One of the biggest questions expat teachers have when moving to a new country is, ‘What is my apartment going to look like?’ There are a few ways you get a house: Some schools may have you come early and pick out your own place, but I’ve only heard of that happening a few times… well, once. The two more common ways of doling out housing are to assign new teachers to a house or to have them move into a hotel and give them time to apartment/house hunt once they’ve arrived.
We’ve always been in the ‘assigned housing’ category. Which means you never quite know what you’re going to get.
All of my houses have had charming and not-so-charming aspects. Because I am apparently into lists lately, I will now make a list of those:
The Dominican Republic
My First House
Charming: it was small, sunny, on a quiet street, and the first time I lived by myself
Not-so-charming: it was hotter than the fires of hell, I was kind pretty far away from the other teachers and there was something that I hated about the shower, but I can’t remember what now
My Second Apartment
Charming: it had Kendra, it was large, there was an amazing breeze, great porch
Not-so-charming: it was on the 3rd floor and sometimes the electricity was out so the elevator didn’t work (shut up, I know the 3rd floor isn’t that far… but it only seemed to happen when I had just done a week’s worth of grocery shopping), there was a neighborhood basketball court outside my bedroom window, the furniture was not comfortable
Charming: I lived with all my colleagues, it was just the right size for one person, it felt like being in college again
Not-so-charming: I lived with all my colleagues, there was no storage, and the kitchen was really small
Charming: it was furnished by IKEA, we had two TV’s, the porch was amazing, there was a beautiful outside space in the middle of our complex
Not-so-charming: the kitchen was even smaller than our Kuwait one, there was no oven, the hot water didn’t work for very long
Charming: it was HUGE, had a backyard and enough rooms to put anything we could think of buying, had a working fireplace, and felt very safe and secure
Not-so-charming: it wasn’t furnished, it was painted crazy colors when we moved in, there was no A/C or heating, and it grew mold during the rainy season
Charming: really modern villa, enough space, backyard, we lived on the same street as our colleagues
Not-so-charming: all the houses looked exactly the same, inside and out, the A/C’s leaked constantly, the cold water was hot in the summer because the water tank was on the roof, ants
And now we’re in Serbia. Our apartment is quirky, to say the least. There are a lot of curved and slanted walls, different colors of marble, and mirrors in strange places. One wall is painted orange-ish and there’s a space by the fireplace that we can’t figure out what to do with. And there’s no outside space.
But it is completely furnished (down to dishes, cleaning supplies, and rolls of toilet paper) and the school provided us with comforters, pillows, and towels. So far, we have only had to buy sheets, oven mitts, and trash cans for the bathrooms. That’s not bad for moving into a new house.
Here’s what the apartment looks like:
We’re waiting on our shipment which has our rugs, our door-table, and our art, paintings, and personal photos. Having ‘our’ things will make it feel more like home. But after almost two weeks, this place has definitely grown on me. I’m enjoying the space, of which there is plenty, and also the storage, of which there is more than enough. It is a perfect apartment for hide-and-seek, and though the kitchen is small, I like the wall of windows and the fig tree just outside the door.
Our biggest obstacle will be remembering to walk the dogs again, after four years of just letting them out the back door or taking them for fun walks, not necessary walks. Plus we have to make ourselves leave the apartment to get the girls out to play, since we don’t have a yard or the blessed trampoline out in the back anymore.
The apartment is not something I would’ve chosen for myself, but I am learning to find the happiness in my family space. We have the option of moving next year, finding our own place. During the first week, I said we would definitely be apartment hunting… this week, I’m not so sure. Let’s see how it all plays out!
How would you feel about moving into an apartment or house someone else picked out for you?