Sunday, September 4, 2011

Yes, my landlords are crazy

I love my apartment. It's beautiful, well-furnished & supplied, and has good-quality furniture too. Even after the landlord came and took a lot of stuff away last spring, I still have plenty of stuff. I love the location. It's a short walk to two malls, a short walk to the school, and I'm on the first floor. Sophia can go outside and play or ride her bike and I can stay inside and still keep an eye on her. We're right above a mini-mart which stocks enough supplies to keep us happy during the winter. (No peanut butter, of course, but few stores sell that.)

I wish I had a dishwasher and I wish I could open my windows during the hot summer nights, without worrying about someone climbing in. (We're on the first floor, it'd be very easy to climb inside our apartment, and it's very noticeable when our windows are open!)

But, I'm happy with it.

My landlords, however, are weird. Not weird enough to make me want to move. More like quirky, bothersome, annoying weird. I didn't like my landlady from my previous apartment, either, but in a different way. I knew she was tight with money, unhappy, and didn't like me because I didn't speak Kazakh. In the end, I grew more comfortable with her, understanding that she just doesn't like spending 1 Tenge on anything, so she'll complain about everything.

But these guys... I think the man is nice and friendly, it's his wife who's weird. She's the one who came and raided my house for supplies twice when they moved back to Astana last year. She's the one who hounded our poor secretary this past June, begging to know when my cleaning lady would be in, so she could give her a huge list of things to do over the summer. "Who'll pay my cleaning lady for these tasks?" I asked the secretary. "You," she said.

Well, I got the secretary to tell them that since I was packing, I was too busy to answer their questions, and so they never told my cleaning lady to do any tasks. Amazingly, they came in this summer to do them themselves.

In my clean, beautiful home, they painted all areas that weren't wallpapered (and the paint wasn't cracked, peeling, or dirty at all). They took down the blinds & curtains and cleaned them. They did NOT attempt to fix the huge draft coming in from the windows that causes the place to feel like Antarctica in the winter. So, superficial changes. Nothing actually needed.

When I returned home, at midnight, I noticed that they had not replaced all of my curtains. They had all summer, and hadn't gotten around to finishing the job! The thick curtains in my bedroom were missing, as well as a few blinds. I only had blinds on a few windows, plus a thin, see-through curtain. Not only does this meant that at 6 in the morning bright sunlight pours into my room, but it also means that at midnight, everyone outside can see inside my bedroom! I've been changing in the bathroom. (Remember, I'm on the first floor, my bedroom windows look out onto the play area and parking lot, and Kazakhs tend to stay up late at night, children still playing outside at 11 and sometimes even midnight.)

I immediately emailed the secretary, who called them and reported back--Yes, they have my curtains. They'll return them.

Really? Why couldn't they have returned them sooner?

Finally, they came by, less than a week after we'd returned to Astana. Yes, the house was a bit of a mess. We'd had 4 days to unpack and recover from jet lag before returning to work full time. The landlord's wife was extremely unhappy. The school secretary, there to translate, told me later that the wife had said something to the effect of, "The teacher who lived there before was clean. But this one! ...." And other such ramblings. She was quite unhappy when she couldn't find the cleaning supplies in the bathroom (they were on the porch). Unhappy that I was cooking and the stovetop was a bit messy. She even asked why I don't use the cupboards and cabinets (which were all full, some of them still holding her husband's stuff).

When I mentioned that the washing machine makes an extremely loud noise on the spin cycle, akin to an airplane landing, she said that it's just because I put the stuff in wrong. I responded that last year it had never made this noise. Oh well, apparently that's not a big deal.

When I asked about the windows and the draft (not bad now, of course, but I'm preparing for winter!), the landlord started rambling about the painting they had done.

So, yes, quirky, annoying landlords, who used to live in Almaty and only visit once every other month or so. I could handle that so much more easily.

Of course, our poor secretary has to deal with them more than me. When the landlady complained about my cleanliness, our secretary said, Aren't we paying the bills? Aren't we paying rent? It's not your business how she lives.

(On a side note--I am not a messy pig! Yes, I hadn't finished unpacking yet, and yes, I was making dinner rather than doing the dishes, but the house is not a disaster. And now that it's Sunday and the cleaning lady came by on Friday, my home is quite presentable.)

So, we'll stay happily in this apartment for at least the remainder of the school year. The pros far outweigh the cons.

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