Last night, while talking to my friend David on Skype, he casually asked, "How's the apartment?" not knowing what a loaded question that was. Fortunately, David and I had lived together in college in a house that is a good parallel to the one I currently live in, so I could conjure up its spirit to make him understand just how crappy my apartment here is. Those memories carry a lot of laughter, and even though I wish I could have left the days of bad housing behind me in college, I guess I can only laugh now that they've followed me to Turkey.
Back to the house where we lived in college: it was in the small town of Oberlin, down one of the offshoots of the main square. The number was 181 1/2 (and through the making of pancake breakfasts there, I earned the name Mama 181 1/2)... The 1/2 in the address almost made it seem as if it couldn't really be considered a complete and proper house. Fittingly, it was tucked behind the number 181 and shared a wall with another house... 181 1/4, maybe. The house itself was small and had extremely thin walls. The light inside covered the taupe carpet and plywood cupboards with a hospital yellow light glow and everything in the house seemed to lean in different directions, as if they were all dancing to a different beat. My room was the middle one of three on the top floor and had a cozy slanted ceiling. We used to joke that our landlord... we'll call him Bill, had built it with cardboard and super glue. It was like the kid who had put minimal effort into his class' "Dream House" project in math, not bothering to make the walls straight or anything proportional, had bought the cheapest materials he could find in his basement, and slapped it together minutes before it was due. This Bill had properties throughout the town and was notorious amongst college students for the low quality of his abodes. There were squirrels in the walls and many a winter morning would start with the pitter patter of small rodent feet scurrying. Sometimes, while leaving the house, we'd even see Bill on the roof, trying to locate the squirrels' exact whereabouts. There was also an occasion where feces came out of the shower drain, but I’ll spare you the details. The house was a true dump.
My current apartment is my old apartment's distant cousin in the old country. It has the same hospital glow, which makes everything look like it's under investigation. The leak in the ceiling has been stopped, but the wet spot that it left has continued to spread, leaving rings to show its progress- a dingier version of the rings that mark a tree's distinguished age. The paint has buckled and continues to chip off. Everyday, I come home to a fresh coat of paint chips on our kitchen floor. It's like a winter wonderland over here. Mold has started to form colonies in the corners and I hear it has plans to band together and form a proper country soon. Hopefully, it won't go as far as to join with the other mold colonies on the bathroom ceiling. I don’t think they know about each other yet.
Dealing with my school's maintenance crew has been at once frustrating and comical, including all sorts of language barriers and misunderstandings. Jeremy took over the task of communicating with maintenance (somehow, things start to happen faster once a man gets involved here) and received an email stating that they would come in and "torn up" the ceiling. We pictured them taking out a huge chunk of ceiling to fix the problem and wondered where we would go, when this all went down. There were several emails back and forth, trying to clarify what was meant by "torn up". Finally, Jeremy asked some people from his work to translate what we understood as "torn up" to be in Turkish and sent the woman at maintenance an email saying, " I just want to clarify one item: When you used the word "torn", do you mean they will "yikmak" the ceiling? If so, should we put our things away in the apartment so the workers have more space to work? Also, when will this happen, today or tomorrow?”
He got the following response: “NO, THEY ARE NOT GOING TO “YIKMAK” J
They are going to shave the ceiling. You can put some newspapers or trash bags to the floor. So it will be much easier for you to clean the mess.
Today Ismail is coming to shave and Mehmet is coming for radiators.
Regards.” Jeremy forwarded it to me, adding, “Sounds like Ismail is going to do some grooming at our place - ha!” I still laugh, picturing Ismail coming to our house to shave in our bathroom, while Mehmet fixes the radiators.
He did indeed shave…. the ceiling. But, the paint continues to buckle and chip, and who knows when the problem will ever be solved. The difference between this apartment and Bill’s house is that rent at Bill’s was $275 (which we somehow thought was exorbitant at the time) and that here it’s about $700. We’ve been thinking about moving somewhere close, but finding a furnished place close to school is more challenging that I initially thought. For now, all I can do is laugh…. laugh ‘til I cry.