Monday, October 6, 2008

Yes, We Have Our Own Place (Nuestro Propio Piso)

It’s been an extraordinarily busy couple of days, but we are finally in our own place. It’s a lovely apartment by Plaza Colón, right in the middle of downtown Córdoba. The location is perfect; we’re within walking distance of everything worth visiting. We’re right on the edge of La Judería, the location of all the favorite tourist spots. Pretty much every bus line has a stop at Plaza Colón, so it’s easy to get to any part of the city. We’ve spent the last few days outfitting the place in a manner that we’ll be able to live comfortably for the next nine months.

With luck we’ll have a real Internet connection soon (we’ve been taking advantage of the free access from the public library), so we can begin posting more pictures. We not only have lots of pictures from the Netherlands and France and Córdoba, but we’ll need to post pictures of the apartment and the beautiful park just across the way.

Late-breaking news: I was asking one of my fellow teachers what I should charge for English tutoring, and she not only made a recommendation (20-25€ per hour seems to be the going rate), and she made another offer for conversation time with her husband and some friends! The institute is only paying me 700€ per month, but with a few tutoring engagements like this, I could find myself making a living wage.

Observations about finding, outfitting, and living in an apartment in Córdoba:

1. We got our apartment through a rental agent (un servicio inmobiliario). We could have probably saved some money by pounding the pavement and talking directly to property owners, but I don’t begrudge the rather high fee (one month’s rent). They showed us some apartments, made the contact with the owner, set up the meeting, and wrote up the rental contract. With all of the demands on our time, it seemed like a good deal to us. We’re paying 570 euros per month (say $850) for a two-bedroom apartment. This is quite a bit less than Tonya had budgeted. When researching rental properties from Oregon, we must have been seeing the vacation properties, which were much more expensive.

2. Things are more expensive than you think. I’m sure that part of this is due to the poor performance of the dollar against the euro, but there are relative differences there are more difficult to explain. For instance, electrical domestic appliance prices are very high, while food prices are merely moderately high. Anything we buy here will be left here at the end of our nine months, so there’s no particular motivation to get top-of-the-line on anything. Furthermore, if we can get along without it, we’re better off. Some things are unavoidable, however. When your clothes are dried on the clothesline, you can’t get along without an iron. The cheapest steam iron we were able to find was around 25 euros (say $38, depending on the exchange rate you use). Tonya decided she could live without a curling iron after not being able to find one for less than 45 euros. Ouch.

3. Watch those brand names! It’s comforting to see the occasional familiar brand on the supermarket shelf, but you’ll pay for it. In Spain, Hunt’s brand products are an exotic foreign import, and you pay accordingly.

4. We’re going to be leading a simpler life here, but frequently that will mean more labor-intensive. Hanging up clothes to dry, and then ironing them so they don’t look as if you’ve slept in them. Washing dishes by hand. Fewer pre-prepared foods, so more cooking from scratch. Lots of walking. Lots of bus rides. There are compensations, of course. Not having to maintain a car. Getting lots of exercise (I’ve already dropped a belt notch). Living in a beautiful city. Already being able to recognize and sneer at the tourists. Being welcomed into a culture that is so warm and friendly that I literally wouldn’t have believed it before I came here. (Of course it helps tremendously to speak the language. Tonya has had some not-so-positive experiences as she continues to develop her Spanish.)

1 comment:

Searching Soul (a.k.a Darleen Pryds) said...

It's an eye opener what we can quickly do without when the price is high! It's a great lesson in simplicity.