I’ve never been an apartment person. I lived in a studio apartment once, during my college days at UC Santa Cruz. The walls were so wafer thin and I remember being able to hear the girl next door binge watching episodes of Sex and the City. I can distinctly remember the theme song penetrating the walls.
Ever since then I vowed I would never live in an apartment…ever again.
But when Aaron and I moved to Jakarta, living in an apartment was our only option. Given that our housing was worked into his contract, we had little say about where we moved. When we first saw our new place I was excited. Yes, it was small but it was a workable size for the two of us. It had two small bedrooms, nice furniture and a flat screen (a plus since we didn’t want to pay to outfit the place), a small balcony and two enormous pools. Most of all it was sheltered from the busy streets and the nearby mosques, meaning it would be nice and quiet…or so I thought.
Now that I’ve been here for eight months (whoa!) apartment living is starting to get me down. Not only do I have the upstairs neighbors from hell but there are just so many things that irk me to no end on a daily basis. I try to be super zen about it. But on days like this, when I’m sitting here trying to work and my upstairs neighbors are hammering away and the kids across the way are running and screaming down the hallway…well, my zen state of mind quickly transforms into pure rage and inspires rants like this.
10 Reasons I Hate My Apartment:
1. The kids upstairs
I’ve noticed that kids are really loud in Jakarta. I don’t want to give some broad generalization of Indonesian parenting or their kids, but oh my god kids here scream and yell all the time. Apparently it’s completely acceptable because parents and passersby don’t seem to mind at all. The only people that ever seem perturbed are all of us foreigners.
The kids upstairs are so loud that I can often hear them yelling through the ceiling. They also have the fun habit of throwing stuff on the floor. Aaron and I have a theory that they have a spinning top (a popular toy ’round these parts). It also sounds like they’re casting lots, slapping down dominoes…or maybe they’re just throwing blocks. I don’t know what exactly they do up there but it is unbelievably loud from where I’m sitting. One would think it would annoy the parents too, but I guess not.
2. The constant sound of running water
The first night Aaron and I slept in our new apartment we were woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of running water. It was like a small stream of water trickling down the wall. This sound wakes us up most nights. Apparently there are pipes in our bedroom wall. Another fun fact is that we can hear the upstairs neighbors flushing the toilet. It’s like the sudden release of gallons of water in the ceiling and it skeeves me out to no end.
3. My neighbor’s cooking
The people across the hall are incredibly friendly people. They don’t speak any English but they always smile and seem very curious about Aaron and I. I like them. I often see the woman coming home, carrying bags of herbs and fresh veggies and the sound sizzling oil can often be heard coming out of their apartment.
Sometimes, whatever it is that she’s making smells divine…but every so often it’s putrid! There have been times when I’ve opened the front door to leave in the morning and been smacked with the smell of deep fried fish or what smells like rancid tempeh, which is this horrible fishy odor. It’s not pretty my friends. On two occasions the smell as been so bad we had to stuff towels under our door, burn incense and retreat to our bedroom!
4. Our TV is on the fritz
Aaron and I were stoked to find out that our apartment was fully furnished because who wants to pay to outfit an entire apartment for only one year? Certainly not cheapskates like us! We were actually really surprised that a flat screen was included too.
Everyone assumes that everything is dirt cheap in Jakarta, but that’s not the case. A lot of household appliances are actually way more expensive than in the US and the quality is very poor. Most everything we’ve bought has either never worked (think potato peeler, scissors, pans, knives) or stopped working quickly after purchase (think everything).
So I guess we shouldn’t be shocked that when we came back from our recent trip to Cambodia our TV suddenly started flashing. It’s literally like looking into a strobe light. (On the plus side it’s safe to say I don’t have epilepsy). It does this all the time and we can no longer hook up our HDMI cable to the TV to watch movies without having it flash. The HDMI cable seems to really anger it. For the most part we have to watch movies and TV on our laptop…it’s like we’re traveling again!
5. Getting woken every morning at 5:30
I mentioned in a previous post, but the man upstairs wakes up every morning at 5:30 on the dot. And he immediately lets out this loud, 30-second long groan. Don’t ask me what’s going on, but eww!
6. The sound of the elevator
Why in Southeast Asia building owners feel the need to use the world’s loudest and most obnoxious sounds to signal the arrival of the elevator is beyond me. This is something I’ve noticed in countries around the region and my apartment building is no exception. I just so happen to live in the apartment right next to the elevator so I hear its quadruple beep all day long.
One day as I was waiting for the elevator in the lobby, I could hear the sound even though the elevator was on the 16th floor! That might give you some idea of how unnecessarily loud it is. I’m just glad that I don’t live directly across from the elevator…that would be unbearable.
7. Getting my water & electricity turned off
In the US we’re used to paying bills online. It’s such a simple process. That’s not the case in Jakarta. Every month we have go down to the management office, get a print out of the bill and give it to someone in Aaron’s office to pay it for us. The only way to pay bills is through a bank transfer (no credit cards or cash) and since we don’t have a proper Indonesian bank account we can’t pay the bills ourselves.
Nearly every month the electricity gets turned off. I’ll admit sometimes our bill is paid late, but regardless it gets shut off anyway with zero warning. Every time I have to go back to management and go through the lengthy process to prove that we did in fact pay the bill. The worst part is that they always shut everything off on Fridays right before their office closes for the weekend. Thankfully I’ve always been able to resolve it but if I don’t someday it would leave us without electricity for three days. That would suck!
8. Construction upstairs
About three months ago the people upstairs (my neighbors from hell) started doing some pretty serious construction. Like really loud drilling, hammering and sawing. And if you knew just how small these apartments are you would wonder, like I did, what could they possibly be doing. I figured this would go on for a few days because, again, what could they be doing that would take much time? A few days later and they were still going full force.
Then Aaron learned from one of his students that people often open businesses in the apartment buildings around here. This isn’t allowed but it’s a common practice. For example, they set up day cares, schools, etc. I’m pretty sure they have some sort of operation going on up there. Because every once in a while (like today) the hammering, drilling and sawing starts up again. Just when I think these people can’t get any more annoying…
9. The mystery tube in the bathroom
This one is kind of hilarious. When we moved in I noticed there was this 4-foot-long plastic tube coming out of the wall in the bathroom. It was just laying there. There was another hole in the opposite wall that was about the same size as the tube so I shoved the tube in there. Logistically this made perfect sense to me.
For six months I left the tube like that, watching in disgust as it oozed slime and incessantly leaked water leaving our bathroom floor in a constant state of wetness. What the hell is dripping out of this tube?!
A couple of months ago our air conditioner stopped working and so I had to have someone service it. He spoke no English but was nice enough to convey that the tube should not in fact be shoved into the hole in the wall. Instead it’s supposed to lay on the ground so it can drip into the mystery drain by the toilet. And he motioned that the hole in the wall allows the AC unit in the living room to drain, while the tube allows the bedroom AC to drain. Ooooh! Ever since then there has been minimal slime and no more wet floor. But why this weird system is in place in this building still boggles my mind.
10. The kids in hallway
As I mentioned in point #1 kids here are loud as f*ck. It’s not just my upstairs neighbors, it’s most kids in my apartment building. I wish I had more knowledge of parenting techniques here, but it seems like this is a result of zero discipline and a desire for attention. Whatever is going on kids just walk, actually they constantly run, and stomp around yelling.
So the kids on my floor literally just run up and down the halls screaming and stomping around. How such little children can make such big noises is beyond me. It is also common to hear kids belt out long, blood curdling screams out of nowhere. And sounds of slamming and pounding on doors is also a daily occurrence on my floor. I think the kids are just trying to get attention but it’s crazy.
OK, rant over. It probably sounds like I’m exaggerating some of these things. I assure you I am not. Just like when I’m traveling, expat life is full of these weird experiences that I know I will look back and laugh at one day Hell, Aaron and I already laugh at most of these things on a daily basis because, honestly, what else can we do? I think I’m capable of dealing with it because I know I won’t live here forever. But, for now, I just try to take a deep breath and deal. And writing it down helps get rid of some of my angst too!
Have you ever had a bad experience living in an apartment or staying in a hotel? Do tell so I can stop feeling bad for myself!