Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lessors, Lessees, and Lots of Livres égyptiennes

Most of today was dedicated to signing the lease for the apartment across the hall, which Ross and I are moving into next week, insha'Allah. This has been the plan from the beginning, as both bedrooms are back away from the street in that apartment, unlike our current abode in which I sleep (when the honking subsides) streetside.
How does signing a lease take all day you ask? Well, it began when we went to an ATM to withdraw funds. I needed to get out 4-5000 LE (Livres égyptiennes, French for Egyptian pounds) and, upon trying to do so at the first location, found out that the limit was 2000 LE (about $373). It was 1500 LE at the next, 2000 LE at the following one, then two ATMs simply didn't work. Finally, we found ourselves at a hotel on the Nile that had a BNP Paribas ATM that graciously permitted me to take out 4000. Initially worried that we'd miss our landlord who said he'd come at noon, we immediately remembered that this is Egypt and that time is a much more flexible concept. Indeed our hunch was correct and he showed up two or three hours later. Once Ahmed did arrive, he had armfuls of kitchen supplies to be moved into the neighboring apartment along with us. This was a relief as the utensils and dishes are quite sparse. The landlord's a very strange, brusk, and somewhat scatterbrained man, but he doesn't seem as if he's out to get anyone. Nevertheless, I questioned him as to why my joining Ross in the apartment caused a 300 LE/month increase in rent as none of the associated rises in utilties usage could have merited this. He blustered, rambling on about something in the UK and then taxes. I politely and firmly reminded him we weren't in the UK and moved on to the question of price. He said that Ross had already agreed to pay the same price for the neighboring apartment as we were paying for this one and when we pointed out that the other didn't have a half-bath, he tried to shrug it off. In the end, negotiations were mildly fruitful. He tried to play hardball and tell us we could just stay in the apartment where we are, but I persisted and we ended up getting 100LE/month off the total. After I scrutinized the lease, crossing and editing it in duplicate, we (Ross, Ahmed, and I) all signed it. Then, he pulled out another one in Arabic, assuring us that it was merely a formality and that the one we'd just completed in English was binding. Nevertheless, Ross checked it over after we discovered half of it was in English, made some editions, and then we signed that too. He wasn't even going to give us a copy, but I requested one, so I think all is well. Though he'd been rather conversational (complaining about inflation and rising costs and how things were done in the UK), as soon as we'd signed the Arabic leases, he said goodbye and left abruptly.
Other than that, little of note happened. We dined at Felfela again and only after I came home to consult the Internet did I discover that we should be tipping people at restaurants a couple-few pounds on top of the tax and included gratuity. Who knew? I hope they don't hate us now. I also realized I've been eating fried things quite often. This should be shocking to anyone back at home who knows me. Felafel (ta'ammiyya) is so plentiful though, that it's become something of a staple in my diet. It's a task to try to figure out how to eat healthily here, but hopefully I'll strike a balance soon.
An encouraging note from my father last night and an email confirming that I could register for classes tomorrow and meet with my advisor brightened my inbox yesterday and today. All in all, things are going very well and I'm satisfied with my little Egyptian life.

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