Site Visit – Late October
“You only have to live with the host family for three months, right?”
“Yes, then I want to live on my own.”
“Okay, well we’ll help you when that time comes.”
“Don’t forget, I want to move out of my host family house at the end of January. Can you help me find a place to live? Something near the center of town. Nothing expensive.”
“Of course. We’ll find something nice.”
“Have you heard of houses available? I really want to move out at the end of January and someone has to come approve a place before I can move.”
“There’s one house, it’s 1200Q.”
“Um, that’s a little expensive.”
“Yeah, but that’s all there is.”
“I really need to find a place to live.”
“It’s almost February! We need to find you a place to live.”
“Don’t worry about it. I saw a sign for an apartment and went to look at it last week. It’s perfect. Doris is coming next week to approve it.”
End of January
“Why are you going to move there?! I have a fully furnished house you can live in for the same amount!”
“You should have told me you wanted to move, my daughter has a house she’s renting that’s really nice!”
“You’re moving there?! It’s really loud there.”
“That’s where you meant? I hear people get robbed there.”
“Well, you better not get to close to your neighbor, she starts drama.”
“There’s bolos around there all the time, you better be careful.”
Now, before my parents start freaking out, the apartment is safe. I have bars on the windows and double locks. My apartment is surrounded by three other households with families in them. I am literally a 20 second walk from my office and the municipal police station. And I have seen no bolos (drunks) nearby. I’m sure the safety concerns are based on some kind of incident in the past, but with the way chisme (gossip) flies around here and the way stories get twisted and facts lost, it’s impossible to figure out exactly what happened. So, rest assured, I feel safe.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t alarmed and then annoyed by the comments on moving day though. I had been looking for over a month and they had known since October I wanted to eventually live alone. I got NO HELP throughout this process and then the day that I move, all of a sudden, everyone is concerned. And everyone has a better option. That they apparently couldn’t have told me about two weeks earlier.
In the end, though, I’m glad I’m here. I have my own space, my own bathroom. I’m cooking for myself (and back to being a vegetarian) and am slowly but surely turning this into the place where I will (hopefully) be living the rest of my service. Yes, I loved my host families and completely understand the importance of staying with one in order to aid in language and integration, but in the end, I am 23 and have been living away from my own family for the last five years. And I was really tired of sharing a bathroom between seven people.
(And, as an added bonus, the landlord is really great. He installed the bars on the windows, bought and installed a water heater, repainted and offered to clean up the front courtyard area for me. All for free. Unheard of. )
Clockwise from top left: The front of my new home, my bedroom (yes, I sleep in my sleeping bag. i’ll get bedsheets eventually…), from the bedroom looking at the front door, the kitchen/everything else room and the door to the bathroom. Like the newly painted (and orange) walls?