Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lets take care of some tasks!

The previous weekly spending report will return tomorrow, its been a busy few days.  For now I'll cover two of the fun events from the past few days.  #1 Successful European Bank Account event.  #2 The Worst Apartment I've Ever Seen.  I capitalized them for dramatic effect.
I didn't work on Tuesday and took care of some of the items on my "to do list".  A quick side note:  I went to the US Consulate to get finger prints.  It was on "Consulate Row,"  which is a long street with a ton of security and lots of different consulates.  Each member of the security force had to stop me on my way and all I really wanted to do were finger prints.  I got it done, Step one complete.  Lesson learned?  The ring finger is pretty useless when you're trying to control it alone.  Moving on, the next step? Paying rent.  I've finally been requested by my landlord/flat manager to pay my rent correctly.  The past two months I've paid in cash, and this time the flat manager decided to not let me be lazy.  I went to finalize and start using my European Bank Account.  
I accomplished three things during this trip:  1. Depositing money into my account.  2. Receiving and activating a card.  3. Payment Transfer.  The first was the simplest, I gave them my account number and a bunch of cash.  They told me the money would be noticed by the internal computer system within 20 minutes.  The second step was easy, I didn't even have to show ID.  I gave a separate person my account number and they handed me the card... which the clerk referred to as "she" because again, there is no gender neutral pronoun in French (I have to make note of gender based references to inanimate objects as they usually fascinate me).  I put a PIN on the card and signed for it and I was good to go.  I then went on to step 3 which was the most interesting.  I went to a different bank (because it took 20 minutes to get there and was on my way home) and went in to use the automated banking service.  I had a little personal desk and computer that I put my card into.  I was able to do account referencing and investing, but more importantly was money transfers.  This is the main way to pay bills in Belgium.  I was able to input my landlords bank account number and set the account to personally pay him on a specific date with a receipt.  SO!  Bills paid.   I've also got to say I learned about an incredibly unnecessary Belgian card system.  I'm not entirely sure what it is called, but I can load a preset amount of money (under 50 Euros) to my debit card on the "chip" in front.  With this I can pay small fees at most convenience stores and really most contemporary shops.  I wouldn't need to use my pin and it is instantaneous.  But here's the weird part... if your card gets stolen or lost, you LOSE the money you've preset to the card.  I'm pretty sure I've heard of this before:  Cash... weird.
The second event of note was apartment searching.  I've finally found a "reliable" source of apartments to scan through that has a reasonable selection and is still in English.  Prices are included along with photos and lots of other info.  It isn't an individual real estate service, but an index.  The caveat being that you deal with a second individual not linked to the index.  Anyway... There is another American in the office that I discussed looking for an apartment with.  Two bedroom places are much cheaper per person, but he was on a short time frame and we weren't restricting ourselves to two bedrooms only.  He eventually signed on a one bedroom today because he had to get a place for April where I need a place for May... oh well.  But this isn't a story about what he got... this is the story of the WORST APARTMENT I'VE EVER SEEN.
We should have been tipped off by the single photo included on the website looking out the window.  We walked down to meet the land lord and take a look at the 670 Euro Two bedroom Apartment.  Before entering I'll make note of the context: Avenue Anspacht is like the crappy part of Broadway that goes past Chinatown.  Its crowded with people looking for awful urban discount stores.  I believe there was a dollar store (euro store) about two storefronts down. Upon entering, I was relatively impressed at the in-progress upgrade to the foyer of the building.  Then we walked through the second set of doors into the foyer of a 1990's urban horror movie.  There was no "finish" material to be seen.  The floors were original, unfinished lumber and we had to walk up six flights of stairs past a few very nice looking (or really scary) gentlemen.  I'm pretty sure the door wasn't even a door... but a piece of plywood with a door knob hewn into it.  We entered the apartment to see that there was still no "finish floor."  Maybe you're unsure what I mean by "unfinished" floor.  To make it easier: generally you can't see through the floor boards into the apartment below, untrue in this occasion.  
I also made note that the land lord was very creative with his listing of square meters on the index.  Within each of the bedrooms (that couldn't have been 6'x10') there was a loft above the entrance.  I recognize that this is common in New York to achieve a sleeping space and still have a fully accessible bedroom.  Those aren't usually made with 2x4s and plywood.  I believe he used these lofts to add square meters to his listing.  At this point I've become a master of apartment sizes in meters because I've been drawing them for the past two weeks constantly.  The developer I'm working for would be impressed to hear that this land lord fit 64 square meters of crappy apartment into a 45 square meter space.  Also, physicists are soon to question his ability to fold space and time.  I've been pretty generous (nice) while describing the apartment so far.  Onto the negative side:  it reeked of what I imagine death smells like.  I may have achieved a lifetime of asbestos poisoning in a single sitting upon entering this place.  My American co-worker didn't have the patients to be nice to the land lord and I only humored him for about two minutes.  We soon left and Ryan said to me, "Thank you Scott.  That could be the worst apartment I've ever seen."  I will forever be proud of that moment.


  1. that death smell was just from the hookers and pimps the night before. You could always dance on the loft, like in the red light district windows.

  2. I have nothing witty to say.