It all began the first day we arrived back in Rio after I went home to NY and Eli traveled around Europe. Our landlord, after stealing a good portion of stuff from the apartment, then announced that he was kicking us out and that we had until the end of December to find another place. Literally every day since then, we have scoured the real estate ads and have called dozens of realtors and owners. We visited apartments listed as being furnished that were completely empty, apartments with crap scattered everywhere from the last owners that required a proof of income, and an apartment that claimed to have a great view, that actually had a view of the asphalt through a barred window. I began to think that it was harder to find a decent apartment in Rio than in Manhattan.
But then we came across an apartment that had everything it promised and more: a one bedroom on two levels in a very fancy building, with a small private pool and two terraces. The obvious problem was the price. So we sat down with the owner one day, a Brazilian who lives in Europe, to try to negotiate. He brought his employee who usually shows the apartment and some random family members, which I thought was inappropriate. He told us he'd consider lowering the price if we compensated the "lost amount" with ads on our website, and asked us to send him a proposal. (This was because, he claims, that he has had people renting the apartment every day ever since he bought it and would lose money by lowering the price. This Eli and I knew to be complete BS, considering the inflated price and non-touristy neighborhood). So we sent him a proposal, and after a lot of back and forth emails, he got back to us a week after the last email we sent, saying he wasn't interested in putting ads on the site and that his only offer was the original, incredibly inflated price. It seems his greed outweighed his common and business sense.
But by then, we'd already found the perfect place.
I usually made Eli make all of the phone calls inquiring about apartments, since I feared that we'd get the "gringo" price otherwise. But I saw this one ad that was so tempting that I decided to just make the call, since Eli wasn't home. I was told they were showing the apartment that very night, so I threw on some jeans and off I went. Eli and our co-worker met me on the way, and as soon as we walked in, I knew this was it.
It's a two bedroom furnished apartment, and both bedrooms and the living room have panoramic views of Sugarloaf Mountain and Guanabara Bay. There are two bathrooms, though one is the "servant's bathroom," which has a toilet and a showerhead in the ceiling. There's also a storage room that I believe was originally the servant's quarters. Creepy.
Anyway, we decided to get right on with the negotiations, since January is the worst possible time to try to find a place and we were running out of time. We went over and gave the deposit to the owner's employee, and told him we could move in on the 31st or the 1st, since we'd already paid our rent on our old apartment.
But since the apartment owner is, shall we say, very concerned with money, she insisted we move in on the 27th, since she claimed there were other people interested in the apartment who would have moved in sooner, and therefore she was losing money but letting us move in later. Fine, we said. We'd pay the rent by the 27th and move in officially on the 31st, since we were desperate. She claimed this would also provide time to turn on the gas.
However, when the person came to turn on the gas, he claimed something was wrong and that he'd have to come back and fix the tubing. Hence, the gas could not be turned on in time for our unofficial move in day. We reported this to the owner's employee, and later got this response: We can lend you a small can of gas to use and take R$100 off of next month's rent, or we can give you your money back and rent the apartment to somebody else. Thanks, lady.
So yesterday, with enormous help from Eli's parents, we moved most of our stuff into the new place and also had cable TV, internet, and a phone line installed. Eli's parents were really excited, claiming the new place was so much nicer than the old one. The whole move was a family affair, and Eli's sister and aunt came too, and all of Eli's stuff was put away nicely and neatly by none other than...you guessed it, his mom. We were so exhausted from the party we threw the night before that it was a pretty miserable move, but it got done.
In the meantime, we have to clean the apartment and take the rest of our stuff over to the new apartment (thankfully, just three blocks away) before we give our keys back. It's our last night here and I'm trying really hard not to think about it. Even though there are things I don't like about this place, I've grown to love it with every fiber of my being. I've come to overlook the four flights of stairs we have to walk up every day, the gas box we have to light to get hot water in the shower, the couch covered in blankets, the tiny kitchen, and the double beds we pushed together, considering everything I love about it. I love the walls, which are each painted a different shade of blue and faint green, the high ceilings, the airy bedroom, the location on a lovely street, and of course, above all, the view of Cristo from every room.
I hate being kicked out, which has given me a tiny but real taste of what it's like to lose your home, which many Americans have recently. Even though we were only here for a year, we made this place our home, a little nook we carved out in this huge city. It was the first place we lived together, where we learned how to co-exist, dealing with the ups and downs of Rio and life. It wasn't just our home; it was our office, our bar, our hideaway. I fell in love with it just like I would a person, and from now on, every time I pass the building I think my heart will ache like it used to over ex-boyfriends. I loved this place so much that I convinced myself we could stay here for as long as we wanted, and maybe even buy it some day. Ha. Every day since I moved to Brazil, I've gotten a little less naive, in one way or another.
So I'm going to go curl up on the couch and stare up at Cristo for one last night. I guess it's just the end of another chapter in my adventures in Rio.