Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Buscar un piso en Madrid (Apartment Hunting)

Before leaving for Spain, everyone kept telling me how I must have so much confidence to go on this adventure, arrive by myself in a foreign country, and just feel comfortable with having no long-term housing plan. Well....I didn't really think about it until I was actually in the situation, but not living somewhere is kind of stressful.  Just a little bit.  The first huge relief came when I met Chloe at Nuevos Ministerios, because then I wasn't alone.  By alone, I mean: Alone on the train with three huge suitcases and an overstuffed backpack, exhausted, confused, nervous, etc.  Thank you, Chloe!

Today was my first day of apartment hunting in Madrid.  I called a bunch of apartments, and only three answered.  I want to live with students or young professionals, for obvious reasons.  At the first very tiny apartment, the person who answered the door looked about 30, and acted much older.  She was clearly in a different stage of life than me, and not that friendly either.  She told me that everyone really keeps to themselves in the apartment.  The second appointment canceled because they had already given the room to someone else.  The second apartment that I actually saw was newly renovated, and very nice, but unfurnished.  I’ll only be here for ten months, so I really am not planning to buy a bed, dresser, desk, kitchen stuff, or anything like that.  There was no kitchen table and no dining room either.  I arrived a few minutes early to the fourth appointment, called the contact number, and the person told me that someone had rented the room a few hours earlier.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.  I need somewhere to live.

The next morning, at the first apartment I visited, I was told that overnight guests were not allowed, even if the guests were my parents.  Obviously, I vetoed that apartment.  It also didn’t have the internet or an oven.  The apartment after that had a somewhat sketchy, hidden entrance, and was really far outside of the city.  Not good.  I saw a few more apartments, picked one, and got the keys. 

The next day, I went with my keys to move my suitcases in, and the entire apartment had changed.  Filthy barely describes it.  Dirt everywhere.  Barely functional washing machine.  Nearly broken stove top.  And the roommates clearly didn’t want to deal with me.  There I was, one of my suitcases, unpacking and panicking.  Really, really panicking.  I left about an hour later and called my mom, who wisely suggested that I re-pack, return the keys, and get out of there ASAP since I hadn’t signed a lease or paid any rent/deposit. 

I very awkwardly went back, with Julie, the other Ayudante.  She kindly helped me pack as fast as we could.  I returned the keys, and we pretty much ran out the door.

My new kitchen
Fortunately I had seen another apartment I really liked earlier that day, so we went straight there (i.e. dragged heavy suitcases up and down the metro stairs), and I got the keys.  The new apartment was super-fantastic.  Welcoming, friendly, roommates (Ana and Manuel).  Clean apartment.  Private bathroom.  Interior window (quieter).  Great location.  Very happy. 
I learned that my camera could take B&W photos
while I was in the kitchen.
Entryway of my building.
Reina Sofía
I seem to prefer living near culturally important things.  In Boston, I lived down the street from Fenway Park for two years.  At UChicago, I inquired about living next to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House for the upcoming school year.  Mom suggested I rent a room in President Obama’s house instead…lol.  Here, I chose a super location – right next to El Museo de la Reina Sofía, where Picasso’s “Guernica”, a painting about the Spanish Civil War, is housed.  I’ve always been a huge Picasso fan, and I love going to this museum to see “Guernica.”  I also really like “The Old Guitarist,” another Picasso painting, which lives in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Here are a few photos from my neighborhood: 

Gate of the Anthropological Museum

Atocha Renfe Station
Metro, Cercanias, & Ave
One of those street views that exclaims,
 "Look Mom, I'm in Europe!"

If the street doesn't say,
 "Look, Mom, I'm in Europe,"
 then this statue definitely does.

This chaotic, stressful process of apartment hunting happened over four days.  I am very grateful to Chloe, a former Ayudante, for letting me stay in her apartment while I searched for a place to live.  Thanks, Chloe!!

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