Monday, July 07, 2008

Apartment Living Part I

Time for a change from the usual Monday Moaning. Anyone who moves to the West while at one time or other have to live in an apartment complex. Apartments or as we call them in Kenya, flats are not as prevalent back home as they are out here due to the high population density in many Western cities. When you move out to a mid sized or large city unless you can afford otherwise or have room mates, odds are high that you shall be living in an apartment complex.

Finding an apartment complex in itself is an adventure. You see here in America many complexes are so wiley in their advertising that it verges on fraud in some cases when you go to see the apartment complex and find out that the picture was several years old and severely photo shopped too. This is so done that it stops being funny, when you get there the amenities they advertised like the gym are so run down or in some cases like swimming pools not even open for use.

Where your apartment complex is also very important. In most Western cities everything is far from each other unless you live in a small town. So you have to make important trade offs. Would you rather live close to work? Close to school? Close to friends and family? And of course apartments that are closer to the highway tend to be more expensive then those that are further in. Plus if you the more "up town" the neighborhood the more expensive rent will be. So you have to make hard choices. Most of the time you can get cheap rents the further you go from the City but you shall have to get used to driving long distances and hours to get to work, school and other places. I remember when I came here my fam was living in a nice big house but that house was almost 20 minutes to the interstate, not amusing at all I tell you.

Immediate neighbourhood and residents of an area are very important. I'm not going to be racist or anything (then goes ahead to make racist statement) but you want to stay away from any place that has a sign that says "acceptamos tax ID," that basically means that the apartment complex will most likely have alot of Mexicans living there. Mexicans are alot like the Somalis we used to have in Kenya who would live 20 deep in a 2 bedroom house. Some apartments like them due to the fact that Mexicans like to keep a low profile and are less likely to push for their apartment to be fixed when something breaks and thus cost less to keep as tenants. And you do know that of course as a black person you would stand out like a sore thumb in a predominantly hispanic apartment complex. On the other hand, if you are a brave soul you could move into a predominantly black lower or middle class area aka "The Hood" where you wouldn't stand out very much. The only thing is that some of these areas are high crime and the apartments aren't always well maintained, I recall in one apartment complex we lived in my small brother had his tyres stolen at night and he had bought new rims. Lucky for us my big sister suspected who it was that did it, so she talked to the kids mum and told them what had happened without accusing her kids but she caught the hint, gave them a tongue lashing and the next morning my small bro found his tyres on the patio and as all this was happening the leasing office were not concerned at all. On the other hand this isn't to say that all places where black folk live are "hood" there are predominantly black up class areas but of course you need the money to afford to live there. As for living in a predominantly white area, you are not ensured that the apartments will be of the greatest quality since there are lower class white areas too but since white people on a whole have more money than minorities they tend to have the better neighbourhoods, hence the reason many people like moving to predominantly white areas. The only thing is that first of all we all know that some white folk can't stand black folk, so some apartment complexes will make it as hard as possible for you to move in by asking for all sorts of pre-conditions ie high rent, high deposit, long rental history, stable employment history, background checks and all that sort of thing to knock you out of the running. And if you do get in some of the neighbours won't be too pleased to have you and will do anything they can to make your life miserable esp when you stray from their community rules. But there are some apartment communities where people of all races seem to get along or pretend to for the most part.

So you see when you leave home things aren't as simple as they were back home where a new home was an ad in the classifieds away. Here it's a whole 'nother ball game.

Part II - Room mates, leases and other fun things............