No–I swear I’m 30, or, The Great Piso Hunt Part I

So apparently I can’t actually post pictures to my blog? Mrrowr. No good. Hopefully this is a bug I can work out (or my own techtardedness I can work out) when I tap Anthony for his sweet, sweet computer skillz. In short, please bear with me–I’ve got some really great photos I’d like to show off, but you won’t be able to see them for a while yet. Unless, of course, you go here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tealywhitman/

Anyhow… I could summarize the entire course of events up until today, Sunday the 10th, but let’s get to the best (and by best I mean most excruciating) portion of it: the great piso hunt.

“Piso” is the Spanish equivalent of “apartment,” and, yes, I needed to find my own once I got here–and all by myself. I’d been preparing for la caza for a few weeks, scouring easypiso.com, loquomadrid and segundamano and hoping for something great and to have some appointments already orchestrated for when I arrived in Madrid. Alas: nothing. Day two came, I’d deployed out a battery of friendly “HimynameisCaitlinI’minterestedinyourpisoNOI’mnotpsychoticandyes,havelivediwthallwomenbeforeandamwillingtolivingwithonlymenevenifIhavetocleanPSmybudgetisn’tregal.” Despite my friendliness and careful attention to conjugation and appropriate use of vosotros, I received nigh on zero replies. That’s when I started making phonecalls.

My first appointment was in the Pacifico barrio–certainly not a bad place to live–inside of a gated community with a pool, a lovely gardeny area, and seemingly nice, kempt buildings. I was to meet a woman named Natalia, with whom I’d exchanged a number of pleasant emails. Nervous, I took my first solo metro trip to Pacífico, asked for directions once, and managed not to navigate myself into a hole in the sidwalk as I’d feared. All was auspicious, but I walked into a pit of cigarettes and shame. The room for rent was roughly 7X5, overheated, full of cigarette butts in every kind of receptacle imaginable and equipped with ripped sheets and a badly abused nighstand. The situation didn’t improve in the living room where scabarous swaths of paint were peeling off of walls, Natalia was indeed a sweetheart, her roommates were nice enough, but I was feeling overwhelmed and scared, squeaked out three or four words and retreated to dinner at the residencia. That one, in case there was any confusion, was a no.

The next day I foraged out with Talia to drop off a deposit at her prospective piso, shared with 8 other international girls (where there was a vague prospect of my moving in in October, barred by a fishy subletting situation and the imminent arrival of a German girl who hadn’t yet wired in her deposit, but was going to.). Anyway. Moving on. She was then kind enough to accompany me to an appointment she had set up in a rather nice part of Atocha and allowed me to visit anyhow. Alas, the space available was more suitable for Polly Pocket than Annie Amazon, which became ever more apparent in the wedge-shaped bathroom (and I mean a wedge with a 50 degree angle–make no mistake). That was also a no.

That evening I received an email from a very friendly man who was very interested in the ad I posted. Taking a gander at the photos he sent, he also had a pretty sweet setup and a nice piso to offer. Yaz, this very excited, seemingly friendly man, stated in his email that I should come for a looksee that afternoon. I was excited. Hoping to make a new friend with somone so friendly, I decided to call him. The conversation went like this:
“Hello, Yaz?”
“Yes. This is Yaz.”
“This is Caitlin. You emailed me about a room for rent? I’m interested–it looks great.”
“Oh. Oh. Caitlin… yes.”
“Yes. Well, can I come by? You said this afternoon.”
“Where are you from?”
“Um, I’m from the United States.”
(pause)
“Hello? Yaz?”
“Uh… no… I…. I just got really busy. Not today. Maybe Monday. Yes–call me Monday.” *click*

First act of discrimination against an American. WOOT!

When Talia and I returned to the residencia that night I was disheartened, to say the least, and after trying to sleep for about an hour arose in a neurotic fervor of piso hunting glee and sent out another fleet of textual entreaties depicting me as as friendly, willing to compromise and *not* desperate as possible. Thursday morning dawned bright and clear but my email efforts had produced nothing for my wan, needy little inbox. Somehow–I’m still not sure how–I made a number of rather aggressive phonecalls, and by 11:00 a.m., I had four appointments to see pisos.

I’ll give a one or two line overview of them all: The first place was with a “party animal” (self-proclaimed, that) couple who lived in building in which the floor leading to the main stairwell had been replaced by two precariously balanced boards. Inside, there was a mattress on the floor and an incredibly dark interior. The rent was cheap, but still–call me crazy, but quality of life kind of matters to me. NEXT.

The next piso I saw was in what felt like a rather remote barrio. This apartment offered a room with internet, a land line for use with international calling cards, a fully equipped kitchen, 1.5 bathrooms and a desk and bedding, but honestly, I didn’t like the location. It was unfriendly and–how do I describe this?–large. All of the nearby buildings were TALL apartment buildings, no shops, not a wealth of pedestrians. All in all, not quite my style–not for 440E, anyway.

Piso number three was in the same-ish neighborhood, which was around here (also known as the Ronda de Toledo), but down another radial street with a little more life. I was ushered into the apartment by the nicest person I’ve met in Spain. Juan, a journalism major in his final year of school, couldn’t have been nicer to a sweaty American who’d been ghosting around the streets of Madrid in the hot for nigh on 3 hours. He sat me down, gave me a glass of water, asked me about myself and gave me a little life story, then showed me the huge, bright room that could prospectively be mine. With stucco walls boasting built in nooks, perfect to cuddle my trinkets and books, the room was heavenly. Bright, double bedded, it had its own sizeable balcony that looked out onto the mountains and gave a splendid view of the street and the Ronda. The catch? Rent clocked in around 475 euros with gas, water, and internet expenses. Despite Juan’s eminent sweetness and the room’s definite perks, it was also a no.

Dejected, tired, and nervous about my prospects of ever finding housing that would fit in my budget, synchronize with my lifestyle and general habits of cleanlines without involving five metro stops and an hour long commute to work, I headed to my last appointment.

And for many reasons, I was scared.

The final (and most important) installment of The Great Piso Hunt shall be forthcoming!

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