Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Great Apartment Hunt

'Great' as in 'large', not 'great' as in 'good'.

Since I arrived in Israel, 4 months ago in a few days, I have dealt with overwhelming amounts of bureaucracy, and found getting pretty much even the most simple things done a borderline migraine-inducing test of strength and will. Oh, you want to open a bank account? Sit here for two hours, and don't even think you're going to get your bank card until you've been here 7 times over 8 weeks. You want to earn some money and make a living? Well, do you speak Hebrew? Ha! If it's a no, then it's a no. Come back when (and if) you do. You want to convert your driving license? No, I'm sorry. I'm going to give it to some randos in Talpiot, and you'll have to go to a tribunal in a month's time where they'll decide whether you're allowed to drive or not. The racists.

All that is manageable, and bearable, because I'm where I want to be, and I've managed to get through it all fairly unshaken. This is mainly as I know I've got a certain amount of time during ulpan to 'land softly' and get through most of it, surrounded comfortably by my safety net.

But soon, this is all going to change. In just over a month's time I will be out on my ear, having finished ulpan finally. Sounds great, but in reality, the flat-hunting is maddening, draining and saddening by turns.

Here's my formula while conducting the search: location, divided by cost, divided by access, divided by space. I'm looking for something near the centre of the city or in a nice, well-to-do place, up to 4000 schmekels a month. I don't want a million rooms (for some reason, in Israel property isn't advertised like in England as '1 bed, 2 bed etc, but 1 room - studio - two rooms, etc) but I don't want to squish up all in someone else's face either. 2 rooms minimum would be fine with me, and easy to keep clean.

I'm also beginning to realise that my flat in London is massive. Some of the places I've visited (I've been to 4 so far) have been about a third of the size of my flat - 30 sqm, whatever that is. some have been fantastically located, a great apartment, one even came with a little kitten (which I'm going to try and foster even if I don't live there) but is a lease for only 5 months. one I saw today is fantastic, newly renovated and in a lovely quiet neighbourhood, but is a bit far away from the centre. Another I saw was in the best location possible, looked great from the outside but then had this weird bunk bed/loft thing, and a shower hanging over a toilet. That's a step too far even for me, I'm afraid.

And - even if you manage to find he magical apartment that is everything you ever wanted in a place and location etc etc, you better be quick - here, the best apartments re advertised 'mi pei le ozen' - literally 'from mouth to ear', but colloquially 'by word of mouth'. People tend to avoid using agents, as they charge a full month's rent as their service fee, plus a security deposit of one month's rent, plus your normal rent. As a result, when a 'good' apartment is advertised, around 50 people show up to view it. And, if you're stupid enough to look in 'advance', as I am, with 4 weeks to go, you're going to have to pay to get it. If I want to move in in mid-December, I'd need to pay for the rest of this month too to secure the place for myself.

Anyhoo. Stress-rant over.

Two of the best things to happen today - my sudden nosebleed after my third apartment viewing earlier, which happened out of nowhere and had people scrambling to help me, rather embarrassingly, and my driving lesson earlier.

My driving instructor - fluent in English, yet throwing in some Hebrew here and there just to keep me on my toes -  turns out to be my bank mate's dad, is absolutely charming, and has a lot of belief in me. I kept telling him that it felt wrong to be on the other side of the road, but he didn't seem to care, and off I drove for a full hour, in an automatic. next time I'll have a go on the manual, which is the one I want to take my test on.

Impressively (I think!) I managed to stay on the right side of the road, and noone got hurt. My instructor said that if I'd wanted to take the test on an automatic, he would have given me the test right there and then. Score!

As I said just a few weeks into my ulpan sojourn, 'hakol yihyeh beseder' - it's all going to come up Milhouse, just as everything else has.

Like most other things in Israel, it will take zman, savlanut and koach - time, patience and strength - and then it will be ok.

Here's to another week.

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