Friday, October 4, 2013

Apartment hunting with kids

After several false starts, we finally got an appointment with a realtor to go see an apartment.  But despite several appeals in the English-language congregation of church, we still don't have a babysitter.  Therefore, any apartment we wanted to both see, involved taking three kids on public transportation.   You try it some time.  Plus, even though our guest house is "conveniently" located near the "circle line" on the metro, everything in Moscow takes an hour.

Apartment #1-- (Tuesday ? evening)
It was a dark stormy night.

Seriously.  Took the metro over an hour (with three kids) walked through rain and mountains of leaves to find a building in the dark, met a middle aged, professional realtor (our side) with the realtor of the owner's side, to go up to an apartment in a building from the 1940s.

High ceilings--back when Stalin was trying to impress people with "new socialism" and 3 meter ceilings.  Very nice neighbors wondering if these lovely children (three children? with that 'are they all yours' tone Russians use for anything more than 2 children) would be their new neighbors.

Apartment seemed to have enough rooms, but they could only show us two at a time, because a very large (threatening) dog was always cordoned off in one of them.  They didn't want to let the children in at all because of it, but the kids didn't stand for waiting in the hall.

The original parquet floor had seen better days, loose tiles revealing dirty concrete in the bathroom.  Owner said he was going to repair the bathroom, but upon further questions, it turned out he meant only repaint the ceiling.  (We were much more worried about a floor a small child would run around on--in the grand scheme of things, good floors are more important for kids than newly painted ceilings.)

Was in our price range, seemed to be a neighborhood of quiet streets and lots of trees and schools.  But after a few minutes, even E said "let's not live here."   At least the very nice professional realtor gave us a ride back to the metro in the rain.

Apartment #2-- (Friday afternoon/evening)
We met the second realtor, a young energetic woman with excellent written and spoken English, on the platform of the metro--the very last stop on the north end of the green line.  We walked with her to an apartment "close" to that metro stop.  It took 15-20 minutes with the stroller & 3 kids.  Russians walk fast, so they probably thought of that as a "ten minute walk" to the metro--or at least advertised it that way ("truth in advertising" :-)).

Small kitchen, some furniture, 2 bedrooms, in our price range.  Clean to the point of sterile, good kitchen/bathroom, except there was not an oven.  Owner who was there to show us was planning to install a dishwasher, but had zero intention of installing an oven.  After spending two years using two lovely convection ovens (thank you Grandma), the thought of having no oven at all was discouraging to say the least.  But it was the _long_ walk back to the metro, past hundreds of commuters picking up "marshrut" (shuttle buses) to their suburbs, which was too much.

Kids were hungry, so we had to stop for fast food blini.  Share the same relation to real blini that fast food shares with real homemade food (i.e. a pale imitation).

We were supposed to visit a second apartment not too far from there (two metro stops), but the woman who had the keys to meet us was stuck in horrible traffic nowhere near anywhere she could park & take the metro & meet us in time, so that got rescheduled.

Apartment #3 -- (same night as #2)
So we went three metro stops, with three tired, still hungry children, and met a second realtor, or at least her young assistant.  We had no idea until later that it wasn't the realtor, that it was her assistant (realtor hadn't warned us, and the assistant wasn't very clear).

We were late because it was another one of those "only 10 minutes from the metro" which can take half an hour with small children.  So we waited with this young assistant-to-a-realtor in quiet clean courtyard of another old Stalin-era building, with nice playground equipment (fortunately not Stalin-era) with no explanation.  Turned out that someone else was seeing the apartment first, and we had to wait til they were done.

VERY lived in.  Family still there.  Woman had to show me what she was taking and what she was leaving behind.  Her two small children, our three, their realtor, our realtor-assistant, lots of (lovely antique) furniture & moving boxes, made for very crowded space.

You can learn a lot about a family from their stuff.  Besides the obvious kids, also very religious (had a traditional 'red corner' with icons and candles), and cases and cases and cases of books.  Very good 'vibe' about the family and the space.  Felt like a piece of Russian history.

But too small to be practical, so off we went again, into the dark, to take 3 very tired kids on the metro for an hour to get back to the guesthouse about 2 hours after their nominal bedtime.  At least it wasn't raining.

Продолжение следует ('prodolzhenie sleduet…')
[-- 'continuation to follow']

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