Wednesday, February 01, 2012

In search of a place to call our own

We started looking for a place to rent in Copan Ruinas this week. Our homestay ends when we finish our language classes in mid-February, and we’ll need somewhere to live after that.
I’ve been a tenant for a long time, but finding rental housing in this little Honduran town is a whole new thing.  For starters, there’s no local newspaper, or any version of craigslist Copan. There isn’t even a local laundromat with one of those message boards covered in homemade ads with little tear-off phone numbers at the bottom.
So how does it work? Well, it’s basically a door-to-door kind of thing. We’ve mentioned our need for housing to the handful of people we’ve met in town so far, but their advice has essentially been to go into random corner stores - pulperias, as they’re known here - and start asking people whether they know of any place to rent.
That would be a daunting process in our native language, but you ought to try it in halting Spanish. But I guess it really must be the way it’s done, because the strangers we’ve approached so far have been surprisingly willing to put some thought into possible options.
We wandered into a high-end hotel and asked the clerk whether he knew of any rentals. He called out to his supervisor, who told us she’d ask her mother whether her house might be suitable. We went into a local restaurant/bar and asked the owner to keep us in mind should she hear of anything, then spent a good half an hour sitting with one of the patrons - who I’d briefly met when he dropped off his laundry with the woman who runs our homestay - mapping out possible leads.
One of the teachers from the language school was kind enough to meet us at our homestay yesterday afternoon and take us walking through some neighbourhoods where she’d seen “Se Renta” signs. We were very grateful, but it was a peculiar experience to be hanging behind her like hulking kids while she knocked boldly on doors and inquired on our behalf. One vacant house had a “Se Renta” sign but no contact information, so the teacher popped into the ubiquitous pulperia next door and arranged for the store owner to track down the house owner and give us a call later this week.
As for what we’ll actually end up living in, I guess we’ll see. A couple of the places we toured through yesterday were pretty dumpy - but then again, what can you expect for $150 a month? Some come furnished -  if you can count a plastic table and chairs and somebody else’s old bed as furnished - while others don’t even have a fridge or stove.
Some have water all the time. Most have it only every three days, but with a big stone pila out back that you fill up to get you through the no-water days. Electricity is extra, but they tell us the costs are minuscule. With no heating systems, clothes dryers, air conditioners or hot-water tanks to suck up the juice, you just don’t need that much power.
Tomorrow, we’re going to hit up the bilingual school that some of the kids in town go to, maybe a few more pulperias, and check back in with that hotel supervisor to see what her mother said. Home sweet home, here we come. 

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