The Terrible Week That Wasn’t

What a week!  After we got our apartment contract notarized and returned to the realty office, we got a horrible call.  Our realtor told us that the woman who owns the property rented ‘our’ apartment to someone else.  We bought furniture for this place.  It is a very open house that is not typical in Latin/South America.  We were devastated and panicked.  With only 2 more weeks in Colombia, we had no where to live.

Our realtor, Edgar,  listened to me yell (not at him) about “How could this happen?”  Since the owner hadn’t signed anything, she used us as her back-up contract in case something better didn’t show up.  Her problem was that she wanted us to rent beginning in December although we didn’t plan on moving until February.  We thought we compromised by renting in January.

As it turned out, the renters for our Panama house sold their house in the States and wanted to move sooner  So we changed our move date to mid January.  But now, no place to live.

Edgar took us to several places that paled in comparison.  Small places, noisy places, no amenity places – we were pretty grim.  I kept telling myself that something similar happened to me in 1979.  We were selling our house and buying another.  As our closing date arrived, our buyers (from another state) needed 2 additional days before closing.  But OUR realtor had written a back-up contract on the house she sold us (unethical but not illegal).  One week to go and no place to live.  Then we met Hap.  He found us a similar house on a better street with an extra bedroom.  Sweet!  Then about 6 months later, the house we almost bought caught on fire.  Things turned out for the best.

So I kept reminding myself that things are suppose to happen.  And did they ever.  Edgar brought us to a new building in an awesome neighborhood.  It is so much better than the original place I can’t believe it.  Today the contract was completed and rent was paid.

Olga, our drapery maker, is meeting us tomorrow to measure the windows.  Hopefully our friends, M & T, will arrive in time to see the place.  But it’s officially ours,  for at least 13.5 months!

Pictures tomorrow.  I was so excited about this place, I forgot to take pictures.  The one above is the model but same floor plan.

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Another Country, Another Cedula

Countries south of the border commonly require cedulas, a government issued ID card.  We got one in Panama.  It took about 5 months and a lot of paperwork.  We really don’t get anything extra for it but it means you have closer ties to the country.  It is used as your official ID for many things including domestic flights.  More importantly, it is not required.

When we came to Colombia, we knew that we had to get a cedula here.  Since we are moving here in February, we thought we could complete it then.  No, we need one yesterday as everything is tied to the Colombian cedula.

 

David saw that a local grocery store has cooking classes during the week.  He was told that it was not a money program, it was a points reward program.  No big deal, just join the points program.  Except you can’t without a cedula.  no

We have to buy minutes cards for our phone because you cannot get a phone plan without a cedula.  You cannot get a Metro pass without a cedula.  This is an important card.

We want this beautiful apartment but, as extranjeros, we need a fiador.  A fiador is a person that promises to pay our rent if we don’t.  I don’t know how many people would sign up for that task.  Obviously, we do not have one so we said we could pay several months in advance.  Our realtor said we could get by without one if we have a good balance at a Colombian bank – except – you can’t get a bank account without a cedula.

So we wait for the little card and the special stamp in our passports that will allow us to be participating members of Colombian society.  We were told it should only take a couple of weeks.

As disruptive as it will be for the next few weeks, I can’t stop thinking about this topic in the US.  Panama and Colombia require official proof that every new resident has enough funds that they will not become a burden on society.  Panama does an FBI background check to weed out felons. Traffic checks, of cars and buses, are frequent and the officers look at either your passport or cedula.  Without either, you are ordered to appear in court.  Yet, the US says there is not way this can be done.  If there is a necessity, then it can be done.

Getting a cedula is not free.  If you are a natural born citizen, getting one is cheap and fast.  But, for expats,  immigration takes a few weeks and the cost is several hundred dollars.

 

First Week in Medellin

We began apartment hunting this week.   Almost everyone in Medellin lives in apartamentos and they range greatly in size, amenities and height.  They also come unfurnished – like so unfurnished you have to bring your own refrigerator.  We planned to find an AirBnB for a few months when we return in (hopefully) February but then found it would be simpler to just jump into a small apartment.

The first thing we did this week was scout out places for appliances and must-come-first furniture.  Falabella, Jumbo and Exito are have appliances, tables, chairs and mattresses.  Most deliver for free!

Then we started the online search just to narrow down the neighborhood.  There are literally thousands of apartments for rent. From rooms to rent, to studio, to penthouses with gorgeous views.  Since we aren’t bringing our furniture fro Panama until at least 2019, we think  a smaller place would be a good place to begin.

We have already found that ‘working’ with a realtor is an impossible task.  I don’t know how they earn a living.  Multiple agencies have told us that they don’t have any rental listings when we’ve seen several online.  One guy told us the the paperwork is difficult.  Isn’t that kind of the job a realtor does?  So we decided to try on our own.

This idea would not be advisable for people who have limited Spanish but we did great!.  We actually had a conversation with a woman on the street today.  Good thing as most people do not speak English at all.

We found a location that we thought we would like and started banging on doors.  All the properties we looked at have 24 hour guys in the lobby.  Two of them yesterday just gave us the keys to the empty units and let us take a look.  One was just weird but the other was gorgeous, but it was far from public transportation.  It also was huge – 3 bedrooms plus maids quarters and 5 bathrooms.  The patio was like another room.

Today we took a look  at apartment buildings closer to the Metro.  The AirBnB that we are at now is in a good location but on a very noisy street.  We hit the inner roads and found another 24 hour guard that gave us the scoop on a pretty place overlooking a park.  He didn’t have the keys but gave us the owner’s name and number = no realtor!  Go us!!

We also got on a random bus today to see the outskirts of Envigado.  It was a waste of 2 hours but it felt like we were climbing to the top of the world.  We are pretty close to the Andes Mountains.  Nice area but I wouldn’t want to live so far away.

Tomorrow we will call the contacts and see what we can accomplish.  We still have 2 months here so we aren’t in an stress-filled jam.

I also found a Zumba spot this week.  It’s at the Museo de Castillo, which is an old estate that was deeded to the city.  museo de castilleThere’s a nice group of rooms and a small restaurant on site.  Suzy is the instructor and I can Zumba three times a week.  Cab fare from our place is about $2.  With the amount of walking we’ve been doing on some strenuous hills, we should both be skinny.

One of the local grocery stores offers cooking classes so David will be signing up for a few.  The markets are full of fruits and vegetables, many that I have missed while living in Panama.  There are fresh apricots, tangerines and peaches in the markets now.

So far we are loving the big city.  It’s so clean, there are a million restaurants there are theaters and museums, the people are fantastic and a cab will take you almost anywhere you want to go for 2 bucks.