Saturday, May 23, 2009

King of My Own Castle

Well, here I am. Sitting in my apartment. Typing a blog on the internet in real time. Yes, you read that correctly. I am on the internet in my own apartment. On May 1st I packed up my boxes, said goodbye to my third host family and traveled twenty minutes across town (3 minutes by taxi) to my new pad. It's on the second floor of the only three story apartment building in Zhelezinka, so everybody knows where I live when I tell them "The 3 storier." My apartment consists of a spacious living room, a bedroom and a small kitchen. There is a bathroom (more on that later) and an entry way for taking off shoes and hanging up coats, plus a small, glassed in balcony that is currently overrun by drying underwear (hand washing is not fun).

After a couple days I had unpacked my boxes and suitcases, arranged my books on the window sill and hung pictures up on my walls. I rearranged some furniture in the living room, put new sheets on my bed and washed all the pots and pans that had been left for me. One huge benefit of this apartment is all the furniture and most of the dishes were left behind. I have barely bought a thing besides a sharper knife, bedding and hand towels. Megan came over for the first evening and we cooked pelmini, my favorite local dish. Jane came the next day to keep me company.

On Saturday some men from my school came by to do some work on my toilet that supposidly didn't work because of a bad tank. They hooked it up, put a bucket under the place it dripped and said they'd come back later with a new tank that wouldn't drip. That's when things started to go wrong. Sunday morning at 7 am I woke up to a pounding on my door. I enquired who it was and the reply came that it was a neighbor. She commanded me to open the door. Me being a obliging American, I turned the key and opened the door. I was nearly trampled by the small Kazakh woman who stormed in, screaming about a leaking ceiling. She charged into my bathroom to discover that it was flooded.

She ranted and raved at me until I finally pushed her out the door and called my landlady. She came hurrying over and saw the mess. She began mopping it up and blamed it on the workers from my school for hooking up a leaky toilet. I wasn't convinced that was the problem, since the leak persisted even after the toilet was unhooked and the tank drained.

The water got shut off after some time. It was a problem because the Soviets who built this apartment decided they could save money if they didn't put a shutoff valve in each apartment
but instead one for the entire building. So now all the neighbors were angry that the water had been shut off.

Over the next two weeks I was constantly hounded by my downstairs neighbor whose ceiling dripped whenever the water was turned on and other neighbors who wanted water. I, in turn, hounded my landlady, who assured me that she was working diligently on the problem. This turned out to not be the case. She didn't want to pay for this repair, so was pretending to get work done and really getting nowhere. No less than three different men came to look at the problem and all said the same thing: there is a pipe that is rotted and has to be replaced. Then nothing would happen.

After two weeks of no water, people were very angry. The water would occasionally get turned on and then the lady downstairs would race around until it was shut off again. I kept telling my neighbors that something would be done soon, and it rarely did. I missed a soccer game/tournament because I was sitting waiting for the plumbers that never came one Saturday. I developed a strong ability to yell in Russian as well. My neighbors came a few times yelling and telling me to do something, to call my landlady. She would yell for five minutes until I would become fed up and yell back that I can't do anything well she was yelling at me. I'd usher her out the door, getting angrier and angried (though I still empathized). Finally, the neighbor threatened to go to a judge and sue both me and my landlady about this. She ended up calling the director of my school.

I, Slave (my counterpart) and the vice-directors were called into a meeting with her. She wanted to know what was going on and what we were going to do about it. We explained it (Slava laying some of the blame at my feet for wanting to move out on my own) and she told us to get it
done now. Slava and a worker from the school ran off to get somebody who could replace the pipe.

The men came, they worked for a couple hours, and got it done. My landlady agreed to pay them for the work. They had to tear apart my bathroom a bit to get it done, but I didn't mind. Finally, the water was running, nothing was leaking and peace returned to the 3 storier. Lots of the neighbors came to watch the welder work and comment on it. I thanked them, and finally, after two weeks, relaxed and let the stress leave my body.

After that, I got internet hooked up. Now I'm online entirely too much. Even with all the problems and stress, I'm still very happy to have moved out, I like this apartment and I think my remaining time will pass quickly and happily.

In other areas of life, things are good too. School is over officially tomorrow. I have a frisbee
camp coming up in a couple weeks with five volunteers coming from out of town to help run it. I've got plans to do some work with the local hospital that hopefully I can begin on now that things are settled in my apartment. Things with the girlfriend are good, especially now that we don't have to impose on anybody if she comes to visit. I've got books to read, I'm cooking my own meals (which is nice because it fills up some of my free time that was incredibly boring before). Life is good.


Randy said...

Nice to hear the whole story, and I'm glad you are standing up to pushy neighbors. It doesn't sound like your fault anyway, since this would have happened to anyone who moved in next. It does sound like the landlady could use a good lawsuit or two, but I'm glad you aren't involved.

Nora said...

I find it's easier to get angry when speaking Russian... isn't it great when your grammar goes out the window but people can still figure out what you mean? Yelling (and a few choice words) is universal! Good luck with camp, wish I was there....