be covered in snow. My reverie was broken by the owner telling me the price; 50,000 pesos ( $80) over my budget. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but I know that I will be living paycheck to paycheck anyway, that extra $80 is my food. I walked away a little disappointed. It made me feel a little better that I would not be living in that area, so far from the metro, since I don’t have a car.
I went on a house hunting marathon today. For 5 hours I traipsed through Providencia, a beautiful, extremely convenient neighborhood where my company’s office is. I had set up 4 showings one after the other, and walk to all but the last one. The first one was lovely; it was a mother and her son, and they happened to have an extra bedroom and bathroom. My only concerns were that it was at the top of my budget-250,000 pesos($377)-, the mother smoked cigarettes, and all of the windows had chicken wire over them. But it was the best place I had seen that I could afford, so I was resigned to live there.
The next place was such a bachelor pad. Everything was run down and dirty, I couldn’t use the shower in my private bathroom because the tiles on the floor had been ripped out. Two other guys lived there, and I’m not a fan of frat houses, so I instantly ruled that one out.
My next stop was a lovely apartment on Los Leones (The Lions), literally 2 minutes down the road from the office. There were 3 bedrooms, a man and a woman living there, both professionals. My room was decent sized, with a bathroom in it, a large closet, a space heater, and a nice view of the San Cristobal hill and Costanera Center aka the Tower of Mordor. When I told David about it later, he told me the eye is always watching, and mentioned how heavy the weight on my neck had become. He must like Lord of the Rings more than I realized.
The last place was an adventure of sorts; I went to the wrong place in the opposite direction. It is the first time my GPS has led me astray. In all fairness there are 2 addresses with the same street name and number. By this time it was 8:30 at night and I was exhausted after walking around the city for 4 hours. The contact sent me his location through Whatsapp, and I was finally able to find him, after another ride back on the metro. The flat was nice, except my room was through the kitchen, next to the washroom in a forgotten corner. I could have lived with that. What I could not handle was living with 3 guys. I talked to them for a while to be polite, but my decision was made.
I went home to David’s house satisfied with my options. After telling him about my adventures, he told me that if I liked the third house, I should go for it. It was the cheapest and in the best area. He said a room like that would go fast and that I should snatch it up. So I did! I emailed and texted her as soon as I got settled, and she accepted! Now comes the exchanging of contracts and dinero.
After we each sent our copies of our contracts; the one from my job and the one for her tenants, we agreed to meet this morning, Saturday at 11. I would give her the cash and sign the contract, and she would give me the keys. Sounds perfectly simple. However, plans are meant to go awry sometimes, and this one certainly did.
I had to use Bank of America’s sister bank (Scotiabank, which can be used throughout all of the Americas, so if you have it, you’re on the right track) in order to withdraw cash. To say I had a few difficulties is an understatement. After several failed attempts, I could only manage to get 200,000 pesos out of the damn machine. I needed 440,000. But I was running late, so I gave up and hoped that my new landlord Rocio would accept what I had. I made it to the apartment at 11:07. I told her the issues I had been having with the ATM and she understood thankfully.
After counting the measly 200,000 pesos I had, she promptly gave me my keys. I can’t describe what a great feeling that was. She took me into the room that will become mine, and took off the sheets she felt she needed to wash and proceeded to show me where the clean ones were. So I made my bed for the first time, which sounds extremely insignificant, but was awesome to me. I walked around the room and bathroom and made notes of things I would need to buy, things like an adapter with multiple pugs and a shower caddy that will hold my shampoo and conditioner.
After thanking Rocio for her amazing understanding of my complicated situation, I came back to David’s house to pack. Today he is spending time with his son and grandchildren, so I’m not sure what time he will be back. I am able to move out right now if I want to. For some reason I feel the need to stay one more night, have dinner with him one more time and say a proper goodbye. Not to mention a huge thank you for everything he has done for me this week and a half; feeding me, giving me a temporary home complete with private room and bathroom. He has helped me so much when it comes to my classes too, how I can prepare for them, what I should expect, etc. I will definitely miss living in this quiet house in Las Condes.
The next morning I woke up, promptly packed the rest of my things, called an Uber, and hugged David goodbye. The poor Uber guy was so nice and tried to tackle my packed suitcase on his own, but the thing weighs almost 100lbs so he allowed me to help. I had heard that men here were very chivalrous, and I have seen many examples to support that. This was one of them, because once we arrived at my new apartment building 10 minutes later, he insisted on rolling it in, up a few stairs and through the not big enough door.
As soon as I entered the flat, I went to work unpacking as much as I could. It’s kind of difficult with such a small closet to work with, but since I will only be here for about 9 months or so, I’m not super concerned. It is a Sunday, and everyone is home. I finally met Ben, my other roommate besides Rocio. He is from Virginia, near D.C. I can’t tell you how nice it will be to have someone who speaks English. I really do want to learn Spanish, but I haven’t been able to have many fluent conversations with people, not to mention joking around with anyone. I haven’t laughed much since I arrived, only because I’m so focused on remembering words and phrases to ask for things in Spanish.
Anyways, I got off topic. After organizing what I could, I set off for the Costenera Center aka the Tower of Mordor to go shopping in the grocery store in that huge mall I mentioned in my previous post. Below the supermarket is another level that has a Target/Home Depot store called Easy. It was well named. I found everything I needed: a small dresser for things like socks and underwear, small nails to hang things, a pen holder for my desk, and a plastic set of mini drawers for bathroom things. You will see these items in my pictures.
Once again, as soon as I got back home I set to work unpacking more. It ended up taking me about 4 hours to put together the little blue dresser. Mostly because I took breaks since my wrist was hurting so bad because the only screwdriver I could find was one on a Swiss army knife. Needless to say, the little dresser may fall to pieces at any moment. After it was finally assembled, I finished unpacking, and took a relaxing hot shower. Without further ado, here is the finalized product.
I know it’s a small room, and that is because it was technically the maid’s live in quarters. Many places here have one, and having a weekly or biweekly maid is quite common. Since it is so small, I get to rent it for cheaper, which is just fine by me. I’m pretty fond of my little space, it already feels quite homey. I especially love having my room and bathroom in the same space, behind my bedroom door. That was a huge selling point for me. Today I am going to the bank to get the rest of my deposit for Rocio, and then we will sign the contract. But first I need to get my own laundry detergent.