Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Doin' it in Style

I live in a house of seven girls. We all went to England, somehow became friends, somehow ended up signing a lease and moving in together in a new town for this university year. It's one of those things that, looking back, you could never have seen coming...and it's been a crazy, we're-all-humans-here-so-let's-not-kill-each-other, amazing year.

However, there comes a point when (as you're scrubbing the mountain of dishes that somehow manages to accumulate because it's "your job") you ask the "what if?". What if things were different?..."What next?" comes pretty quickly after this. And that's how my house split into three groups. How my housemate (Meg) and I decided that, based on low-iron tendencies to eat the same foods, we should totally get an apartment together.

(Food is the true stuff of friendship, peoples. Whoever said the opposite couldn't have been drunk and must have been lying). 

Sending out inquiries for apartments on Kijiji is like throwing a message in a bottle into the ocean: you're not sure where it's going, and more often than not you never see it again. But after a few days, something beautiful happened...we started getting responses.

And so began Meg and I's Quest for an Apartment.

Certified Apartment Hunters

I ended up going to the first apartment showing alone. The tree cracking through the parking lot, looking very much like the one from Harry Potter that ate people, I turned around and beheld the "gem" before me: A tiny apartment, obscurely nestled next to an addition somehow connected to a mini-mart on top of which a balcony had been attached, barbecue precariously balancing on the edge.

"Possible tanning spot?" I pointed out to the other freezing Apartment Hunters outside. They all agreed.

Andddd that was about the first and last pro of that place. Unless you're into yellow-spotted ceilings, flooding bathroom floors and closet-sized living space...then SNATCH THAT GEM!

Let this be a lesson to you, dear reader: Streetview on Google maps does not lie. I learnt this after making the same mistake twice, dismissing the next apartment Meg and I went to view as "the wrong address" when it was clearly on top of the Chinese food restaurant with the beer store's "open" sign sparkling from the living room window.

Gosh, watta view. Heart-melting and all.

"Maybe they give food discounts?" Meg pointed out. The possibility weighed heavily on our shoulders as we left for the next viewing, just two blocks down the street. 

Now THIS ONE was a true gem.

Though I admired one of the tenant's attempts at sound-proofing his room with egg cartons ("You go, man." *thumbs up* ), the fact was that the third apartment we viewed wouldn't cut it. And I was also fairly certain something was hiding in the wall on the other side of that cardboard.

Having a Brownie living in my house had sounded like a pretty cool idea as a child...the thought of having one now was not.

(PS. If you don't know what a Brownie is, I suggest catching up on your fairy lore and looking it up - you are missing out. Also, they're a fantastic excuse answer to life's problems: "No, it is not my fault that so-and-so went missing, it's the Brownie's!...." No one can argue it. No one.) 

I looked at Meg, trying hard to stifle a nervous giggle. It is a problem when the bathtub is less tub than cement-that's-cracking, and another Apartment Hunter asks how bad the humidity is in the summer (forget air-conditioning ever existed - it does not) as he digs his toes into the already green, mushy carpet.

"It's pretty bad," the landlord admitted. (← THIS IS NOT A GOOD SIGN) .

Soooo...that was a no.

(Notice the pictures to the right of Egg-Carton Guy's? This is what happens when you can't afford rent - you start building pillow forts in your friends' living room and see how long you can steal their cable). 

The problem about apartment hunting in January is that most buildings (where the non-student populace lives) don't know whether or not they'll have vacancies until March. This left Meg and I in a precarious position: settle on one of these "apartment gems" or wait...So when I got a response to a message in a bottle I'd been sure the sea had swallowed as a side-dish, I set up a viewing with Anonymous and hoped for the best.

"The Best" is exactly what it turned out to be.

We walked in, took one look around, looked at each other, and said: "We'll take it." It was that simple; uncomplicated, and perfect. All the points on our list of Apartment Qualifications could be checked off:

- Everything was clean (the saying that girl tenants are "worse than guys" is the biggest untruth of life - at least they don't take pride in CULTIVATING MOULDY BREAD on their floor). 
- It's just a walk away from campus, 1 minute away from our favorite night spots (no more taxis!) and friends' places.
- It's affordable.
- The coin laundry building is right next to it.
- They were OK with Meg's Bearded Dragon lizard (as long as it stayed "in the tank").

My mother, between phone calls in which I managed the down-payment with my dad and she inserted "that this was a scam" because "that's what happened to so-and-so in Montreal, and...well, look at them now!" (don't you love references from I-don't-know-how-many years ago?), said that I would surely die (if not contract some terrible ailment) from the fumes wafting up to my apartment...But I'm willing to risk it.

(She also didn't approve of the fact that this was above a pawn which I pointed out that it was actually far enough in the back that we may as well have been on another building altogether.)

Though my mother remains unconvinced that this is actually a step toward my brilliant future, that's OK.  Because it's paid for, my dad's laughing at the whole situation, my sister approves because it means downtown shopping, I don't have to become best friends with mould, and, well....Meg and I have a place!

So here's to moving in May 1st, bearded-dragon and all! :)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Take Me To India

Oh, family reunions: Discovering that while you were in England, your 3-feet-tall cousin was escaping the clutches of a wild boar while on a safari in Africa (good thing his parents enrolled him in sports)...

That kid is more worldly than I am. 

Though I recognize the immaturity of being jealous of a 6 year old, the need for adventure was enough to make me reach for another glass of champagne. I mean, I went from traveling all over Europe for a year to spending half of one in the same town ...Never mind Caribbean islands, I haven't traveled further than my COTTAGE since the summer.

Where are the life-threatening, wild hero-sweeping situations I had dreamed of as a child? If "life is either a great adventure or nothing" (as Helen Keller said) then I have fallen into the nothing. I've become restless.

So this was the point when I declared to everyone: "I'm going to teach English in India."

Ha! Take that, parents. Because, really, while I was dreaming of being an editor for some big-shot company (my dreams have holes, I know, but I was going to find a name for this said company soon) and having a bestseller that would launch me into super-star book-dome, they were under the impression that I would become a teacher... Fine then, I'll teach: In Syberia India

Because, really, what else are you going to do with a Bachelor of Arts and an English Literature major and French Studies minor? they were thinking. 

What back-stabbers. 

....the fact half of my family believed me, however, came as such a surprise that the idea went from an absurdity to a possibility in the span of 3 seconds. The fact my parents (making loud exclamations of mock-protest) were among the non-believers made me think:

If not India, then what the hell am I going to do with my life? 

I am not saying there's anything wrong with being a teachermy mom is a high-school teacher, my dad the principal of my old high-school; the profession is entirely respectable. I just don't want my kids to have to live through those awkward summer teacher-gatherings I lived through, my sister and I hiding in my room while debating the merits (if there were any) of entering the "teacher zone" downstairs to retrieve food. 

No, being a teacher is not OK. What I realised, however, is that it's not the teaching profession itself that's scared me, just the idea that I would turn into my parents. And there's nothing wrong with my parents, I love them, I just don't want to BE them. 

So hence the idea of teaching in India. 

If you could have a job anywhere, anyplace, anytime, what would it be? Because I'm not too sure what mine is anymore. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Syberia...The New Bunbury.

With Christmas and the new year comes family reunions and resolutions...And though I do love my family and friends, there are moments when I want to run away, curl up with a cup of tea and just escape all the hype to read.

Some books that are so refreshing you read them and come out...different. Not changed, exactly, but more like a kid that's found the really awesome, flamingo-pink sequined dress at the bottom of the toy box and wants to try it on for a bit and see if she, too, can look like a princess...or, in a slightly more grown-up case, a hot mess. 

(I have never been a hot mess by the way - the ''hot-mofo'' gene must have skipped a generation). 

Anyway, the book is this: How To Expect The Unexpected by Jenny Lawson. You know, the one that's been topping the Top 100 Bestsellers List and has a little (taxidermied, I might add) mouse on the cover brandishing a word, all musketeer-like? 

Yeah, that'd be the one.

I had so much fun with the string of ''real or not real?'' bizarre events and The Bloggess' voice that, to my sister's despair, I decided to start having some fun with words of my own. (My little sister is not a book loverI'm sure this has nothing to do with the fact that I chose them over her during my hermit years).

So, Welcome to Syberia...

''I'm going to Syberia,'' I told my sister, snapping my book shut. 
She looked at me, non-plussed. 
''Oh, Erika....'' And she gave me THAT look, the one that makes me re-evaluate my life choices. 

FINE, BE THAT WAY....Child. 

So I moved on to the next closest human (really, looking back, I ought to have told the dogat least SHE would have understood), hoping for some kind of reaction that involved more than a condescending shaking of the head.

''Erika, want to go to the store?'' my mother asked me, flipping another page from her home renovation magazine. 
''No, I'm going to Syberia.''

Her gaze, which had once been so non-nonchalantly fixed upon glossy pages as she sipped her third cup of coffee, jolted. And hence followed the look of horror especially designed for moi as I looked up from Kevin O'Leary's book on financial aid (which is really good, I might add: Saving myself from bankruptcy at the age of 19 has definitely become one of my life's priorities).

''Why???'' she asked. 
''I heard it was nice,'' I said, and shrugged, going back to my book. ''Tigers, you know. And...stuff.'' 

(Yeah, that's right - I totally Googled this shit.) 

She then put her coffee down, looked me in the eye. There was more concern in that look than the time she discovered I had lost my ID in a coat at a club...though I must say it didn't beat the Great Bacon Incident of 1999).

''You want to die?''

Face-palm. Just, no, mother! 

My grandmother then pointed out from across the room that I was being ''insensible''. I pointed out that there was a clear distinction between my "Y" Syberia and that of the "I" Siberia of North Asia. No, I am not being insensitive. If anything, people are being insensitive. If Oscar Wilde had a Bunbury, then why shouldn't I?
Syberia is my Bunbury. There. (Also, ignore all the internet articles about the video game "Syberia"...that shit is totally not real). 

The point here, though, is that sometimes it's fun to just get away from all the seriousness and fall into silliness (even if it means ignoring the judging looks of others). Whether it's just getting lost in a book or playing pretend, it can make that 2-week Christmas break so much better. 

If you could pick one place to make your own, what would it be?