Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I Am 15 Going On 16

The roommate clock continues to click higher and higher as yesterday I invited number 16 to move in too. In someways it was a bit of a hasty or emotionally charged invite, but I think it will work out alright in the end. She is one of my classmates and a good friend out here.

Ever since the semester started there has been rumors floating around all the campuses in our city that foreign students were going to be forced to move onto campus. Our school had basically said that students had until May or when their current lease ran out ( there are over 200 foreign students at our school, most of whom are 18 year old kids from other central Asian countries, whose true motive for being here is to drink, party, and have a good time living away from home). The school currently does not have on campus housing enough to accommodate everyone.

In the midst of this my classmates registration card expired and she was unable to get a hold of her landlord to go with her to register at the police station. The Police therefore gave her three days to move or she would be fined. She knew that she would soon be forced to live on campus she started to investigate different housing options. Our teacher knew of an empty apartment in her stairwell and arranged for a meeting of my classmate and the landlord. Since most tasks out here take a bit of a fight face, we normally find it better to go with a friend (someone to run interference for you).

The night we went to see the place there was no electricity (no one had lived there in five years). We used my key chain flashlight to peek around in the dark and get a general sense of the place. As we were leaving the landlady called a price that was significantly higher than what she had originally told our teacher. Even after a day long stalemate she refused to budge on the price and my roommate reluctantly agreed.

The following morning we showed up bright and early at the apartment ready to clean and polish the place (five years of coal dust can do a lot of damage). All of my roommates Uyghur friends pitched in and five of us worked steadily for almost 12 hours - okay so I didn't quite make it that long, but the rest of them did. Night came and no signed contract.

8:30 the next morning my friend was rushed along by the moving truck guys who had arrived 30 minutes early. Their efficiency is amazing, I wish I had taken pictures, these guys can carry six boxes of heavy books on their backs at one time up five flights of stairs. Which meant by 10
a. m. she had all her boxes moved into the new apartment. We then trialed the landlord for the rest of the morning as we went from office to office paying all the bills. We got back to the apartment tested the water and electricity, called a repair man and started to talk contract. This is when she springs on us that one of the bedrooms is not included. She plans to lock it and keep her stuff in it (without lowering the rent, or even acknowledging that it was one of the rooms we had painstakingly cleaned for her the day before). She asked to take the contract home for the night to go over it and so another day ended with no key in my friend's hand.

Day three ( the day she must be moved) greets us with a landlady unwilling to sign a standard lease agreement. She did not want to take responsibility for repair and maintenance of pipes and such. She had also made a detailed list of the things she was lending my friend to use in the apartment - things like the refrigerator and washing machine were expected on that list, but the plastic garbage can that you could buy at a dollar store that she wanted returned in perfect shape after a year, was a little much. These contract negotiations almost had both my friend and I in tears (partially frustration, partially pure exhaustion from the last three days). Each item she disagreed with on the contract made the knot in our stomachs tighten.

It was too much and my friend turned to me "Is that offer to live with you still open?" I willingly agreed - anything to save a friend from this nightmarish situation. So we told the landlady on the spot that unless she signed it as we gave it to her we were walking. Five minutes later we called the moving guys again, they re-picked up all the stuff and brought it to my house. Welcoming Roommate 16! She is unpacking boxes as we speak. The recently added Roommate 15 will still be staying with us 3 nights a week, and so my quiet house has become very active.

1 comment:

Randy M said...

You're such a good friend. Some people are just down right manipulative. I feel sorry for your friend having to deal with all that mess.

By the way I'm still reading your blogs and find them very interesting. I don't always comment but I do read them.