Today’s lesson: you gotta lie

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The day started early, as I couldn’t shut my brain down once I woke. I needed to resolve the apartment thing, and negotiate the amount I’m paying nightly for the hostel. Both tasks required the help of my new friends, Mario and Anita. But how to contact them?

Finished up my usual Internet stuff in the morning, including applying for a few jobs (what a waste of time, except you never know). But couldn’t make a call to Anita. The connection wasn’t very good and she might have had her phone off. So I packed up my trusty laptop and headed for the center (that’s what they call the center of town here – duh!, which basically is around where the bridge crosses over to Old Town). I’m trying to find a place within or close to the center.

The Wi-Fi signal at the square was poor and Anita might have had her phone off, so we didn’t connect for awhile. Finally decided to walk around a bit and take some pictures – a little different view of some earlier areas. Went back to the square, had a beer, called again and decided to head back to the hostel. Time about 5 pm.

Since Mario’s apartment was on the way, I tried to retrace my steps of two nights previous, but got lost. So I went across the street from the cafe Anita worked at, knowing the apartment was nearby, turned on the laptop, acquired the cafe’s wireless, and called her. The rest of the evening was great.

They invited me in and Mario started searching the Web site we’ve been watching for rentals. One came up that looked really good, down the coast a bit but really near the water, and still within decent walking distance of the center. So they immediately volunteered to drive me to see the apartment, after already making the phone call asking about the unit. Awesome! It gets better, right after it gets worse.

We drove to this house south of Zadar center, located in what was described as the old city before the center moved north. Very nice neighborhood. The house in question was a 2-story. a short walk down a path to the sea. It was modern and really very nice (for 320 euros/month) and I was ready to sign on the dotted line, except the landlord wanted someone for a longer term. I’ve discovered that the rental landlords try to leave June-September open for the high-priced tourists, and the rest of the year they like to rent to students to fill out the full year. Makes sense, but it’s absolutely killing my chances of finding an apartment. So, new strategy. Call it Plan G.

Whenever anyone asks from now on, I’m here until at least next June. What can it hurt? I can leave the country at any time. There would be no long-term lease that would be enforceable. The 3-month request was killing me. They want a longer term, and who can blame them. So I’m going to lie, and say I’m going to be here longer than I plan, or actually can do. After three months, I pull up stakes in the middle of the night.

But I lost out on that nice apartment today – simply because of the time issue. They had two students who wanted the place through next June. If I told them (through Mario, who’s great with the conversations) I would be there until June I might have gotten the apartment (old guy vs. wild students thing). But I didn’t. Lost opportunity.

Well, my new friends were not quite done with me. They needed groceries, so we stopped at Kaufland, the big supermarket. Anita says she likes it because the prices are lower. They picked up a bunch of stuff and I wandered around and grabbed a few things I needed. Then they invited me to dinner. And volunteered to drop me off at the hostel and to plead my case about the rent – in the landlord’s language. Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

Their first-floor flat I would think is quite nice here. Always, these places have small, but workable kitchens, sometimes they have balconies. Mario likes to work in the kitchen. He cut up some salami handmade by his father, Roma-like tomatoes from his family’s garden, and some excellent bread. They initially turned on some classic rock on their computer (they were using youtube to play music) and then asked what I wanted to hear. Well, I wanted to hear what they normally listened to. Among the artists we listened to was Darko Rundek, with his album Blue Airplane.

The salami is a dry sausage called Kulen or Kulin. Its making goes back many years, hundreds, I think, and today a stick of this can set you back more than $70. The piece we ate was prepared by his father who lives near Zagreb. Dinner was vegetarian, which Anita tries to adhere to, with sauteed peppers and onions in a sour cream/spice mix. On a bed of white rice. Quite good. Dinner was great but I still had my hostel problem.

Mario volunteered to drive me back and talk to my landlords. Anita stayed behind. Mario was incredible. To be honest, I couldn’t understand any of the conversation. Mario, the landlord and the landlady often were all talking at the same time. I could tell it was generally a friendly discussion. My fear was that they would take offense at me bringing in someone else to bargain. I simply told Mario what I was paying daily, what I wanted to pay and how long I might stay. He did the rest. He should get into politics. Seriously.

Through his efforts, I now am paying half of what I was paying before. I don’t even have to change rooms, except the second bedroom is where I can get the Wi-Fi signal, so I’ll change bedrooms tomorrow. The other downside is the bedroom I’m leaving has been booked and I will have to share the apartment with two people from the UK for two nights this weekend. I was told they might be female. Darn! But the landlords expect little business going forward, so I will probably have the place to myself again until I find a new home.