Sometimes little things make me extraordinarily happy. And it’s not until I feel such happiness that I realize how burdened I had felt beforehand. Like yesterday when our little “estate agent” told us he had his money.
The process here for finding an apartment is workable but requires low expectations, much patience, and bending to the inefficient system. There are no listings. It’s all word of mouth. There are “estate agents” who can show places that they somehow have connections to, and several of these guys hang out on the sidewalk outside our office building. One of my colleagues gave me a couple names and numbers before Christmas so that I could get started on my apartment search while I was around for the holidays.
The one person I was able to get ahold of was a little hobbit of a man who gave my friend and me a complete run-around the first time we met him. He kept asking us for money for different things, and everything he told us seemed to be a lie. We agreed that we definitely didn’t want to work with him again. He just seemed strange, weasly, dishonest, and annoying. However, in the coming weeks he ended up being the only person who actually followed through with available apartments. Also, once he realized that we were only going to give him money for passage (bus transportation), he stopped asking for other things. He also became more punctual once he realized that when we said we would only wait 15 minutes, we meant we were only going to wait 15 minutes. We also weren’t going to mess around with only seeing outsides of houses. If he didn’t have insides to show us, then we weren’t meeting. So between him and us, we established our own little system. Even though we always had to take his words with a grain of salt, we grew to actually like him a bit. And he was the one who found us our apartment.
When a client decides to sign a contract on an apartment, it is typical to pay three months’ rent in advance and then for the landlord to pay the “estate agent” a finder’s fee of between half a month’s to a month’s rent. We took our agent with us when we negotiated the contract with the landlady, and she agreed to pay him half a month’s rent. However, over the next several days we received several angry phone calls and visits from our agent saying that the landlady hadn’t paid him. On one occasion, he stopped us on the sidewalk in frustration, shouted, “I’m hungry!” then walked off. I believe he was, and we were left wondering what our position was in mediating between him and the landlady.
This past weekend I received call after call from this man. I never answered as I didn’t know what else to say to him as my housemate and I had already had the same conversation with him several times.
Yesterday he stopped us outside our office. I walked a few paces away while my housemate spoke with him. After a minute, she turned around and said, “Senhor Chano has his money now.” I gave him a thumbs up, and he returned a huge smile and a thumbs up. He wears the same black Guinness t-shirt and jeans everyday. He can’t afford a couple dollars of phone credit or even 20 cents for a chapa. I’m sure he had eaten very little in several days. But he has his rightfully earned money now. And that makes me so happy.