Thursday, October 9, 2014

Today I Feel Different...

This morning I slept through my usual 7.30 AM alarm and I didn't even feel bad. I took my sweet time with the morning yoga practice and wasn't checking for time. I didn't rush from going to dentist's emergency service or to my Chinese teaching appointment. Then it occurred to me... it almost seems like that I am ... relaxed. For the first time in the three months that I have arrived in Sweden, I am actually r-e-l-a-x-e-d. :)

And I think I know exactly why. After 6 months for Q and 3 months for me, we finally finally, YESSSS FINALLY, have a space that is completely and utterly livable and all to ourselves. A home we call our own. Here is the journey we took to get here...

BEFORE coming to Sweden, Q has done some hard work and found an apartment for us to live in. The contract was signed and we were all set. I shouldn't have laughed so hard on my flight to Sweden because -

A WEEK after my arrival, we were informed by the landlord that the apartment has been, surprise surprise, SOLD! We were back to look for a place to live. This would have been relatively easy in a lot of part of the world, but not in Sweden, and definitely not in August. Allow me to explain:
- Not in Sweden: There is some really messed up rental apartment supply and demand situation here. I don't get the whole gist of it, but it is something of a government-controlled rent control. We put ourselves on several waiting lists and were warned that it could take years before we get to have a rental through "proper" channel. Read more in these news reports: here and here.
- Not in August: August is the time when a lot of the Swedes take their month-long vacation. There is even a law in place to make sure companies allow employees to take month-long vacations in July and August, and the employees sure all do. Top to bottom. In and out. That means housing market is slow and we had a real hard time finding anyone or anything!

ANOTHER WEEK passed and we realized that us finding an rental apartment was like Rob Ford quit drinking. It just was not going to happen. Okay, at least not in the near future. So we had to change our strategy. We decided to take the plunge and buy an apartment. Yep, just like that, two weeks into the country, I am faced with my biggest purchase ever. I cannot speak for Q's reaction to this, but hey, Q loves shopping. :)

Sleeping on borrowed mattresses in an unfurnished apartment temporarily while looking.

TWO MORE WEEKS passed, and we found an apartment that we like. Okay, I am probably brushing over the apartment shopping effort here considering we are new to the city and didn't speak the language, but we did just that. We found an apartment that we fell in love with. It was love at first sight... Mind you, we were oh-so desperate either one of us could marry someone with an apartment! But I digress. On my one-month mark of moving to Sweden, I, my dear friends and family, I made a bid for us on the apartment following the Swedish way - with an SMS. Yes, a short short text message that read something like this,"Dear agent, we would like to put a bid for the apartment we saw for the ###### amount. Thank you." If you do the math, each character was worth essentially thousands of dollars. If hitting that "send" button doesn't get one high, I don't know what would.

ANOTHER WEEK's back and forth negotiation, yes, mostly by text messages. Some phone calls and emails on our part, since I can't stand sending texts. Anyway, we got the final agreement and a loan from the bank. That is another situation that is unique to Sweden. You can get a huge loan, and don't need to pay the principle ever, like EVER. Fine, don't believe me, read this.

WHEN we finally got the keys to the apartment, I wish I could tell you that I was happy as a new home-owner, but I wasn't. I really felt like we were forced into this commitment. A little sad, right? But no time to dwell in that, we literally got our shipment from Toronto the next day. Yeah, let's just say we went from no apartment, to an empty one, to one with just boxes, a lot of boxes. So many that Q and I were playing hide-and-seek. I still haven't found him yet.
But hey, at least it was a livable place, right? Uhm, NOT quite. The living room ceiling was falling apart and we had to get it fixed. That turned out to be a BIG job. Who knew. Okay, newbies here, remember? ONE WEEK, for one whole week, we tried to remove the old paint with friends' help. Oh that was so fun. I wish more of you were here, so we could share some of the fun with you, and have a little less fun ourselves. Really.

Then it comes to the moment of realization that we couldn't simply repaint it over ourselves because of the cracks in the concrete - apparently normal in these century-old buildings. Well, since Q had to work during the days, it fell on me to find a painter. That was real fun with the language barrier and cultural differences. Reading back at my notes, we contacted a total of TEN painters. Yes, that was a lot of Google Translation. And the quotes we got were all over the place. When we finally decided to go with one reputable company, it quickly became a communication nightmare. I was getting second hand information from Q, who was the initial contact with a home renovation store, which has a contract with a painting company, whose boss sent his staff to assess the job. When we realized the assessment wasn't done correctly, the staff informed his boss, who informed the store manager, who then emailed Q and Q told me. And this went back and forth a couple of more rounds, and I gave up. I found another painter, and worked with him directly. The new painter did a quick and fabulous job. ONE WEEK later, the living room was back to normal. And that was just in time for our first house guests' visit. Yay. :)

That was ONE WEEK ago, it was nice to have our visitors, but it was very well deserved when Q and I got to enjoy our apartment for the first time in its normal state just to ourselves. Ahh... home sweet home. Today I feel more relaxed, thanks to you.

p.s. Come visit us here. :)