Well, I should have seen it coming.
Life in Luján seemed so calm and even comforting. Returning from vacation with my parents at the beginning of April, I found myself looking forward to returning to Lujan, as I finally had a routine of sorts and people to call on the weekends. Although I was living in a slightly ill-equipped apartment in the back of the Habitat office, I was getting along well and even cooking meals for myself on the camp stove I bought expressly bought for this trip and intended to use for… you know, camping.
When I first returned to my room, I found that my things had been moved a little bit and the bathroom had been thoroughly cleaned. “How nice,” I foolishly thought,” they must have a cleaning service that comes every month or so.” At an office so cash-strapped that all of its computers are all running pirated copies of Windows, odds of this would fall somewhere between improbable and laughable. The next day, at work, my boss broke the bad news: I had to move out within a week or the property owner would threaten legal action.
I knew along this was coming, just not so suddenly. How did I come to be the victim of gross anti-volunteer injustices? Enter the landlady:
The landlady only wants the space to be used as an office even though it’s a house. Fair enough; it’s her property. Habitat Argentina wants to be able to provide housing for free in lieu of the stipend that most other Habitat international volunteers receive in most other countries. Fair enough; they’re broke. Here’s where we run into some problems.
Strike one: This was something both parties should have worked out when they signed the lease, not when the Luján office started to house volunteers there. Their employees of course can rest easy since they have no vested interest in ensuring the welfare of free labor who’s in the country on a tourist visa.
Strike two: The landlady is completely insane. She owns several properties on the block; the one where I lived happens to look directly across the lot, into the backyard of the one where she lives, separated by a wall. That wall apparently isn’t high enough. I knew in my gut that things weren’t going to turn out well when she called my boss weekly to report that she knew exactly what time I turned the lights off and went to bed every night. I have yet to see this woman in person, but I guess she’s seen me.
Strike three: I’m out. I moved out last week, and now I’m living in Colegio Nuestra Señora de Lujan de los Hermanos Maristas (Villa Maristas for short), which is a Catholic boarding school and conference center. In retrospect, titling one of my posts “Catholic by Osmosis?” doesn’t seem so funny anymore. It’s not so bad though: I have to walk thirty minutes to work and eat bad cafeteria food for breakfast and dinner, but I got a lot of exercise and don’t have to do dishes. I’m currently in the hunt for an apartment or something of that sort. While I’ve found some appealing and dirt-cheap alternatives already, this is not Washington, DC, where you can scan the listings on Craigslist, tell lies about yourself at a few open houses, cut a check for the first and last month’s rent, and move in. Most Argentine landlords want a 2-year lease and a garantía, where you sign over an entire other property as collateral- for an apartment lease. For most Argies, this will consist of one’s parents’ house, but this is not an option for me While this seems absurd at first blush, in a country where people still remember the peso devaluation of 2002 (where the government slashed the value of the peso, and thus everyone’s bank accounts, to dig out of a long recession), it sort of makes sense.
In other news: I did some traveling in March, and I should be putting up some of the pictures on Flickr tonight.