Reading: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
Listening: Hard to Explain, The Strokes
Here we go again, Square 1. I know nobody here, I have never been here before, and yet, this is my home for the next three months. This post chronicles this literal search for a home, as already narrated to those who promised not to react with histrionics.
Prior to arriving in Bogota, I signed up for an online apartment listing service that connects potential tenants with landlords who have available rooms. I perused the site once or twice a day and set up some apartment viewings for the day of my arrival.
That is how I find myself on the corner of Calle 13 and Carrera 30. I am supposed to meet a Luis, who is supposed to show me his lovely apartment. Alas, I do not know what this Luis looks like and because this is not Love in the Time of Cholera (yet – Gabriel Marcia Marquez is Colombian, after all), I cannot show up at a street corner holding a thorny red rose, so I do the next best thing: Scan the intersection for other people looking similarly aloof who are clearly waiting for someone.
I spot someone who fits the description, walk towards him and ask “Luis?” He responds”Yes” and I introduce myself as Roxanne. He asks “From the email?”, I smile and nod, confirming that indeed, I was the girl who had emailed him earlier that day to inquire about the apartment.
We start to walk and are chatting about life in general, while I am impressed by the sweetness and attentiveness this Colombian is showing a foreigner (as AJM humorously pointed out, they call this “being tricked by your positive attitude” – a pitfall to which I will succumb over “being trapped in your negative one” any day of the week). We get to the apartment, Luis gets me coffee, and we sit on the couch talking about the kind of music we like, my work and other interview-like matters. Nothing seems out of the ordinary; after all, roommates often want to know what Eurotrashy tunes may be blasting from their prospective new tenant’s bedroom.
Eventually, I ask a very logistical question – something like “does the rent include utilities?” or “do you have a washing machine?” Luis looks at me with mild bewilderment and asks why I would want to know. I pause, thinking I probably misspoke in a foreign language, since the whole conversation has been taking place in Spanish, a language I have not spoken in three years and which I have managed to pepper with Arabic expressions at every turn. I say slowly “because that is important if I am to live here?” Luis looks mortified: “You are moving in?!”
I respond… “well, you did post an apartment listing, did you not?”, to be met with an incredulous “Apartment listing? I was on a dating website!”
As it turns out, Luis had indeed exchanged emails with a girl whom he arranged to meet at that street corner, which is apparently a popular meeting point. The girl had used a screen name, so her real life name could have been Roxanne or Lorena or Annabel Lee for all he knew. The second he realized this, he bolted off the couch and dashed to said street corner, in case the actual girl of his dreams was still waiting for him. I hope she was.
Update: Tomorrow I will move into my new apartment, with new (non-Luis) roommates and yes, a washing machine. And what do you know, utilities are included.