Sunday, March 30, 2008

A walk in the park

You’re not going to believe this. Well, maybe because it’s ME, you will. This morning I (accidentally) awoke early and set out to buy a Zero Hora (major local paper) because on Sundays the classified ads are posted for rentals. My plan was to scan it during breakfast, checking prices, locations, details, etc. I circled a few ads, though one in particular caught my eye.

“JK finamente mobliado na Duque, andar alto. Txs incluidas R$700 Direto.” 

Hmm, I thought, I like this. From that text I knew:

It’s small, because a JK is usually the equivalent of “studio,” but it’s furnished. The latter is key because the standard here is, naturally, unfurnished – meaning no fridge, no stove, no cabinets. A typical kitchen is equipped with a sink and a countertop. Full stop.
As I mentioned earlier, Rua Duque de Caxias is quite near my hotel and I really like the area. In fact, it’s the same street as Catedral Metropolitana (photos), about 4 blocks down.
This place is for rent by owner, rather than the vastly more common and tedious method of going through a real estate agent.
It’s on a high floor, preferable for safety and light.
Taxes are included. Rent works differently here. In general, a tenant must pay rent, IPTU (a government tax on your rent), and condomínio (similar to association fees that condo owner’s must pay in the States). So, “taxes included” is good – heck it’s one less thing to pay – and it’s usually about R$40 ($25) per month.

So I called. Ênio, who’s not the owner, but apparently is her right-hand-man, answers. Talking in a foreign language on the phone can be tricky, but I muddled through my inquiry. He offered to show me the place at 10:30, so I went, thinking I would just start getting ideas about how this all works. As it turns out, though, I have an apartment. Ha!

The place is quite small, which is exacerbated by the fact that it has walls! The bedroom and bathroom are reasonably sized, but the living area fits not much more than the Wickes-type loveseat that occupies it. But it’s the kitchen that’s hilarious. I think it’s about 4 feet wide, which would be better if it wasn’t a galley-style setup! It’s a very funky little place indeed, but I liked it! And it was completely perfect for me because the advertised rent includes everything: IPTU, condomínio, gas, heat, water, garbage removal, furniture, even dishtowels! I pay electricity and internet. It’s on a nice corner, on the 5th floor (of 7), and across the hall from the sindica (umm, I’m not even sure what that means, but she’s somehow involved in the running of the property). What’s more, it’s temporary. Ênio understood my situation and agreed to a 3-month lease to start. Plus he manages other buildings in the area that have larger furnished apartments which, as they become available, he will show me.
The only nasty part is that my hotel is paid until April 25th because a monthly rent here was significantly cheaper than a weekly one, and surely I didn’t think I’d find something in the first 5 days! Tomorrow I will try to negotiate a partial refund with them, but I might have to chalk that one up to experience. Ouch.

Today was a walk in the park. Figuratively and literally. I spent the afternoon in Parque Farroupilha. I went to visit “my” monkeys… remember those guys from my first trip? Farroupilha, also called Redenção, is huge. Aside from the zoo there are concert stages, restaurants, paddleboats, a mini-amusement park with children’s rides, and even a florist! But on Sundays the place is mental – absolutely alive! Most businesses are closed in Porto Alegre on Sundays. It’s definitely “family day” here. And when the sky is blue and the sun is shining, the people come out in droves: street performers, churro vendors, capoeira troops, artesian stalls, romantic couples, young families, supporters of various political initiatives, kite-flyers, soccer players, skateboarders… on and on. I bought cotton candy. What can I say? It seemed like the right thing to do. I am pretty sure you will find me there nearly every Sunday that isn’t raining.

After a lazy stroll around the entire place, I had to step up the pace a little. Back to my hotel for a little dinheiro ($) and off to a local lancheria (something in between a café, a restaurant, and a bar, for which I have no Stateside equivalent), because at 4:00 my team was playing. “Vamo vamo Inter!” They won 4x1.

So the photos of the cathedral are, first, from the back – the vantage point around the corner from my hotel – then from the front, at street level on Rua Duque de Caxias, where in the next few days, I suppose, I will be settling in. Again. Ha.

Cheers everybody, LG