Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Place To Lay My Head

Having some trouble as regards housing around here. It's approaching the three-month mark of my Peace Corps volunteer experience (hey, that's... one eighth?) and the mandatory site "lockdown" period is almost over. This is a period, Peace Corps-wide, where for the first quarter in one's site one is not permitted to leave it, the idea being that it promotes faster or more complete "integration" into the community. I can't say with confidence that being imprisoned in New Amsterdam has really done that for me... sure, I do feel more physically oriented, like I know where things are, but I don't know that many more people than I did when I arrived, and I don't feel like part of the New Amsterdam "community," whatever that is.

But that's not the point of this post. Point is, the "lockdown" is almost over, meaning, among other things (like soon I can travel out of the country), that I am to move out of my temporary housing soon. I've been staying in housing arranged by the Peace Corps all this time. Peace Corps has also arranged housing beyond this, but it is with the elderly mother-in-law of one of my bosses, and to be quite honest, living in such a situation would be totally unacceptable. I don't think it's a good idea to live with your boss' in-laws! And considering that my current host would no doubt like his total autonomy back soon (I'm sure he's tired of having to play music low in the mornings or t.v. low in the evenings... though he sometimes transgresses these rules spectacularly) I need to find some place of my own.

My present goal is to move into a place relatively near the two best supermarkets in the area. I obviously can't tell too much about it online (because Peace Corps is afraid all the bandits, kidnappers, muggers, and murderers in all of Guyana read my blog and will converge on me as soon as they have a solid lock on my location!), but I can say a little. It's a brand-new building, nicely painted, with a narrow but long porch ideal for a hammock. It has a strange layout, too, with one open area that includes the kitchen. There is an upstairs area divided into two rooms one could conceivably use as bedrooms, but they tend to be hot (heat rises) and they have the "attic-ceiling" thing going on, where the ceiling slopes downward and the walls have box windows. I'm simply too tall to stand properly up there, so I seriously doubt I'll use either room as a bedroom, or anything else for that matter. Most likely, unless I change my mind, I'll use the main area downstairs as a large studio apartment. But everything there is new, never-used, and I've also arranged to pay the landlords to furnish the place.

The problem is this: there is a business in the building that Peace Corps is concerned about. They worry that allowing people access to the building would give them all the time they need to "case" the joint, to figure out a way to get to my living area. So they refused me. But they took their time doing it -- I arranged this place in August and the landlord has been waiting for my 3-month period to end so I could take residency. They would have rented it out to someone else long ago but for their promise to me... I respect that. So it was with a heavy heart that I called to tell them I couldn't take it, all these weeks later (after they could have been receiving rent money from the other people who wanted it).

You need to understand the housing situation here in New Amsterdam. The day I arrived back from the trip to Lake Mainstay I found that my hosts's best friend, who lived in the tiny house next door, had moved to Barbados to take a job there. Such a sudden move; I never even got to say goodbye. The day after that, some friends came to move his stuff out of there. On that day, I told the landlord I'd be willing to move in there if they would fix a few things that are broken and put in a water tank. Just like where I live now, there is no running water, and everything we use has to be drawn from a standpipe in the mud under the house next door. "Put in a water tank," I told her, "and I can pay way more rent." She decided against it. The very next day the place was visited by no less than four groups of interested parties, and it was rented out that evening to the first-comers. Gone, just-like-that. Housing is at a premium here. The only places I've found in New Amsterdam to rent, besides the one I mentioned above, are either waaaaaay too expensive or simply dumps I would never live in. Being denied really put me in a bad spot, in New Amsterdam's incredibly tight housing market. To wit: I had nowhere to go.

To end this entry: when I called to let down my potential landlord, they told me the business was soon to move out. This is the sole thing keeping it from being okay by Peace Corps standards. So I called Peace Corps today and they said if the business does, indeed, move out then the place is fine for me to take. So I might be back in business. If so, I'll be there in just a couple weeks' time. Wish me luck.

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