austin house hunt and alori property managers


I should warn you that this post is just a bunch of whining. Mostly about a really bad property management company. Coming to a new place is tough in a lot of ways. If one were all settled. One of the toughest is getting started (housing and job) while not having either of the two. Here’s a story of Alori Property Managementand how they made the process a little harder.

The first job is housing. It’s hard to apply to jobs without a home so it’s good to get that first. The last I looked for housing in the States was four years ago and craigslist was the way. Now, however, while there are lots of advertisements for places, it seems to have been co-opted by property managers or agents, both of which take their cut. Our experience was probably typical. In our first day looking we saw maybe 7 different places. There were a few nice ones and at the end of the day we decided on one we liked a lot.

The apartment was run by a property manager called Alori Apartments. We went to the place and filled out the application and put a deposit down. The first bad sign was that they seemed to have called it a day at 5:30 and were already drinking in the office. Everything seemed in order but it was odd because they didn’t seem excited about renting to us.

We both have impeccable credit but they were only interested in our rental history (we had none from the USA, only Buenos Aires) and if we had jobs (we just got into town). So they asked for a two guarantors. This was fine but when I asked if one would be ok, they got snippity. I asked for a few other questions like how the deposit worked, what happened in case of breaking the lease, and if we could look at the lease. They didn’t like answering any of them. I assume it was the alcohol.

My dad agreed to guarantee us they faxed him a blank form saying basically he guaranteed us. He asked for a copy of the lease (or something saying how much we were paying in rent, etc.) and they refused to provide it. He said he’d like to know what he was guaranteeing.

When I called at 11am the next day, they said that there’d been a terrible mistake and apparently they’d rented the apartment to someone else who had put in a deposit before us. I asked them why they’d accepted our deposit and he said it was a clerical error. He refused to say anything more or explain how it had happened. I asked him if it was usually their policy to accept deposits on a property while not telling applicants that they were considering other people. The man refused to answer.

It makes no sense why they did any of that. I really doubt someone was actually in front of us. Someone else just probably arrived after us but had a rental history and a job and so after taking our deposit they decided on someone else.

It was frustrating and emotionally draining because we had really like the apartment. It was strange too because Alori never actually told us that they preferred the other people, just that we weren’t fast enough in getting all our information in, something that they had been holding up.

So not a big deal, but it is really indicative of our experience here. It’s weird that a company like this could be so cavalier and unprofessional but it’s something that’s been coming up a lot. From the temp agency who doesn’t answer their phone to the tutoring agency who wanted me to sign a contract saying I wouldn’t tutor for any other company for two years.

It’s Texas and people here seem to make their own law.

set up

More learning how to program in Python. More information crammed in my brain. It feels good to get prepared for a new project. Lots of things I can learn how to do on my own. Like learning guitar, etc. My brother installed a few Firefox plugins (Firebug and Web Developer) for me so now I can doodle around with CSS and Javascript, playing with pages and making them look nice. I’m looking forward to making a blog and a personal website. I want to figure out how to install wordpress on my old/new site, twoifiplay.com, which right now has nothing at all.

So things are trundling along. It’s scary to go to a new place, especially after what happened last time. But things are different. I’m not drifting and purposeless. I’m excited about learning new web stuff and learning a new skill that’s transferable and transportable. Once I get good at web stuff again, that’s something I can do wherever so it doesn’t matter if I’m in Austin or Australasia.

e-learning

It’s ironic. I do so little but feel like things are moving so fast. Life is a whirl of meeting up with old friends and family who I haven’t seen in years.

Now that I have a nice new computer I can actually use it to do something. I’m taking full advantage of being in San Francisco to have my brother teach me what I need to know about creating interactive web apps (python, django, plone, etc.). My head is bursting with new information and my brain is craving more and more knowledge. Getting back in touch with this isde of my personality makes me feel stable and at home, an old friend I’d missed.

While I was away in Buenos Aires, I dropped all things computer. It’s interesting because while I was working in an e-learning company, I was shunted away from programming. Management didn’t like groups to interact or share each other’s skills. Not unlike the learning it instills, the job was an information production line, nothing more nor less. It’s exciting to think about another job where, like previous jobs, I will be encouraged to bring all my skills to the table.

I can hardly wait.

Reverse Culture Shock: Energy Drain

I’ve been back for about three weeks and shock is just about setting in. It’s as total as it is indescribable. I know it only by its symptoms. I am exhausted all the time. The actual tasks I need to do are easy: going to the mechanic, calling a friend, driving to the bank. It’s ironic because both the bureaucracy and the language is easier for me to navigate than it was in Buenos Aires.

The feeling is like having ice skated or roller bladed for a few hours, on taking the skates off you feel like you’re walking on air. You feel like you can run faster than a cheetah, nothing can stop you, your shoes have never been more comfy. But then you don’t know why you’ve walked just a few blocks and you’re out of breath already. The answer? Reverse culture shock.

Things seem like they should be easy, after all, I’ve done all this stuff and I didn’t even speak the language, I didn’t know anyone, I had fewer resources. I have none of these problems here in the States. It is not the difficulty of the tasks that is overwhelming, it’s that neurons in my brain are firing after having gone years without being accessed. My body is reconstructing relationships that it hasn’t considered in years.

Transport

“In my country there’s a problem, and that problem is transport.” -Borat

For my first year in Argentina my car (an 89 Camry) sat unused in my parents’ garage, so I gave it to a friend of mine who needed it. Now that I’ve returned she kindly fixed it up and handed it over. The car made it from Seattle to Portland just fine but then, on the way to Sacramento, the engine overheated and died.

It’s frightening to have your car die on the highway. When I started driving I used to imagine situations in which I’d imagine what I’d do in case I lost control of the vehicle. In this case the engine died and I lost power steering and brakes. Armed only with an unwhieldly wheel, an ebrake and some emergency blinkers for luck we somehow were able to coast into an Arco station. I poured in a $12 jug of coolant and it poured right out the bottom of the car. After some cajoling a guy working at the neighboring Subway came out and promptly disappeared under the car. He emerged, pronounced a leak in the water pump and recommended us a hotel where he and his girlfriend had spent the night the previous weekend.

We stayed at the Motel 6 slept hard. We’d spent so much time sitting and waiting for the car to cool, I’d eaten only some yogurt, a sandwich and some trailmix. Luckily we were just blocks away from Perry’s Automotive Service so we showed up bright and early with our broken car. They quoted us $460 to fix it (4 hours of labor at $80/hour) and, though it’s probably more than the price of the car, I decided to do the deed.

In Argentina I hardly ever used cars and never for long distance transportation as the interior of an Argentine bus looks more like an airplane than something you’d expect to have wheels. While I miss the freedom of the open road, it’s been wonderful to avoid the tragedy of a roadside breakdown. At least when you’re the one paying for it.

TWO GIRLS

2 Girls, 1 Worldview

 

TWO GIRLS

TWO GIRLS

Today was my first day where I wasn’t formally employed while in Buenos Aires. It felt good not to have anywhere special to be and it brought back this conversation I’d overheard about a week ago while standing at the bus stop. There were two blond American girls. You can tell Americans by their hair, their clothes, and that they speak English loudly in American accents. I sidled closer to try hear if they were speaking English. Finding people who speak English thinking that no one around them understands is an amazing voyeuristic pleasure. When we got on the bus I was able to get closer and overhear. One was telling her friend about her plans now that she had been living here in Buenos Aires for about 6 months.

“Why would I work for $10 an hour. In a few years I’ll make ten times that. Why not enjoy my time here? It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“Yeah,” her friend said, “You don’t want to waste it.”

And here we have a whole worldview. You see, there is this idea in the states that during your adult life (called Real World) if you’re not contributing to corporate America then you’re shirking your duty. Children, the senile, the mentally handicapped, and students are generally excepted from this. But on graduation, every student knows what they’re in for. These girls, I assumed from looking at them, had just graduated. Many new graduates take a parentally funded trip abroad to “experience the world” before heading on to the Real World.

Now you may think I’m about to judge them for thinking that they are immature and lazy. On the contrary, traveling is an amazing way to find yourself. However, working in another country enhances the experience you’d have and does not diminish it. There are tons of jobs you can get in other countries which you would never be qualified to do back home. But in a worldview where you work for money, work can be seen as a chore rather than an opportunity. These girls were trying to avoid the Real World (which is a pretty terrible place) by putting off working, but work isn’t the issue.

If you do it right, most fun things are lots of work. The only thing is that because you enjoy what you’re doing, you don’t call it “work”. Getting paid for doing what you want to do is the goal, but apparently these girls seemed to have such a dreary idea of work that they were willing to pass up the experience of getting out into the community in order to avoid it.

SIEMPRE HAY UNA SALIDA

Resignation

SIEMPRE HAY UNA SALIDA

SIEMPRE HAY UNA SALIDA


It was the last day of a coworker, a fellow expat. We had been hired on the same day almost three years earlier and now he’d decided to go back to England to try his luck. I asked him if he wasn’t worried about the economy. “When it’s time it’s time.” He said. And I knew in my heart that at that moment that it was my time too. But such a big move can be scary and and it can be easy to ignore your heart when a good paycheck and a comfortable life are on the chopping block.

Perhaps to make sure I wasn’t going to back out, about 4 months before my intended departure date I told my manager that I was leaving and asked him how much notice he wanted. He said a month would be ideal but that two weeks would suffice in a pinch. I assured him he’d get it. Then every two weeks or so he’d ask me about it and I would assure him that there was no change of plan. Then, one day, he said he would really like to know so he could plan a little. I said I’d let him know in a week, it depended on my friend taking vacations with me. A week rolls around and I haven’t talked to my friend (he’d been sick) and my manager wants me to give a month’s notice. I let him know about the situation and tell him I’ll let him know Monday (it’s Friday). He explodes.

Manager: You said you’d tell me today.
Me: Yes, and now i’m telling you it’ll be one workday later.
Manager: But I need to know today.
Me: Do you need this information for any particular reason? Are you going to do something today with it?
Manager: I told the owner I’d meet with him about what to do about your position.
Me: Well, it’s a month in advance so I can just get you off the hook and email him telling him that you were under a false impression and I’ll take full responsibility. It won’t be on you.
Manager: It’s not about that. He doesn’t care. But you gave me your word, this is about personal integrity.
Me: You told me you wanted a month’s advance notice and you’re going to get it. It’s more than a month. You don’t need the information today. You asked me for a favor. I said ok. Now I’m telling you that you’ll still get your favor but one day later. And you’re telling me that, though you don’t need it, it’s about personal integrity.
Manager: Well, if you don’t want to pick a day, I’ll just pick a day for you. We’ll say that your last day is July 11.
Me: You’re firing me?
Manager: [looking shocked] No. I’m just telling you when your last day is.
Me: Isn’t that the same as firing someone?

The conversation continued in about the same way for awhile and eventually ended with his taking the high ground and letting me have till monday to decide. My mind cleared of all doubts, it was a joy to tell him.

texnat?

Let me just briefly explain the title of the blog:

It started with EXNAT, my blog about being an expatriate in buenos aires (expat+nathan=exnat). Now, after what will be three years abroad, I’m moving to Texas. Yes, Texas.

I once drove around the country for 3 months visiting 36 of our 50 fine states but when I never messed with Texas. My friend and I drove over 20 hours across the state to avoid sleeping there. Texas has always been a bit of a scary place to me. It was the mythical place that cowboys came from. Not cowboys from Westerns, the cowboys in my high school who chewed tobacco and always looked like if they ever actually noticed me they would beat me up. I’m from Sacramento and the “cowboys” from Sacramento are just working class white idiots who dress that way for the image. They’re not idiots because of dressing that way. They’re idiots for the chewing tobacco, among other things.

But anyways, it’s time for me to ride off into the sunset towards Texas country. Why Texas? A girl. Her name is Annette.

 

ANNETTE

ANNETTE

SUNSET OVER BUENOS AIRES

Ex Exnat

SUNSET OVER BUENOS AIRES

SUNSET OVER BUENOS AIRES

Friends, Portenos, Expats: Lend me your ears.
I come not to praise exnat, but to bury it.

That’s right, after months of not posting, it’s time to put a fork in this little blog: it’s done.

My first blog, triptrap, was the travel blog I wrote in until I arrived in Buenos Aires and was written from the point of view of a traveler. As obvious as this might seem, it’s worth mentioning because when I ceased to be a traveller, when I began to feel at home, I needed something else.  Here I was in a home. Not my home, rather I was a semipermanent visitor in someone else’s home. With this newfound existential angst I needed a new blog and here exnat was born.

I loved writing this blog and I loved the comments I received and the community I became a part of. I also loved plunging the depths of the expat psyche. It’s been lovely but all good things must come to an end.

But don’t worry, I will still be writing a blog.  The difference is that this will be a blog about a real passion of mine: games. I’m just starting it and it’s called twoifiplay.  While I’ll probably write about expat things every so often, it’s really an opportunity for me to share interesting games with people who might not otherwise come into contact with them.

So for those who update your blog subscriptions, I’ll be seeing you soon.  And for those who don’t, goodbye and it’s been pleasant.

Besos,
Nathan