Apartment Hunting: Take Two

I feel a little sheepish as I write this, because two week ago today, I was completely enthralled with an apartment we'd seen- only the second one we'd visited, and counting my lucky stars for having found a mold-less place with natural light and an exposed brick wall. The first apartment we had seen was unfurnished, also had mold growing on the walls, and smelled like wet dog and finding the second place felt like we had finally found a decent place to live- a diamond in the rough.

Well, last weekend, we went to take another look at the apartment and the neighborhood in the light of day.... and let me tell you, that second look took a right hook my rosy colored glasses and smashed them underfoot. We got to the area a little earlier than the appointment and decided to have a look around. We walked down the stairs and through the underpass that led right into the street branched off of 'ours'. The one concern about the apartment had been having to go through this underpass to reach it- an underpass that felt a bit dodgy late at night. We strolled past the apartment, thought about knocking, but decided to explore the neighborhood a bit instead. A few paces down was an empty lot, that I definitely hadn't noticed when we came at night. It was completely filled with trash- mostly bags of trash, but with a few couches and other large items scattered here and there. At the sight of it, my heart began to sink and doubt began to creep in. Jeremy, who had been to visit the place without me had mentioned this lot, but I had waved it out of my mind, not wanting to disturb my picture perfect vision of our new apartment.

Trash. It was everywhere in the neighborhood, scattered in the streets...  kids were even playing with it. We continued to walk down the street and I felt the strong presence of men walking around, with nearly no women in sight and that made me uneasy. We made our way around the block, observing a group of kids pulling a crying kid up a hill in a discarded crate they'd found and other kids hitting each other with large slabs of styrofoam. One of them had broken a part of the slab and was scraping it against the wall, in a fast, rapid motion, creating a painful screeching sound. The screeching scrambled the thoughts inside my head and panic began to sink in. "Oh, no," I thought, "We've made the wrong decision."

We walked back up towards the British Consulate, since we had an hour left to kill before our appointment, to have some cay. We sat at a cafe with doll-size chairs and little tables and ordered tea, as I let the anxiety over our bad decision sink in. Jeremy was frustrated, because he'd wanted to see more apartments, but I had been so enamored by this one the first time that he hadn't wanted to push the issue. I realized how desperate my love affair for this apartment had been- like a rebound from bad relationship. It had been shrouded with hope that this was the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, it was a sketchy tunnel filled with shady characters at night, but I saw the apartment as our personal little haven from the madness that seemed to have been surrounding us the last few months. How terribly stupid and desperate! We decided to go and see the apartment again, even though we both knew that it wasn't the place for us.

Once inside the apartment, I took a closer look outside of the windows. The trash outside was clearly visible. They had done a very nice job remodeling the place, but it was hard to ignore the depressing, slum-like surroundings on the outside. We left to meet the landlord- a strange woman, who insisted on meeting us at a cafe off of Istiklal, even though her office was a few streets down. The whole time we met, her eyes darted around, looking behind us, to the left, to the right... completely avoiding eye contact. "Strange," I thought, and I felt my face contort into one of skepticism and discomfort. She finally pulled out the contract, which was all in Turkish. "Don't worry, this is a standard contract. You can get them anywhere here," she said, waving her hand around to emphasize how ubiquitous this contract was.  We told her we'd like to look it over with a Turkish friend before signing. "It is just the standard contract," she pushed in frustration, continuing to look in all directions but our eyes. We explained that although the contract was standard, we wouldn't sign something that we couldn't read. She seemed exasperated with us and Jeremy told me later that I was shooting her a death glare, because if there's one thing I can't stand, it's a pushy salesman.

Once we'd hit this wall with her, we sped forward to our goodbyes, and she disappeared into the crowd to continue with her business. We were back at square one. We had wanted a place to escape the stress of being on the school's campus and this place was not it.

Back at home, I got on craigslist to peruse the new postings. One stood out- a beautiful place in Cihangir (very nice neighborhood) with a balcony, for a very reasonable price. I called to schedule a viewing and the voice on the other end said, "Oh, yeah... we just rented that apartment this morning. I have other apartments I can show you." And then it clicked- this was how we'd gotten roped into seeing the first apartment- a beautiful, affordable apartment in a nice neighborhood that had "just" been rented. We checked the number that I'd called and sure enough, it was the same number that Jeremy had been calling to deal with the last apartment. This completed the picture of dishonesty of the people we were dealing with and we were doubly glad that we hadn't signed the contract that afternoon.

As of now, our search continues, although we've found a place we both like and are anxiously waiting to hear back from the landlords. Keeping our fingers crossed!

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