As has been pointed out to me by many a friend, colleague, and eavesdropper, I have seriously bad luck when it comes to apartments. Since 2004 (yikes), I have moved 10 times, not including my 10-month travelling stint two years ago. Sitting here, musing, I can think of 11 additional moves off the top of my head that all happened before my 18th birthday. I’m sure if I called either one of my parents, together we could realize a healthy handful of other moves resulting in a total number that would average out to show that I have moved every year of my life thus far. We’ll just focus on the last 10, however, all of which were as an adult, on Tortola – no small feat on an island 12 miles long where addresses are non-existent. Let’s recap, shall we?
– 1 –
The Boyfriend’s Place
I moved out of my home and in with my first serious boyfriend. Unceremoniously, I threw all my belongings into a few garbage bags and schlepped them over to his place and into a storage room… where they remained for the duration of my stay. Personal problems aside, we also had to contend with one of the walls turning into an indoor cascade when it rained. Old, semi-rotting wood and wicker in the kitchen meant it was virtually impossible to keep it clean. Then there was also the landlords who, when visiting twice a year or so, would enter our apartment when we weren’t there, leaving us little notes or oddly enough, even washing our dishes. Once they even left us a weird book about cats. True to island living, there were a few snake incidents and once, a tarantula the size of my hand in the bathroom.
– 2 –
Homeward Bound and The Hospital
When that relationship ended, I grabbed my garbage bags and trudged to my dad’s place. Childhood home it may have been, but living with your father and his girlfriend in close quarters at the age of 22 after a bad breakup is no picnic for anyone involved. Not having a car meant the long, steep walk up the hill home every day (sometimes a few times a day) kicked my ass and the whole ordeal made me frustrated and tired. It was here that I managed to contract Hemorrhagic Dengue Fever, which allowed me to call the hospital home for 4 or 5 days as well.
– 3 –
Sleepless in Sophie’s Room
During the stint at dad’s, a girlfriend and I came to the conclusion that, while we had both decided that neither of us ever wanted a room-mate, perhaps we should be roomies with each other! Genius! We found a nice-sized 2-bedroom place to call home. One bedroom was slightly larger than the other so we flipped for it; she won. All was fine and dandy for a while until we both started having different agendas. I think it’s fair to say there was a good chunk of time where we each wanted to give the other one a swift kick (thankfully, we’re still really close). In the meantime, I developed a pretty bad case of insomnia – unable to sleep, or sleep properly, for months. As it turns out, my room did not receive any natural light and unbeknownst to me, my little haven had also become a sanctuary to a whole lot of mold. I’m very allergic to mold. It does funny things to me. Like keep me awake at night apparently, among other things.
– 4 –
A year went by and at the end of our lease, my friend moved in with her boyfriend. Unsure what else to do, I moved all my things down the 40 or so steps to the one bedroom apartment available in the same building. The whole place was even darker than my last bedroom, and damper. I could smell the mold already. I lasted a month.
– 5 –
4 Privet Drive
This one seemed promising. It was brand new, with a little deck, and the landlady and her family were very nice and lived upstairs. I soon came to realize that the small apartment had been built as an afterthought and while seemingly nice and new, it was not very practical in terms of where to put appliances vs furniture. The deck wasn’t really usable either due to the myriad of jackspaniels and other flying bugs. The landlady had an old bulldog that blind and going senile who would often growl or start after you when you walked past. One day, I opened my door to find it standing there, staring yet not seeing, and growling. It took a while for me to leave home that day. To top it all off, this place didn’t get any natural light in it either and after a bout of torrential rain, I was sick with fever and such terrible aches I was convinced I had dengue again. Turns out, it was from the mold. My boyfriend at the time dubbed this place “The Cupboard Under the Stairs,” a la Harry Potter. Are you sensing a trend yet?
– 6 –
A Howling Good Time
Somewhere near the end of my lease at The Cupboard, I resigned from my job and made plans to travel. I had about a month in between the end of my lease and the start of my journey and my best friend said I could move in with her and her then-boyfriend in their large apartment. Perfect. This was actually a nice little hiatus, with the only weird incident I remember being one night when all the dogs in the surrounding valleys all started howling at the same time, including the large Pit Bull mix and the German Shepherd in the house at the time. It was like 101 Dalmatians. But freaky. Memorably freaky.
– 7 –
Homeward Bound 2
Back from travelling 10 months later, I temporarily moved back in with dad in his now-finished house. Much bigger house, but similar issues ensued. I still took my time looking for the “perfect” apartment, however, determined to get it right once and for all.
– 8 –
I thought I had found it. Perfection. Large one bedroom. One and a half baths. Nice big porch overlooking the bay. Washer and dryer. Willing to take pets. Stand-alone house. The landlord seemed very nice and very attentive. I went and saw the place four times before I decided to take it. I bought all new furniture, and I even adopted a puppy. Things were on the upswing… or so I thought. As it turns out, while the apartment got plenty of light, it let in no breeze, and it was like my own massive sauna. The washer didn’t work and wasn’t fixed for the duration of my stay, despite many discussions with the “helpful” landlord. This wasn’t the worst of it though.
After a time, I came to notice the running water smelled a bit funky. I phoned the landlord and he changed the filters. After this happened a few times, I suggested that perhaps the problem was bigger than just a bad filter; the landlord stopped returning any of my messages. At this point the water was rancid and completely unusable. I had to shower and brush my teeth in public restrooms every day, and take my mother to do the same when she came to visit. I eventually got the property manager involved who didn’t have much more luck in getting anything done than I had. They finally convinced the landlord to have the cistern cleaned (i.e. empty it) and refilled. It was emptied. Meanwhile, after 3 months with stinky water I gave notice to terminate my lease. I’d also not paid rent for the last month, insisting that the problem be resolved. I spent the last month in that place with no water whatsoever as he never refilled it. As my luck would have it (ha!), after I moved out, he had lawyers serve me a letter insisting that I pay for the rent that I had agreed with the property manager that I wouldn’t be paying, seeing as I had no usable water for 4 months. Classy.
– 9 –
Invisible Cow Magnet
Ah, number nine. I thought I’d done well again. A mere 5 min move from the last place, open and bright, huge porch around the whole thing. Affordable 2 bedroom. I even hung stuff on the walls in this one, and that’s really saying something. Alas, the landlady lived upstairs and man oh man, is she anal. And paranoid. A few times she called me to let me know that I had left the electronic gate open (it wasn’t actually me) and that I should really take extra care because the cows could get in. Firstly, there was also a cattle grid. Secondly, I did not see a single, solitary cow in the area the entire time I was living there. After a time, she stopped calling or saying hello when doing her gardening and just started sending me text messages. One day I ran into her in town and she was seemingly none too happy that I had found a boyfriend, who spent the night from time to time.
“I see you have a tenant!”
“No, I’m not subleasing, I just have a boyfriend. He doesn’t live with me.”
“I have the right to raise the rent under the lease if there is more than one person living there.”
“That’s great, but he doesn’t live with me. None of his stuff is there. He doesn’t pay me any rent…he has his own apartment.”
“How do I know that?!”
“Because I just told you.”
“You let me know what you two can afford.”
Ok, crazy lady… Less than two weeks later I got a text message saying I had a note taped to my door. She was kicking me out. I got evicted. Me. Me who always pays the rent on time and is more or less a stickler for politeness and rules. I must admit I was secretly grateful.
– 10 –
So here I am now in apartment number 10. After some discussion, the boyfriend and I concluded that I’d move in with him in his place (see, I wasn’t lying!). It was very much a non-lived-in bachelor pad, but he had someone come in and clean it up and rearrange the furniture and now that I’ve found some room for my things, it feels homey. We had quite the rat problem at first, but the other half did some manly exterminating, and I patched up all the holes in the screens, and I think we’re ok. There are still millipedes that crawl on the ceiling, and every few weeks we’ll hunt down a cockroach the length of my thumb. I once found a live scorpion in the sink, and another in the laundry. There was even a giant land crab outside in the bush making noises bigger than itself that scared the bejesus out of me one evening. The entire place is slightly slanting downhill, and we both feel a bit wary the balcony is going to fall off when we step on it. The whole building was also built in the shape of a rhombus for some reason, so the beds won’t ever be flush with the walls, no matter how hard you try. Needless to say, it has its quirks. BUT, there is no landlord onsite, and she seems pretty chill from afar. We know our downstairs neighbor, and she has three super cute dogs who like to come and say hello. And the view doesn’t really get much better. Let’s see how well this one goes. Would it be safe to hope that 10 is my lucky number?