Well, I think I may have found myself a home. Less than 24 hours after TOTALLY FREAKING OUT and getting all depressed about my prospects.
I spent all day answering ads online. Didn't leave the hostel until 4pm. I made a friend, though! She's Danish, and she spent the whole day searching for jobs online. And she cooked me spaghetti for lunch, so of course I love her forever. I also spoke ever-so-briefly in French to two French guys. They were trying to figure out how to dry their clothes (the dryer is broken), but didn't know the English word for "dry," and I surprised them by saying "Secher?" They were also really surprised to learn that I was American, because apparently, no Americans speak French. News to me! Sure, we hate the French, but we still learn their language in high school. Anyway, the encounter highlighted just how horribly rusty my French is. Maybe I should try to speak more to them.
[Side note: There's a Scottish guy in the room and it's seriously distracting me, even though I can't understand what he's saying.]
Anyhoo, I answered this one ad for a place in Kennington (south of the river). It's a two-bedroom flat I'd be sharing with a woman who just finished her PhD (so she's a bit older). We'd be sharing the bathroom and everything. I got there early--learning from yesterday's mistakes--and wandered the neighborhood. I liked it immediately. I mean, it's nothing special, but it isn't shabby, and that's all I really care about at this point. I was comfortable there. On one side of the main road, everything looks sort of posh, and the other side of the road (the side the flat is on) is a large complex of low-income housing. So it's sort of a borderline neighborhood, which is alright. Even the low-income housing isn't as shabby as the other apartments I've looked at. And the flat itself isn't part of the low-income complex.
The woman was really nice. She's from Burma (Myanmar). We chatted easily, and then she asked where I was from. She said she has a cousin in Seattle. We chatted some more, then I said I was really interested in the room and definitely wanted to be considered as a candidate for it. Other people were coming to view the place, but she basically told me it was mine, because she liked me and was sold on the fact that I was from Seattle! Too funny! She said she was really looking forward to telling her cousin that she had a housemate from Seattle. So maybe she's a little bit crazy? I don't know, but it sounds good to me!
- Nice, simple, not shabby flat, so I could make my room cute without too much effort
- Walking distance to two tube stations
- Kennington tube station is on the Northern line, and so is my school!! We're talking a direct connection (there are 11 tube lines in London, and many of them split so are more like two or three lines, plus the light rail, etc)
- Only one other person messing up the kitchen and bathroom
- Walking distance to multiple grocery stores
- A little yard ("garden") in the back with garden furniture and a bbq and a shed where I could store a bike if I get one
- The room is partially furnished (bed, wardrobe, nightstand)
- The kitchen is nice and new-looking and has an oven and freezer
- It's really close to multiple nice parks
- I could move in pretty immediately (yay for having an address!)
- Because the woman is a little older (i.e. more mature) and the flat is a bit out of town, I worry that I'll be sort of isolated from young people. I mean, this sounds dumb as I write it, but I want to be able to have people over, if I manage to make any friends. Eh, I'm sure it'll be fine.
- There are just the two of us. I had already decided that the ideal living situation, other than living alone, would be to live with two other people. If it's just one other person--as this situation is--there is more pressure on the relationship, you know what I mean? With more than three people, there are too many people creating a mess. Three seems like the perfect number. But maybe I'm crazy to put this much thought into it. I just know that I'll worry more about whether I'm being clean enough for her standards.
- The neighborhood is ever so slightly on the sketchy side. As I left, I passed an old man drinking whiskey from the bottle on the sidewalk who asked, "Are you married?" as I passed. He was at least 60, if not older.
- It's not close to school or the city center. But the direct tube line sort of makes up for that.
- There may be a lot of money to pay up front (I emailed her for clarification; it might not be so much).
I had another arrangement to view another apartment afterwards, out near Devons Road. On the way, I was sort of feeling like maybe I didn't want the place in Kennington, maybe it wasn't ideal. Then I saw the Devons Road place. Flashback to yesterday's scary encounters. I mean, the room itself was perfectly fine, not depressing. But the bath/shower room (separate from the toilet) would make me seriously claustrophobic if I had to use it. *shudder* And it was a sort of messy, crappy student residence. And it was in a totally, totally charmless neighborhood. *shudder again*
So, Kennington is looking pretty good now. But I do have another appointment on Friday, so my options are still not limited.
On the way back from Devons Road, I had to switch trains at Canary Wharf, which is where London's money is made and lost. It is the financial district, and I was awestruck by the tall, pretty buildings (especially at dusk). This is also where London's young and wealthy spend their Tuesday evenings, cuz the place was hopping. Super chic restaurants and shops. Then I spotted Lehman Brothers, the London branch, located on Lehman Road. For the last several days, the papers have all been talking about laid-off Lehman Brothers bankers being picked up by the other banks. Eh, whatever. Anyway, it was pretty. I was dazzled.