Thursday, 26 April 2012

if it's not one damned thing

November 2011 – conversation with self back in Al Ain. Should we take the furniture, or should we sell it here? If we sell, we’ll have to put up with endless people traipsing through the house and bargaining with us. Horrible! But houses in Brunei are generally furnished. Yes, but the furniture is mostly crappy. At least we’ll have our own stuff if we take it. Okay, take it!

Removalist gives extortionate quote. We check that it includes disassembly and reassembly of our furniture & unpacking. It’s door to door with no extra expenses. Check. So nothing extra? Check.

February, 2012 - Because there is no house available when we arriv we put our things in storage. We wangle one month free storage. Nice.  Everything is looking good. J

April, 2012 - Temporary apartment becomes available and will tide us over until our house is ready. Nice apartment. Sensational views. Should we get our furniture out of storage or use the furniture in the apartment? Crappy furniture in apartment. Cost of storage and insurance is high. Cost of move from apartment to house is less than keeping it in storage. Okay, let’s get our furniture delivered.

Ring up the removalist to discuss date and procedures. Suddenly there’s a $500 charge for moving the shipping from the dock to the storage. Hmmm. First we’ve heard of it. We commit to move to apartment. Then there’s a charge for moving things to the 10th floor of the apartment – the quote only includes to 1st floor. Bloody fine print! So we’re out of pocket on that one. Need a handy man to reassemble furniture. Whoooaaaa Neddy!! No. No. No. We were assured in Al Ain that we didn’t need a handy man and that removalist guys would reassemble.

I try desperately not to either implode or explode. Worry that K may do either the former or the latter. Turns out he’s got murder on his mind! Agggghhhhh!

Ommmmmm! Ommmmm! Breathe. Breathe. Focus on the breath. Feel it going into the body. Feel it leaving the body. Focus on the next breath. In and out. In and out. The present moment is the only moment. Breathe.

Delivery is on Saturday. Good chance that our furniture will be in a zillion pieces and the guys will walk out. I like puzzles. I do. Really I do. But this is too much.

So, yes, we have accommodation. We can leave our less-than-palatial hotel, but the next few days will be challenging.

Funny thing. For years I read that moving house was up there with divorce or death in the family. I’ve never really got it. Moving has never seemed like much of a trauma to me. But, suddenly, here in Brunei, I GET IT!!

Monday, 23 April 2012

a change is gonna come - not sure when though

Three months ago we walked into an awful hotel in Bandar Seri Begawan. My employer had arranged it for us. At the time the desk clerk said, “Ah, yes. Welcome. You’re here long term, aren’t you?”
“Not bloody likely," I thought. Such was my state of naiveté about this country and the way things are done.

The day after I arrived I had to start work, so I was busy figuring that side of things out all the while believing the hotel was a temporary thing and unpleasant though it was, I could endure a few days. In the second and third week we were shown a range of houses. Most were wonderful; some new, others older, but beautifully appointed and huge with magnificent gardens. The catch was that none were available just now. We’d have to wait six months. I still had every confidence the solution was imminent.

Soon we were told that we could move to another hotel, we just needed to wait a few days for approval from finance. When I heard nothing, I enquired to find out that now it required government approval. This happened several times. We were also sent off to inspect alternative hotels, each of which was equally as appalling. These opportunities waxed and wained, but were impotent, none bore better accommodation. Then apartments became possibilities. We were going to move into Ong Sum Ping; a wonderful, newly refurbished building with luxurious appointments. This was dangled for a few weeks and each of my enquiries was met with a road  block somewhere up the hierarchy. It was finally laid to rest when it turned out that there was going to be a high level ASEAN conference in two months for which dignitaries would require accommodation for a few days. That ruled OSP out as a possibility for us.

Other apartments were mentioned, but again red tape got in the way. Then one started to look like a real goer.  The previous tenant moved out on April 1 and the place really only needed a lick of paint. On the 14th we were assured it would be ready today,  April 21st. We went today to pick up the key. But now it seems we can’t move in until the 30th.  

So for three months we’ve been coaxed into enduring just a few more days. And again it’s a few more days. Obviously a good strategy because had I known this on day one, I would have done a u-turn and headed straight back to the airport!

Let me review my current hotel.

Suitable for backpackers. Our suite is 2-bedroom with a kitchen and lounge. We can’t complain about the size, but we can complain about everything else. The kitchen is a closet with no windows. The exhaust fan is covered in years of dust and oily, sticky slime. A wall cupboard is full of spider webs and greasy, grime. The stove is thick with caked on slime and grease. Luckily it has a lid, so we shut the lid three months ago and so it has remained. The tiled benchtops are grotty, and the cupboards are unusable. We haven’t cooked in three months – dining out for each meal. The fridge was a disgrace, but I scrubbed it clean at the outset, so we can at least store drinks.

On to the lounge. K sat on the couch and the frame gave way, so he fell through to the floor. I have avoided the lounge furniture ever since. There’s a small balcony off the lounge half of which is taken up with an enormous, grimy, excruciatingly loud aircon unit. So the balcony is unusable. The master bedroom came with one bedside table, no lamps and a bed that has a clearly visible crater in it! On day one I knew that it was a back’s worst nightmare, so we pushed together the two single beds in the next room and have been using them for three months. There is no mattress protector.  The sheets are placed directly onto the mattress, so one wonders how many people’s sweat has previously graced the mattress on humid Brunei nights – and whether it can bubble to the surface – yuk! The sheets themselves are adorned with cigarette burn holes and permanent stains. One time housekeeping  must have run out of sheets because after a hard day, I stripped off, drew back the covers ready to jump into bed only to find that there was only a bottom sheet, no top sheet!  Once a week we discover that our towels have been taken, but not replaced.

The tiled floors are mopped with a substance that leaves them sticky so my thongs ssluuurrrrrrppp, ssslluuurrrrppp across the floor. The aircon is very old and very noisy and turning it on involves breaking finger nails.

I haven’t told you about the worst feature though – a fine mix of cabbage, mould and garbage brewed to perfection and then let loose through the aircon system. It’s a putrid stench. Opening the windows does nothing to relieve it as more of the stench is simply pumped through the aircon. The first time we pointed it out to staff, they offered to mop the floors with dettol. Incredulous, we told them again that it was coming from the aircon. Eventually they traced it to a switch in the restaurant kitchen downstairs that needs to be permanently on. Now when we come home to unbelievable stench, we ring downstairs. They send someone up to sniff, we tell them there’s no need to sniff, it’s a problem with the aircon and a switch in their restaurant kitchen. They offer to mop, we tell them to go to the restaurant and sort it out. A couple of hours later the place is almost habitable again. This is a regular scenario.

Anyway, you can imagine my disappointment today when I thought the move was imminent only to see it thwarted once again. Ah well, it’ll only be a few more days! :)