People ask all the time: What have I missed most about Baltimore, Maryland, where I grew up, all these years that I’ve been living outside the States?
My family, too, of course, but what I miss most about the place where I lived Stateside when I lived Stateside is the transition from winter to summer. Baltimore may not have a whole lot to recommend it, but it serves up a great spring. Friends living there still have been writing for the past week to tell me of the early spring Baltimore is enjoying this year…and I’ve been envious.
This morning, Medellin is compensating. After a long, rainy Easter weekend, this Easter Monday has dawned clear and bright and bursting with life. Just like springtime in Baltimore. No cherry blossoms (for which spring in Baltimore is known), but other bright flowers everywhere you look, all dancing in the abundant sunshine. Makes you feel like skipping.
I’m in Medellin for two weeks, with two agendas. First, I want to finalize the now nearly year-long renovation of the apartment we bought here last June. Second, I’m hoping to make noticeable progress on the book I’ve been “writing” now almost as long as I’ve been renovating this apartment.
Lief and Jackson flew from Panama City to Medellin with me last Wednesday night. Our plan was to spend our first two nights, Wednesday and Thursday, in a hotel and then to move into the apartment on Friday.
Thanks to a series of uninteresting but compounding events, come Friday, our apartment had neither front nor back door handles or locks…and no water.
In fact, I guess, the trouble was that the place had too much water. The leaky tub in the master bathroom flooded the master bedroom, making a jumbled jigsaw of the just-laid parquet floor. Only the day before, this floor had been a thing of beauty, so perfect and so polished that Lief and I had taken off our shoes before entering the room. Then, Friday morning, when we returned with armloads of towels and toiletries, thinking we were moving in, we stopped, stunned, speechless, at the door to the room, trying to process what we were seeing. Had there been an earthquake overnight? No, because that would have meant damage in other parts of the apartment, as well…wouldn’t it?
Then we noticed the water, lingering in pools and puddles here and there. Someone, we’re still not sure who (remember, anyone can come and go, and our building doormen and neighbors often do, as there’s no lock or latch on the front door yet), must have noticed the flooding and mopped up the water as best they could. The still-dripping mop leaned against the wall.
Whoever discovered the flood and mopped up the mess also turned off the water to the apartment. We’ll have to thank him or her when we figure out who it was.
Back we went to the hotel, where we were welcomed, returned to our same room, and even given the same discounted rate we’d enjoyed the two previous nights, the Easter weekend (and the inflated holiday rates it implied) notwithstanding. (This is why the Park 10 is our favorite hotel in this city. The service is unrivaled.)
I’m installed in the Park 10 still this morning. As soon as I file this dispatch, I’ll venture over to the apartment again, to meet with our contractor to discuss what needs to be done before the water can be turned back on…and I can finally take up residence.
“I’m starting to recognize places,” young Jackson remarked enthusiastically Saturday evening as we were traveling in the taxi from Home Mart to the apartment to drop off another load of getting-settled paraphernalia. “The apartment is that way, right?” he asked, pointing to the right.
Indeed, the apartment was that way, and, making our way back to it for this final delivery of the day, we all agreed it was beginning to feel like coming home. Nothing like three long days visiting every home-improvement, hardware, furniture, and appliance store in a city to help you feel more like a resident there than a tourist.
Lief and Jackson returned to Panama yesterday afternoon. Later today I’ll be joined by the next round of reinforcements, my assistant from Panama, Marion, and our Panama City maid, Olga…who, coincidentally, is originally from Medellin and excited for this chance to return for a visit to her hometown.
Lief is keen to begin seeing some return from the investment we’ve made in this apartment over the past 10 months. If we’re going to have the place ready for renters by the time I return to Panama City myself, in 10 days’ time, I need Marion and Olga’s help.
Our current Prepare The Apartment For Rental to-do list reads like this:
- Installation of door hardware (so we can finally close and lock the front and back doors)…
- More bedding…I’m having trouble finding the sheets, blankets, and bedspreads we need…
- Two tanks of gas for the bar-b-que on the terrace…
- Meet with the agent about homeowner’s insurance…
- Arrange for Samsung to mount the two televisions we’ve bought from them on the walls in the living room and the master bedroom (where they’re normally requested by renters)…
- Arrange for cable service…
- Get the gas turned on in the apartment (there has been a delay that I don’t understand…thus the urgent need for the gas tanks for the patio bar-b-que; until mains gas to the stove and oven has been activated, we’ll be grilling our meals)…
While Marion is addressing these tasks…Carlos our contractor is repairing the damage from the flood in the master bedroom…and Olga is making everything spic and span…I’ll be meeting with our prospective rental/property manager to make sure we’re furnishing and outfitting to his specifications.
The rental manager we’re intending to work with has assured us he has a strong demand for an apartment like ours. If Marion, Olga, and I do our jobs this week, perhaps we could have renters as soon as May…
P.S. The trouble, between you and me, is that I don’t want renters.
Saturday night we had dinner with a couple of readers in Medellin this week shopping for a rental property investment of their own in this city. I was happy to learn that this couple is sympathetic to my conflict.
“We could find an apartment that would work well as an investment without any problem,” the husband explained. “That’s not the trouble, as you know.
“We went to see a place this afternoon, for example. On paper, running the numbers, it was perfect. By the time we’d made it to the front door of the unit, though, I knew that my better-half wasn’t going to go for it. I knew it wasn’t a place where she’d be interested in spending time. We walked through but only to be polite. Our search continues.
“The real problem, though, is that, if we do buy a place where my dear wife is interested in spending time, then the rental property agenda takes a back seat. She’ll decorate and furnish to her standards, and then she won’t want anyone else staying in the place.”
In our case, Lief capitulated…with a caveat. We bought the apartment I liked, rather than any of the ones he’d identified purely for investment…with the stipulation that I wouldn’t object to renting the place out once the renovation had been completed. Now the renovation is nearly done, and I have to admit it. It wouldn’t be the worst thing if our rental manager struggled to find tenants…
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