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My sweet crib

Finally moved into my new place. I spent the last three days pretty solidly looking for housing. The first day I made an appointment with this agent who usually finds housing for ACC alumni. I figured she would be good since Meghan had recommended her, and Jin Laoshi brought her up the other day. She took me to see four places that day, and was very cordial and paid for my water and transportation and all, and offered to take me to a peach orchard sometime, but her houses were dumps. The first place was a joke. She said, "I figure you'll want a cheap place, so let's go see this one first, I'm sure it will be right for you." We took a bus for half an hour to get there, on the north side of Chaoyang Park. We walked off the main street a ways, past one of those big trash piles which naturally accumulate in public spaces, and down this little alley with squat shoddy brick housing. I waited for ten minutes while she fiddled with the door to the courtyard, which we finally had to get some old lady inside to open for us. The courtyard turned out to be less of a courtyard and more of just a corridor between these little houses. The one she showed me was filthy, had two bedrooms with moldy beds, a sink in the bathroom with a single lever which was almost inaccessible because of a pipe which ran across the wall above it, a midget size toilet, and if I remember correctly, no sink in the kitchen. The centerpiece of the house was a big shiny TV in the middle of the living room. She explained that, thanks to falling real estate prices, this place could be mine for only 1,600 RMB, a great deal cheaper than the 4,000 RMB it used to go for. According to my calculations, this means that the foreigners to whom she rents have become only a bit more than 50% less stupid.

For some reason (it must have been the heat) I didn't thank her for her time right then and go home, and followed her to three other places. The next one was the only one worth considering, a comfy flat on the south side of Worker's Stadium for 2,000. It was old, though, with the screwed up Chinese kind of plumbing where you have to adjust the water for your shower in the kitchen before you get in, among other backwards features, including a fridge in the foyer, a washing machine in the hallway, and again, a midget size toilet. The next was "convieniently located" on Sanlitun bar street, so that I could be jeered at every time I came home. The last was just unremarkable, crappy, and over 2,000 RMB. The lady loaded me up with water and iced tea and sent me on my way, where I would consider in what kind of poverty-stricken housing I would like to spend my next six months.

My intention was to spend the next day looking for individual posts by landlords on some online housing classifieds, but the site which I had found before had mysteriously disappeared, and the rest of the sites seemed to be either filled with posts from middlemen, or not have anything that I was looking for. I got fed up with this fairly quickly and went over to a 我爱我家, "I Love My Home," which I figured must be good since you see at least two on every block, and told them what I was looking for, including my price range. Somehow everything they were suggesting to me was either just at my price limit or higher, and they were very pushy. Anyway I figured I would just humor them and go see a place for 2,000. They asked me if I wanted to bike or take a cab over. I opted for a cab. When we got to the apartment, the lady turns around and says, "That's ten kuai for the cab." I expressed my incredulity, and we went up to see the place. It was much nicer than anything the lady had shown me the day before, in that it was clean, all of its appliances were in sensible locations, and it felt spacious. I said I liked it and would consider it, to which the agent told me that I had better make my decision before somebody else took the place. We took the bus back, and I decided I would probably not see this agent again.

That night I met up with Nick for dinner, started feeling antsy, and ran over to the agency to tell them that if they could talk the landlord down to 1,800, I would take it and pay all six months up front. They called him up and talked him down to 1,900. I tried to get them to point out to him that the refridgerator was a piece of crap, and that I wouldn't pay more than 1,800, but they blew me off, and, like a foreigner bargaining in China, I accepted their price.

The next day I paid the agency fee of a month's rent, biked over to the apartment and signed the lease. Actually I read the lease over carefully first, and made them change a clause which was blatantly not in my favor. It initially said, "If the apartment or something in it is broken or needs repair because of use, the lessee will be responsible." I had them change it to "because of improper use." Thank you, Sun Laoshi, for your tedious Civil and Commercial Law class, now I may avoid being completely screwed in this deal.

Yesterday I toted an envelope with 14,100 RMB to the agency to pay for the lease and pick up my keys. It was a wonderful bonding moment where the landlord and landlady told me I should find a Chinese wife, promised to treat me as their own son, and said that I should address them as Uncle and Auntie (which I suppose is less silly in Chinese than it sounds.) I brought my small luggage over to the apartment, where I discovered that cockroaches were also thrown in for free.

I spent the entire afternoon wandering through the Liulitun area looking for the police station where I was supposed to register my residence, and by the time my feet were completely brown from the dust, I discovered that the Liulitun police station was in fact not in Liulitun, but on the other side of the fourth ring road, closer to my place. It was getting late and I needed bedsheets, so I took a bus over to the closest Carrefour, where I spent a blissful few hours buying slippers, soap, and sheets. My bed is now a plush paradise, patterned with big pink and purple flowers.

Now I have much less money than I did before. I am still keeping my fingers crossed on this job with Vertex. Geoff pretty much told me that he wished he could get me the job, but I have to wait until bosslady gets back from Shanghai to hear anything more. Well, either I'll get it or I don't. I've been waking up at 7:30 every morning, either because my habits are becoming healthy in my old age, or I'm going mad with anxiety. On the other hand, beer is one kuai cheaper in Beijing than it is in Nanjing. I took a walk outside my place last night once I had finished decorating my bed, and found a little alley just around the corner with a long row of hole-in-the-wall restaurants, with noodles, baozi, jiaozi and your standard fare of stirfry. I stepped into the first and grimiest, had a jiachang doufu and a beer, and decided that for 1,900 RMB and cockroaches I still couldn't have been ripped off that badly.

Today I will move the rest of my things over from Wang Jiangbo's place. I'd kind of like to be at frisbee in an hour, but I guess that might be a bit impractical today. Tomorrow I am scheduled for an interview with City Weekend, where I am supposed to present them with printed copies of my writing samples, which still haven't materialized...


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