Friday, December 12, 2008

Foreign Devils

We are being continually flummoxed in our quest for proper housing.

Our main lead for a nice house evaporated today in a poof of smoke. We had been waiting for three days to have a meeting with the woman who owns the house that was suggested by our friend Mr. Krishnagopal. Laurel and I gamely got on the ferry boat to Fort Cochin this morning, and caught an auto-rickshaw to the Santa Cruz Basilica. We walked to the house from there. When we were ushered inside, Mrs. Gomes greeted us with a couple of glasses of mango juice and we had a nice chat. After getting down to brass tacks, however, she wanted 40,000 Rs. per month for a two bedroom house with no AC! Naturally, this was out of the question, and we politely made our exit.

Some of the info we got from her did explain why we have been getting such an unexpected cold shoulder on the housing front. Apparently, in the these terrorist-rich times, owners who rent to foreigners are obligated to fill out a mountain of extra paperwork and report all the details of their tenants to the local police. This was news to us. I spent a good chunk of yesterday on the phone to realtors trying to arrange showings of properties we found on the net. The first question that they ask is "What company are you here working for?" I'm not sure if my response to the effect that we are an unemployed family of soap-making hippie dharma bums generated much enthusiasm. I discovered the hard way that "I will call you back in a half hour" is actually Indian for "You foreign devils can sleep in the street for all I care".

We still have some options to pursue. The hotel that we are at is, despite being incredibly noisy with the constant construction that pervades this country, staffed by some rather nice and helpful people. There is one especially nice chap who has offered to make some calls on our behalf tomorrow when the latest wave of listings comes out in the local paper. The paper is not in English, so without his help, we would be reduced to almost walking around to apartment buildings and knocking on doors. We still have hope that a 3 bedroom air-conditioned apartment is available for less than we are renting our own house out for. AC is essential, as it is already 37 C., and the hot season has yet to begin.

Laurel and I did go out to see a place yesterday that was being rented for 15,000 Rs per month, which is in our budget. After a harrowing auto-rickshaw ride that saw our driver get lost at least three times, we managed to locate this brand new place. It was owned by a Mr. Aggarwhal, who greeted us somewhat nervously at the gate. He had a real deer in the headlights thing going on, and he seemed unsure of what the foreigners would do next. Would we cover ourselves in whisky and fornicate in his driveway, while listening to Britney Spears on the boom box that all foreigners carry with them? Were we packing heat? Were we going to rob him? Anyway, he showed us this really huge and cavernous suite that would have been perfect if the construction were actually complete and if there was a single stick of furniture in the place. When asked how long it would take to finish the construction, we received the classic "No problem.. Few days..." It had a rooftop deck and everything, but no fridge, no cooker, no furniture, and obviously, no deal.

If we don't find something in the next few days, we may have to regroup and alter our plan of attack.

On the positive side, we have a restaurant across the street that serves up some pretty wicked fish thali. Isaac has developed a taste for Masala Dosa over the last couple of days. My consumption of beer has declined somewhat drastically, as buying alcohol in Kerala appears to be the social equivalent to booking regular visits to the Safe Injection Clinic. Yes, it's possible, but it ain't easy. I did manage to locate a beer to take back to the room last night, but not before walking 4 blocks, negotiating past a bar scene that resembled something out of Star Wars, and ending up at a steel cage worthy of a maximum security prison. The young man behind the steel cage only had one kind of beer, which he took great delight in charging exorbitantly for. I very nearly had to fill out paperwork.

I walked back to the hotel in the dark, creeping along a narrow lane through putrid smoke smelling of plastic and dead things. Past the humping wild dogs, impassive goats, and crumbling buildings. Clutching my beer by the neck like a potential weapon, I felt like.... a foreign devil.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Sounds a lot like finding beer in Utah.