Happy 2010!

No photos today.  Looks like we may have lost our Internet connection for good this time.    But wanted to finish the “mansion” story and get us out of that awful house.

I woke up after our first night there feeling  because it was so overheated and we couldn’t open a window because DH worried that Karen would get sick…don’t get me started on that now.  Sasha picked us up in the morning, and we began a day of rounds to notaries and other offices.  I called our agency director to tell him that we absolutely could NOT stay in that house.  First because they had a long-haired cat and Karen is allergic and then I listed the other reasons.  He sounded worried and told me that I shouldn’t say anything about the problems with the house to Sasha, except to tell him that we need to leave due to Karen’s allergies.  I agreed that we would stick to that excuse.  Our director then spoke to Sasha and explained the allergy issue.

After a couple of phone calls made by our translator, Violetta, she told us that it would be a problem to find an apartment so close to New Years because many Ukrainians rent apartments on that holiday and landlords had mostly already rented out for that weekend.  We said we would be willing to vacate for that weekend if necessary, but she and Sasha still couldn’t find us anything..so they said.  She finally came up with a place, but told us she wasn’t sure it would be ok for us. 

We spent a second night at the “mansion”, eating mostly eggs.  In the morning, Dudu went with Sasha and Violetta to see the place.  He said it was filthy, small, and far from the center, but that they only wanted 32 USD a night for it.  He told Violetta that he was willing to pay up to 50 USD for a decent place.  She liked the sound of that, and eventually, through “our” notary, found a fantastic place.  We now live in a 2 room apartment 2 blocks from the city center, with EVERYTHING in walking distance.  It is clean.  The only thing lacking is Internet.  Dudu asked about it, and was told we’d need to purchase a router (hardware), and pay to set up a line.  It seemed an  long production, considering we had an Internet cafe on our block, so he let it go.

Once we got to the apartment, he showed me a line he had noticed when he first saw the place, but didn’t mention to the landlady.  He said it looked like an Internet line, and sure enough, it worked!  So we are set , even if it is an illicit line. 

Why was our director loath to tell Sasha that we just wanted a different place?  Because a facilitator like Sasha, generally makes a cut of the rent when they find an apartment.  This is considered part of their compensation.  However, it seems like Sasha was a bit greedy.  First, he set the rent at an outragious 80 USD per night, and second, it looked like he was making a killing, letting us stay in his employer’s house (possibly without her knowledge) and then just giving a small percentage to the cook to keep her quiet.   Overall, Sasha is doing an excellent job of pushing the paperwork through quickly and efficiently.  However, he’s also trying to save money by only taking us to visit Matan once a day, instead of the twice to which we are entitled.  We aren’t making a big deal about it because once a day is enough, considering that we also have Karen with us, and also because we recognize that he lost a big chunk of the cash he expected to make when we insisted on leaving the awful house.

One more note on the house.  If you see the earlier photo with the larger-than-life picture of the owner, Marina, in the background you get an idea of her personality.  What we neglected to photograph was the rest of the room.  The walls were covered with portrait shots of her and her son, her dancing with her son, and sexy headshots of her alone.  It was totally bizarre.  I wish I had asked her last name.  I’d love to look her up on the Internet.  Apparently, Sasha is her driver, and one reason he has so much pull in the government offices, is that she is the “unofficial” mayor of the city.  At least, that’s what we heard.  But this is Ukraine, so who really knows.  The truth is flexible.