This place had some good space, but it was just too old, and not comfortable. More like an office.
This place had some good space, but it was just too old, and not comfortable. More like an office.

So when the school I was working with closed I had a few months before I needed to move out this past December. The first place I boarded at was at my amazing friend’s Joyce’s. She and another Chinese teacher were sharing a tw0-bedroom and graciously opened their place to me. They made me feel very comfortable, and I really enjoyed hanging out with them a lot there.

But then after two weeks the itch to have my own place was really naggin’ at me. I’ve had a place to call my own for a long time, so rooming up with folks, even as awesome as Joyce and Hill, was not what I ultimately wanted.

I enlisted the help of a friend and together we scoured the area for open places. Eventually we went to an agency to narrow down our choices. They helped, and it all actually felt pretty legit. They answered questions, were flexible, all that fun stuff…

ApartmentsandXM 004

Cozy, but just too far away from where I wanted to be...
Cozy, but just too far away from where I wanted to be…

ApartmentsandXM 024

I had a price range, and distance preferences. They kept those all in mind.

After a handful of days we found a place that wasn’t the greatest looking or newest, but it was perfectly positioned. I have a basic square that I exist in while in Kai Fa Qu and this apt was right smack in the middle of it. Perfect. Price was good. The guy seemed pretty helpful and accommodating. I felt OK handing over six month’s rent from the go. Generally renting contracts are between six months or one year here with many landlords requesting at least six month’s rent up front.

And then I spent a few days in the place. It was cold. The entire wall of connected windows was an obstacle the wind had no problems bypassing and saying, “Haha, hope you like pneumonia, sucker!” Only, it was in Chinese.

Being the ultra handyman that I’m not…I used a big roll of tape and taped those windows up. It actually worked.

But then the small water heater quit working. While I was taking a shower. AND REFUSED TO WORK AGAIN.

The landlord was less than helpful with this development. He wanted me to prove that it broke naturally, you know, wear and tear. Considering I’d never even touched the damn thing, I asked him how he proposed I go about “proving” anything. Have someone look at it, he said. Who, I asked. No answer. And then it occurred to me that it didn’t matter. Anyone I’d get he’d just say wasn’t qualified.

I actually stayed here for a month...until the Landlord became a jerk.
I actually stayed here for a month…until the Landlord became a jerk.

ApartmentsandXM 030

Gotta love a spiral staircase, right? Not when it's in the middle of what should be a living room and leads to a second floor you can't stand straight up on.
Gotta love a spiral staircase, right? Not when it’s in the middle of what should be a living room and leads to a second floor you can’t stand straight up on.

It was at this time my friend revealed to me that the landlord had made a move on her. He called her and said he was in love with her. BAM! Yup. What about your wife, my friend inquired. Oh, my wife? Yeah, buttmunch, your wife. Well, turns out she’s in Japan, so, yeah, alls fair when you’re a creep and stuff. So when my friend just flat out turned him down he insisted they never see each other again. Fine by everybody, trust me.

But then that’s when his Helpful Guy attitude turned to a Resentful Buttnugget Guy attitude.

Back to the heater.

After he refused to simply repair or replace the heater we asked about the price. He jumped around from 1,000RMB to 5,000. His answers varied from having just bought it at a store, just bought it online, and my favorite, having bought it from a friend online (who in no way could produce a receipt of any kind).

So we went to the store. And checked out these heaters. By the way, they are these one foot-by-one foot, two inch thick plastic contraptions that just latch onto your water pipes.  The prices were much lower than the 5K. But we weren’t satisfied. We asked the workers if these particular heaters were adequate for shower heating. Not at all. BAM. Didn’t even provide a proper heater. God, I really wanted to kick this guy with my steel-toed boots at this point.

When we called the agency to see if they could do anything about this they were of no help. We went to their offices and complained. Showing them the contract and highlighting where it lists the landlord’s responsibilities did nothing. They already got paid, and not by us. The landlord gave them a percentage of the rent, so we were not their customers. They couldn’t have cared less. Why even sign a contact if the darn thing was useless, we asked. Shrugs. Basically, just shrugs. My list of people to kick was growing.

When we attempted to reason with this landlord ONE MORE TIME he just refused to pay or be of any more “assistance.” When I asked him if something else broke naturally of wear and tear would I have to pay for it, too. He said probably, yes.

I’m Out. I told him fine, I’m moving today. It was 4 something in the afternoon and I spontaneously decided not to be involved with this moron any longer. But where to go?

Back to Joyce’s. I’d been keeping her abreast of the issues I was having and she didn’t even hesitate to offer her place again. She’s amazing.

We packed all my crap up (which fits in one car load) and drove it back to her apt. And then my friend said something. She wondered if the landlord would try to come over tonight and mess with something and then say it was me who broke it so he could shake us down for more money. I immediately decided to spend the last night camped on the couch just to make sure he didn’t try anything. I stayed in the empty place half hoping he showed up. I’d finally get to introduce him to my Pro Steel-Toed boots.

Alas, he never showed, but the idea wasn’t as absurd as it sounds. Before I moved in, but after the utilities were already checked, I stopped by to find three lights in the place on and no one around. Who knows how long the lights were left like that. That was the first sign and I should have heeded it.

I spent that morning going over what I’d say to him when he came back to give me the money he owed me, and I had some choice Chinese phrases I was excited to try out. Then, shortly before he came, my friend reminded me that he could still cause much more trouble for me than I could for him. We didn’t know if he had good Guanxi with anyone, and he could also get my passport info from the agency. In the end I settled for just eyeing the twit the whole time. Even when he tried to stretch a smile across his smarmy fat face I just eyed ’em. It took him a bit, but when I refused his pen and used my own he finally got it. He looked at me, his smile dropped, and just stared back before ducking his head and not making eye contact with me again. Yes, it was childish, but if felt good to ignore his personal space and force him to walk around me when he had to move through the place.

He gyped me some money, but I knew that was going to happen since I was the one to technically break the contract. Whaterver.

When we left I took a deep breath and just tried to let it go, slime and all.

And this is the place I'm currently in. It's small, but clean and completely new.
And this is the place I’m currently in. It’s small, but clean and completely new.
Landlords bought new everything.
Landlords bought new everything.
Not too bad...
Not too bad…

Back to Joyce’s I went, and that’s where I stayed for more than two weeks. I spent Chunjie, Spring Festival alone while she and Hill went back to their hometowns, but on Feb 28th I moved into my new place. The landlords are a married couple who let me pay for only three months rent, and bought all new stuff. Microwave, fridge, TV, couch, desk, shower–all new. And the heater is great.

It feels good to have a place that’s mine once again, not part of a school package or even a loyal friend’s apartment, but all mine. It’s a small place, but it’s good enough for me. I even sweep the floor everyday.