When market prices are not transparent

After seeing more than 25 apartments, the only conclusion I can make about Rio real estate is that there is no pattern whatsoever about it. For the same price, one can find 1BD, 2BD, modern, old, in a nice neighborhood, in a bad neighborhood, ocean view, facing a wall, etc etc etc. This is crazy because one can’t ever know if  he or she is getting a good or bad deal. It seems like a lot of the good supply depends on connections and/or pure luck. But one can easily encounter numerous wall-facing apartments with falling apart everything for exorbitant prices and shameless owners refusing to re-model anything.

Eh, the decision on my plate – for more or less the same price:

1. 1BD in an apartment building (daily cleaning), decent condition (super ugly furniture), good view, nice balcony, good location but in Botafogo, includes some utilities. Shorest commute to work.

2. 2BD in normal building, semi-furnished, very cute. Good view. no utilities included. No A/C.  slightly worse location in Botafogo.

3. 2BD in Copacabana, huge apartment, amazing location, close to all my friends. Has A/C, semi furnished but will have to upgrade. no utilities. lots of character. kind of an old apartment with mostly shitty furniture but very nice building.

How does one make a decision under such a complicated criteria?!!


Rio Apartment Hell

Today was just another standard day at work – had to wait in line again at reception to get a temporary pass (still don’t have a real one), spent an hour with HR explaining them what they were actually supposed to explain to me. Then went for a 2.5 hrs lunch at Porcão with the team because one of the senior managers was leaving. I’ve been there before, but the view was still breathtaking! Imagine the below view only during the day..

View from Porcão Rio’s

Once this was done, I was happy to find out that my connection to the real world was established – I got my own Brazilian Blackberry!! A small victory, at last ! My colleague who started a month ago, is still waiting for his… I did get a temporary SIM card this past weekend, however, because my levels of technological affluence are diminishing by the day, it was impossible for me to figure out how to use my soap-bar crap Nokia, and I was really getting frustrated.  Now, I got a new challenge – to learn how to use the touch-screen of the BB Torch…   Life is so complicated, my god!

I also had the pleasure to find out what $2500-$3000 /mo could buy one in the  Ipanema/Copacabana housing market… the answer is CRAP!  Considering myself a seasoned Manhattanite, I was so sure that nothing could surprise me, especially given the generous price I was willing to pay for a 1BD apartment. I have never seen something so terrible. The first apartment, which aside from being tiny and super smelly, featured things like a kitchen with a open window (without a glass or frame) with only a net covering it (one may call this constant ventilation), rotting closets (“oh, no problem, you could get them varnished..”) and various junk pieces under the pathetic excuse name of furniture. It was so disgusting that I told my real estate agent that I would not even put my worst enemy in this place.. I really don’t understand why would anyone want to stay in a place like this.. actually, now that I think about it, it reminds me of a hostel I stayed at in Costa Rica (an experience I swore myself never to repeat). The only difference is that the hostel was $25 a night and not $100 (not including utilities!!).. Absolutely ridiculous.

The next apartment in Copacabana had similar features (i.e. overpriced crap). But some of the highlights were the corner called “kitchen”, which consisted of a sink, a small cabinet and something resembling a toaster oven which the owner called stove. When I asked about a washing machine, the owner said that he could add one – he will just have to move the fridge into the living room, to make room for it!! I kept looking around to see if someone is playing a prank on me. But no, this was totally legit Rio real estate. Speaking to my friend, who is looking as well and even with a higher budget, I found out my experience was not unique. Looks like I will have to look into Botafogo.. which is the equivalent of  something like moving to Brooklyn here.

Ah yes, one final detail of the day. I was trying to listen to the morning news in Portuguese and heard something related to my current hotel and food poisoning. When I went to work later, I found out that there was a huge scandal in the hotel zone because people got food poisoning in several fancy hotels and then the police got involved and some of the chefs were arrested. I am not surprised!! At least about this hotel.. Never stay at the Pestana on Copacabana Beach!! The only nice thing about it is the lobby and the porters. Everything else resembles a hostel quality. I hear this is common in Rio.

At least until the end of this year I get to be the Garota de Ipanema — moving to my temporary housing there tomorrow.

Day 1 in the New World

This package (and its 5 attached luggage pieces) has been delivered safely to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Writing the blog has made me obsessed with making observations and so I’ve had a very busy journey and arrival so far. Just took a walk on Copacabana Beach and had time to relax a bit and gather my thoughts. And so they are:

Observation 1: Men are everywhere

My hopes for yet another upgrade to business class crashed and burned when I arrived just in time to board my flight to Houston and to my surprise, found about 50 people, mostly men, mostly 35-45, white american, in line ahead of my for priority boarding. I guess everyone had the same idea.. Things became clearer as I was eavesdropping on a conversation between the two very handsome and tall American guys, sitting on each side of me (lets call them “white sneakers” and “fancy cowboy boots”). They were both going to Macaé. Pre-salt oil business. Which also explained the other category of male passengers – the rednecks: besides the affluent Houston businessmen (probably former MBA’s), the plane was full of men in their later thirties, early forties, all equipped with a huge beer belly, an army print baseball hat and baggish jeans, barely containing their top weight. Interesting mix.

Observation 2: Some people travel way more than me..

White sneakers and cowboy boots were also discussing various airline service quality and crazy 24-48 hrs trips they made across the world (Russia, China, Australia…). I think it was some kind of a competition.. whose trips were more exhausting. I could definitely relate.

Observation 3: Some things are way better than they seem to be on the surface

The line in immigration of course then, was super long, but moved very quickly, which definitely scored the Brazilian Federal Police points with me. They are way better than the London Heathrow airport torturers, who call themselves a developed economy. Of course, since I had more luggage than the queen of England, I got pulled over in customs but then almost got a marriage proposal from the middle-aged customs official who was impressed with the fact that I was studying portuguese and more focused on asking me if I had a boyfriend and that I will marry a Brazilian, than actually inspecting my bags. LIKE!

Observation 4: Beaches and good weather are good for the male gene pool

Later on when I was walking down Copacabana beach, towards Ipanema, I figured that this customs guy was making some sense. Handsome fit men were everywhere.. jogging, stretching, having a drink with friends, etc., etc. Not so much can be said about the women I encountered (perhaps the attractive ones exercise indoors). I liked the balance. I celebrated it with a Coco frio, while sitting and watching the view of dusk over sugarloaf.

Observation 5: I am about to become a professional complainer

The only bad thing that happened today was my promised apartment, which actually turned into a 5 star hotel, which encompassed my 1 star room, style Motel 8. Window facing the wall, moldy furniture, dirty carpet and a strong chlorine smell that just wouldn’t go away (maybe someone died in there and they had to disinfect…), were just some of the main features. I was hugely disappointed and thankfully managed to at least switch it to one that didn’t have a smell or a carpet, but tomorrow I will have to go and plead for accommodations that are more suitable for this princess. I think I will go crazy if I stay at this place for 2 more months (as it is booked now).

Tomorrow I undergo medical exams. Lets see how this goes. I already have my urine cup ready! 😀 (point of difference in Brazil vs. USA: here you are supposed to bring your own sample. This is what I call outsourcing).