Tuesday, May 17, 2005

House Hunting

Wednesday 5/18/2005: 21:40 Banda Aceh
It’s been a busy day. Yesterday The and I finally decided on a house to rent. It’s brand new, so that means it’s unfurnished. Most of the NGOs have been renting homes from local families here. The family essentially leaves the house as is (including random rug paintings, obligatory paintings of the Kaba, and the fifteen various types of tea service). Families then move down to a smaller house or even leave the city. From what I can gather, prices of a furnished house pre-tsunami was about 2000-3000 dollars per year. That price has skyrocketed to about 25 million Rupiah per year or about $2000 a month! But in the long run, houses are a much better and cheaper option than hotels. We have looked at a dozen houses. It’s really quite fascinating. I don’t think I would have gotten the chance to visit so many unique homes, especially furnished in traditional Indonesian ways, if I hadn’t had to go house-hunting. The homes we looked at were all beautiful from the inside. Most had lush gardens with mango and papaya trees growing in the front or back yard. This is definitely a “keeping up with the Jones’s” kind of place. Each house tries to be brasher and larger than the next. Many sustain damage from the earthquake but others are untouched.

When you walk into most houses, they have an ornate formal reception/living room… these do not looked used. You go down a hallway and then come to a large central room. This is almost like an inner courtyard, but is usually used as a family room. On all sides are bedrooms and the kitchen. Many houses had bedrooms with a bathroom en suite. One of our problems was finding houses with western style toilets. While I don’t mind the adventure of a squatter for a few months, the person who comes after me might not be as appreciative. Most houses do not have air-conditioning… which surprises me given the beauty of them. I saw one home that had a stunning modern three meter tall chandelier, but mold was growing up the walls. A lot of houses are not wired for air conditioners either. Most houses have 6-10 amperes… I don’t know that much about electricity… but a hot water cooker and a microwave on at the same time would blow the electricity for an entire house, not just one fuse!

So the house we decided on is new… no landscaping, but good security (which is absolutely necessary). One of our co-workers was robbed in the middle of the night while she slept. Some crawled through a window space that was not more than a foot-wide and stole her cell phone and Rupiah. Interestingly, they left her laptop and visa cards. They want something that they can change quickly. So ALL windows must have bars. The thing I like about this house is that it has so much light coming through the windows. Most houses here use dark mahoganies, which are beautiful, but the fluorescent ceiling lighting casts a pallor on the interiors making them dark and dingy. The owner, Pa Ibrahim, has also agreed to furnish the house with all basic necessities… I feel good about that because the inventory would be hell and I’d hate to deny grandma her eight different tea sets!


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