My new apartment, 2am callers and all



That is a key hanging in the door of my new staff apartment, the one I got from a friend right before the company threw up their hands at Abu Dhabi's absurd housing shortage and cancelled the program. So I am pretty grateful, I guess. Because otherwise I'd be out of my hotel as of May 1, and facing really gross rents or a commute from Dubai. I am fairly certain I would have chucked the entire UAE experiment if that had been the case, so I guess this means I wasn't meant to quit just yet.

That is a little falcon hood on my keychain, very authentic, don't you know. Gemma, the Filipina lady who works long hours six days a week manning the desk at the Ramee Hotel Apartments, the one who once a week or so gave me a thumbs up on the outfit I was wearing, who told me at Christmas that she was sad, because the people she loves aren't even far away in the Philippines, but (nodding her head to the ceiling) "in heaven", causing me to mist up, the one who asked me for some exercises that she could do because she was feeling "thick in the middle", wasn't very happy that I was moving out. There was a long silence when I told her.

"Well," she said, "I cannot stop you."

The day I moved out, which mostly involved calling a cab and filling it with my suitcases, Gemma said she'd miss me. I told her I'd miss her too. And I will. Ever since that freaked out morning I arrived almost a year ago, when I asked stupidly "where is the gym?" and she replied "no gym ma'am", Gemma has been the one lovely constant in my life. She moved me rooms, from the one infested with cockroaches to the one that didn't seem to have any. And when I suspected I had bedbugs, she hopped right on a solution. Mostly in those early days Gemma and the other friendly staff there just helped because I felt like there was someone who noticed me, and I really appreciated it, as it kept me from feeling swallowed up and all alone on more than one occasion.

I would go visit, but I fear it would just be like when women on mat leave bring their new babies back to the office and everyone just stands around, awkwardly, wondering how long they are expected to linger. (Or maybe that was just me) Anyway, I've moved on, and been busy trying to set up an apartment at the absolute minimum cost, which has involved buying second-hand everything and making cranky trips to Ikea for the other stuff.

Then, at 2am today, an insistent ringing of my doorbell. It took sleeping me awhile to realise what it was (not having heard my doorbell before) and when I looked through the keyhole, a man looked back. Another man was behind him, knocking on the door of the apartment across the hall.

"What do you want?" I asked through the door that I most definitely would not be opening.

"Ma'am, checking the bathroom or the kitchen for smoke," he said back. "I live on the fourth floor."

Now, there was no smoke, and I am pretty sure by "fourth floor" he means a bunch of shacks that have been erected on the roof, so I felt I wasn't being too unneighbourly by shouting through the door (especially after I could hear the girl across the hall doing the same thing, in a similar sleepy and confused voice) "there is no smoke. Go away!"

The kitchen sink leaks and when I drain a bath, the water backs up all over the floor. The garbage chute, apparently, was not constructed properly (instead of curving, I am told it just heads straight down to the floor, which leads, understandably, to a pile of garbage blocking it, rendering it useless) so people just put their bags in the hall, filling it with a fruity, gamey smell. When I look out the windows, I see other people's windows, and have to crane my neck for a slice of blue sky.

But it's my own place, and just like everybody else with their own place said it would, it feels a lot better than living in a hotel.

The adventure continues.

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