Love Letters to Friends, As Well As Very Important Musings on Earth Shattering Matters:
Thread Count, Powerlifts, Quilting, Karaoke, Lemon Cookies, and Graphomania

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Geography Lesson: A Guide To Apartment Hunting

in which we discover that silence really is golden, and at current market prices, weighs about a pound
In my previous international traveling days, lo these decades past, the complaint about Americans was that they were exporting all their crap, like fast food and Whitney Houston, as an expeditionary force with which they could overwhelm all the world’s nascent culture with low quality uniformity. This tactic, by the way, appears to have worked: KFC and light rock are rampant here. But in these days when everybody is trying to export their crap to everybody else, the complaint has become more direct: Americans are just dumb. A joke I have heard no less than three times in one week is that the war in Iraq is intended to teach Americans geography. Oh yeah? If we’re so dumb, how come YOU’RE the ones eating Original Recipe and still listening to “Saving All My Love For You”? Ha! Ha HA! Ahem. However, given that 63% of young Americans cannot find Iraq on a map, I provide this geography lesson as a public service to my American friends, after the jump.

I am on the continent of Africa. It is EAST OF AMERICA (the short way) or WEST OF AMERICA (the long way), located here:

Further, I am in the country of South Africa. It is in the SOUTH OF AFRICA:

In South Africa thre is a province called the Western Cape, which is IN THE WEST:

And in the Western Cape is a city called Cape Town (pop. 3M), which is ON A CAPE on the south-west coast:

The central Cape Town neighborhoods form a U around Signal Hill, with the closed end of the U facing north. Maybe that makes it a lower-case n?

In any case, the apex of the curved part is where business school is located, as well as the truly terrifying V&A Waterfront Mall and Tourist Attraction, a little slice of Old Orchard Mall, if it were located on Navy Pier, and had significantly more seafood eateries with outdoor seating.

Prior to The Incident, I’d assumed that if I lived close enough to school I would not need to rent a car, and I remain stubbornly attached to this decision despite obvious evidence that it is bad. So I focused my apartment hunting efforts close to the curved part of the neighborhood U (or n). Per the Gumtree realty section, the west leg of the U (or n) forms the Atlantic Seaboard neighborhoods; and the east side is City Bowl. From there the city peters out into the ocean, to the West, the rocky peninsula to the South, and suburbs everywhere else. Of course every neighborhood has its peculiarities, but my tenuous American grasp on such matters leads me to simplify the nature of these locations thusly:
Atlantic Seaboard - yuppies, moneyed tourists
City Bowl - younger hipsters and professionals, backpackers
Outlying ring of suburbs - normal people
Beyond suburbs - poverty, vinyards, penguins, sharks, whales
Between here and Praetoria - lions
The central neighborhoods are readily broken down further for the benefit of people who need to know how much better they are than their immediate neighbors. The Seaboard comprises these areas in decreasing order of fanciness: Bantry Bay, Clifton Bay, Fresnaye, Camps’ Bay, Sea Point, and Moille Pointe. The Bowl has the Waterfront, Gardens, Green Point, de Waterkant, Central Business District (CBD), Tamboerskloof, Oranjezicht, Vredehoek, Bo Kaap, and Foreshore. I’m probably missing some, but that’s where my map, and my patience, cuts off.

The fact that I am middle-aged and crabby about my surroundings means that, for my purposes, rent in tolerable neighborhoods for tolerable accommodations are approximately the same as they would be in Chicago. Expected costs and availability issues with a short-term lease are compounded by the fact that rates go up like crazy – easily 50% - in December for the insane holiday season. What’s more, I am unclear on my own dates, because school goes only for three weeks on this modular program (which I did NOT know going into this) so I am more free to travel than I first thought, but don’t have any solid plans yet. As anywhere, security tends to decrease proportionately to fanciness and cost. So with these starting points I began my search in the Atlantic Seaboard, and really came to like the mellow, but well-populated, area of Sea Point. But after concluding that I was no more freaked out walking in nearby Green Point than I am in most parts of Humboldt Park, I included two Green Point apartments in my search that are now the finalists; in fact, I may end up living in both, because the primary choice is apparently only available through October 31. It is a darling detached cottage nestled in a quite cul-de-sac with 1.5 bedrooms and a charming modern d├ęcor. The owner, let us call him Steve, is a harried, highly strung, troublingly chatty piano player who appears to be in need of immediate cash, perhaps to save this place from the bank. The owner of the Other Place, George, is a mellow, helpful part-owner of the entire block of flats, whose sole job is to deal with tenants and who told me I need only give him a couple days notice before leaving. His place is an older, high-ceilinged, recently renovation flat with interesting architectural details and a wraparound balcony overlooking Main Road and the new World Cup stadium construction; lamentably, it has only a shower, no tub. While the locations are equidistant from school, on either end of Green Point, George’s place is literally 75% the price of Steve’s, and closer to world famous deli Giovanni’s, and the Virgin Active gym I am eyeing for a temporary membership, and probably comes with fewer landlord-induced headaches. So why am I being such a moron, and waiting patiently to meet Steve to fork over a bunch of cash even as I type this? Two reasons:

1) The quiet
2) The bathtub

So! We now know that the price of these items together equals ~US 300, and it just remains to be seen whether this value is weighted toward the quiet, or the tub. As I am a near-graduate of a school known for its empiricism, I intend to research this question by logging hours spent in idleness: those during which I am partially submerged, and those during which I am frittering away time on the small veranda, or reading on the couch, or asleep. Anyone wanna take the over/under on that? Of course, there’s always the chance that, if I took the Other Place, I would get a Virgin Active gym membership with the difference in rents, and hang out there to avoid the noise, instead of eating KFC in my flat whenever I am not at school. But if Steve ever shows up – and he just called to say he’ll be 1.5 hours later than expected, so I can extend the bath I’m currently taking – that will have to be a study for another day.


  1. the bathtubs in SA are magnificent from what i remember (i don't even take baths and i took them there) and most of the ones i saw had lovely antique (or antique style) "telephone" shower heads for rinsing. bliss.

  2. Lower case "n"! Sitting on a hill!! Ha!

  3. ...a darling detached cottage with charming modern decor & a tub...sold! If one risks life & limb daily, home should damn well be comfy!

  4. as you well know, m'dear, owner of the comfiest home around. new news: i am IN. and connected to the world, so I now have a home until the 31st. Go me!

  5. so what exactly is your schedule? mine is, of course, nebulous and either wide open or very busy- depending on the calls i get in the next month or so.
    however, with tens of thousands of frequent flier miles at my disposal, and a free place to crash in Zambia, perhaps we could meet there and go see the poverty, lions, and KFC branches starting in Lusaka?