The Piso Search: A Conclusion

20 Sep

I know that many of you have been eagerly awaiting the latest installment in the saga that is my housing hunt. Good news, this is the conclusion. I haven’t written in a while because the last week has been a roller coaster in terms of finding a place to permanently lay my head at night. It was, by far, the most dramatic season finale ever. To continue my Bachelor metaphor, think about the season where the Bachelor proposed to one woman during the finale, but was with someone else by the time the show actually aired. That has been my life for the past week.

To give you an idea of the piso search (and to prove I am not being dramatic), here is my Piso Hunt by the Numbers:

  • 78– landlords contacted
  • 30– flights of stairs I carried my luggage up or down
  • 15- days it took to find a place
  • 14– pisos visited
  • 8– number of times I moved my 50+ pound of luggage from one location to another
  • 6– amount of times I almost cried in public places
  • 3– number of times I moved my luggage using the Metro system (yes, I had to transfer between lines)
  • 3- number of times I served as entertainment in the Metro during rush hour
  • 2– number of elderly people tripped with my giant suitcase (Oops)
  • Innumerable– steps taken and stairs climbed in my treks across the city

So last week, I was still in search of place to live and feeling hopeful about my prospects. That hope was short lived. Let’s just say I contemplated stepping off the sidewalk into an oncoming car just to have enough of an excuse to stay in a hospital (a warm, free place to lay my head). I didn’t do it, don’t worry, but the thought did fleetingly cross my weary mind.

I had many memorable experiences with landlords. One invited multiple girls over the apartment at the same time. Again, there was a great deal of eyeing up the competition. But this was interesting as we were all from different countries: the US, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France. It was like the United Nations up in that apartment! And then, another landlord wanted me to message him “about myself” and to treat it like a job interview of sorts. So, I played along, but he didn’t choose me. Perhaps I made myself seem a little too nerdy. I guess the giving out of roses goes both ways in this situation.

The most ridiculous encounter that I had occurred last Friday. So, it was a Friday night, and I actually had plans to meet friends for dinner (I know, shocker). But then I saw a post about an apartment, so I hopped on it. I had to push my dinner back a bit, but that was fine. While I was being productive, I messaged another landlord about seeing an apartment. And her response was “Sure, come at 7:15.” No problem, right? Well, guess what time it was when she messaged me? 7:14. And, I was a solid half an hour away by public transportation. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? So, I hustle over and am practically running to get there. And, when I get there, the first thing she says to me was, “Oh, tranquilo, tranquilo (which means calm down).” Right, because one should be totally calm after running halfway across town. Clearly the American in me needs to get used to the slower, more relaxed, and more patient Spanish way of life.

So on Sunday, I found an apartment that I really liked. The room was brightly colored and there was this gorgeous terrace overlooking the street. I mean, what is more European than a cute little terrace? I decided to bite the bullet and go for the room. I was so excited that I even purchased ice cream as an “I finally have a place to live” treat. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my chest. I moved in on Monday (one of the times that I dragged my luggage down 5 flights of stairs). And then, I moved out on Tuesday.

This was one of the things that made my week incredibly dramatic. I woke up on Tuesday, and all I could think was that this apartment was not right for me. First, it was too loud. I know, you will say, “Rebecca, it’s a city, there are going to be noises.” Believe me, I feel pretty stupid about it. But, in all honesty, the noise was pretty bad. If I opened up said cute terrace, it was like I was in the middle of the street: honking, brakes screeching, and motors revving. And then, the more I looked around the apartment I realized that I was paying too much for the situation. So, after agonizing over the decision all day, texting my parents in the wee hours of the morning, and consulting the Fulbright Commission, I decided to leave.


Me on Tuesday when trying to decide what to do about the apartment.

The landlord was not incredibly thrilled. But, I know that it was the right decision and I was happy to be out of the situation. Thus, it came time to drag all of my worldly possessions back to the Airbnb and restart the hunt.

On Wednesday, I was met with the daunting prospect that I had no place to live and that my Airbnb reservation was only until Thursday. I had planned to reserve another Airbnb for 10 days. To make matters worse, on Wednesday night, I was informed that my Airbnb plans for the next week and a half fell through. So, I had no apartment, no temporary place to live, and I had to start school the next day. If someone had given me a ticket to fly home, let’s just say I would have taken it.

So, before school on Thursday, I dressed up in my teacher clothes, tried to look professional, and then dragged my luggage across town to a friend’s place. I don’t feel like I could accurately describe to you the feeling of carrying everything you own and maneuvering through public transportation. So, here’s a picture instead.


Casually moving 50+ pounds of luggage before school

I would also like to mention that one Metro station that I used had a broken elevator (which meant another flight of stairs for me to summit) and the other didn’t even have an elevator. So, as you can imagine, it was a morning.

After work on Thursday, I continued the piso hunt. And, I was successful! This place doesn’t have an artsy terrace or my own bathroom, but it is in a nice location, has a comfy bed, and there is plenty of room for me to exercise in my room (yeah, we will see how that goes). And don’t worry, it’s not too noisy. It was perfect timing, finding a place that worked so that I didn’t have to reserve another Airbnb.

I moved in on Friday evening and it felt so good to unpack all of my things. I never imagined how frustrating it would be to live out of a suitcase for over two weeks. Everything was wrinkled and I could never seem to pack it as well as I did the first time. Granted, the room is not completely organized and might already be messy (sorry, Mom), but it is mine. And, I have even made my bed for the last four days in a row.


Excited to be moving my luggage across town for (hopefully) the last time

So, I have now accomplished the big three logistical tasks in another country: getting a cell phone plan, opening a bank account, finding a place to live. Wow. This has been such a roller coaster of an experience.  I managed not to cry in any public places or  hop on the next plan to New Jersey.

It has been such a learning experience. After all, I lived on campus for four years, so I have never searched for an apartment before or discussed finances/contracts with landlords. I managed to do all that, and do it in Spanish. I am learning to trust my gut instinct about things and act on both that gut feeling and the knowledge that I have. Most importantly, I learned how thankful I am to have such strong support systems.

My parents back home kept me sane throughout this whole journey: encouraging me to stay positive, offering any advice they could, and just making me laugh about the experience. And, the great friends that I have met here have been so helpful. People that I didn’t know two weeks ago have let me sleep on their floors, helped me brainstorm solutions after I didn’t have an Airbnb to stay at, and have commiserated with me about the lack of a permanent living situation. These support systems were what kept me from going crazy and attempting to board an American Airlines flight.

I know, the end of this post was a little sappier than usual. My apologies, it has been an interesting week and I’m just so thankful to know where I will be sleeping/working/eating/watching reality TV for the next nine months. So yes, you could say that this apartment has received my final rose.


The new humble abode


One Response to “The Piso Search: A Conclusion”

  1. Margaret M.Turner October 7, 2016 at 12:12 am #

    Rebecca…my heart goes out to you. I could never have gone to another country without having a place to live. You truly deserve a good cry! But I bet your stronger for it. Now you can really enjoy your experience of Spain & make memories that will be with you forever.
    See you in Dec
    Your favorite neighbor

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