Plus one room for scale model maid

private property
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Real estate agents can be arseholes sometimes. A few years ago, being first time home renters, Naomi and I were conned into paying double commission by this chow ah beng of an agent, and last year, we were treated to a siao char bor show by this independent agent who got her husband to talk to and abuse me on the phone when I called to ask that the apartment be fumigated before we moved in (it was infested with ticks from a previous tenant’s dog).

We’ve just started the merry dance of house-hunting again, seeing as it’s a little under a year to go before our lease expires, and yesterday was spent poring over the Classifieds and deciphering realtor acronyms like IT, CT, SD and 4D.

‘IT’ means ‘inter-terrace’; ‘CT’ means ‘corner terrace’; ‘SD’ means ‘semi-detached’, and ‘4D’ means ‘houses that only lottery winners can afford’.

We viewed a few properties and began to understand what realtors really mean, when they describe numbers of bedrooms in private dwellings as ‘3+1’ and ‘4+1’.

‘3+1’ means ‘three real bedrooms and a hole in the wall for your domestic helper’, or ‘three real bedrooms and a hole in the wall for storing your junk and your domestic helper’.

When I remarked “wah, so small” on seeing the five foot by three foot by seven foot hole in a yet to be completed house, the realtor attending to us, sweating in his shirt and tie, defended its design, saying, “but it’s just for your maid”.

Being in a reasonably good mood, I responded, “but our maid is life-sized” to which he pointed out, “but this house is different, this maid’s room got own toilet”.

The en-suite makes a big difference, I suppose. Imagine prison cells without them. Crap.

Settling

It takes a couple of weeks to unpack, say some of our friends who’ve also had the good fortune to change their surroundings once every couple of years. And we’re still settling in, moving things around the house because Jake the Cat has been displaying his acrobatic prowess by leaping from shelf top to fridge top and toppling some things we’ve put up there and breaking them.

Tomorrow the plumber-electrician guy comes over to fix some glaring defects in our apartment which somehow weren’t so glaring before we signed the lease.

There’ll be more. Curtain Guy comes over some time next week, hopefully, and we’re expecting a third visit from Starhub Guy because the ingterneck connection is seriously fucked up.

Oh, and Naomi and I have the flu.

Since the morning that we came

Pensive Mac
Mac’s settled in easiest – as long as he’s got his cushion, he’s sweet

As with any new premises, there are things to get used to. But to call them teething problems would mean this apartment has more teeth than it was supposed to.

There are however, nicer things.

In the carpark, between the parking lots, are fruit trees. Mangoes and rambutans, and the other day, an Indonesian maid from an apartment spirited a ripe pineapple back to her employer’s apartment. (I knew she was Indonesian because she yelled “Mum, ada pineapple” as she cradled the pineapple up the block.)

Walking Mac the Dog has been a good way to acquaint ourselves with our new neighbourhood, and we now know that we have a cleaner who knows everything and everyone in the compound, and we have the best security guard the landlord’s maintenance fees can buy.

In the best martial traditions of a Gurkha, he sits, unmoved by anything and I mean anything, in the guardhouse, all day, except during lunch hours. The night guard is even better. He’s a sorta stealth operator, and we haven’t seen him since we’ve moved in. Intruders, be warned.

The cleaner, now he’s a character, has been really helpful, telling me things (in Hokkien) like, “Wah, you damn suay, your apartment on the top floor on that side of the building, furthest from the refuse point, you didn’t know there wasn’t a refuse chute did you? Raining you die”.

On our second morning here, we had a reasonably long conversation in Hokkien, halfway through which he said, “You know, It is a pity not many people will know how to speak Hokkien in a generation or two. A real pity”.

Then a Caucasian woman walked past us, and he yelled, “Bonjour!”

As she tripped and responded with not as much gusto, he turned to me and said, “There are a lot of Frenchies here, so I learned a bit”.

At that point, both Mac and I felt like breaking into song.

May is the month for moving

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I haven’t blogged for a few days because we’ve been busy arranging our big move to our new premises, and some things are falling into place, although, as with all moves, it’s still a little stressful.

Looking for new premises has had its interesting moments though. There was one landlord who showed us an apartment, and when we asked about a strange looking area behind the kitchen, he said, “oh, that can be the maid’s room. You can put a fridge to block this opening so the maid can have some privacy”.

If we had taken the place and if we did have a maid, that would mean we’d have to make sure we never look around the sides of the fridge lest we invade the maid’s privacy and “outrage her modesty”, as we say in these parts.

There were also other apartments we viewed that looked (and smelled) like they’d never seen daylight, and would never see daylight given the types of rental the landlords were asking for.

But despite all that, we’ve been very blessed to have had a really nice landlord who would’ve let us stay for the same rent if she could. And there are not many landlords send food over (with serving instructions) when they’ve just arrived from overseas.

A rude and painful shock

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So the report is out, and our apartment’s security guard intimated that there were some areas of Singapore where apartment security was stricter, and where security guards like him were instructed to always take down particulars of visitors and their vehicles and not let anyone who didn’t oblige with their particulars into the private compound. At all.

“I was instructed to take down all particulars and not let anyone who didn’t oblige with their particulars into the private compound. At all”,
he said.

He also told me that visitors to our apartment block had complained about his conscientiousness, saying that he was harrassing them when all they wanted to do was to drive into the visitors’ lots and visit their friends.

He found it very difficult to do his job properly, he said. Some people just don’t care about security, he added.

If only all security guards, including the sleepy night guard, were like him. Not only is he a conscientious security guard, he’s also been our rental intelligence. One of the apartments in the development is going for $7,000 a month, he says.

“That’s really crazy”, I say. “And that’s why we have to move. Our income hasn’t increased by 120% in line with rentals”, I say.

We’re gonna miss him.