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I fought with a catwoman, shared bath room with spanish school girls and lived with french students who smoked inside. In the end I moved to a hotel.
Stay together with my teacher and his girlfriend?
I could not be more surprised! I have bought a deal from the school in Barcelona where I am going to study Spanish. It is Camino Barcelona in Carrer del Comte dÚrgell, 10 minutes from Plaza Cataluna. The deal is that I will live in a student residence, in a single room, with a shared kitchen and living room close to school.
Later I realize that private accommodation in Spain is common and that it is an honor to live with your teacher. But it’s far from what I think a few days before leaving. I say they have to find something else. And they do.
Right before leaving I get the message that my landlady has to sleep early sunday night and that I cant move in there before monday.
«I have a strange feeling in my stomach, but I think; allrigt.»
The school fix a hotel room for me the first night and after one busy day at school, I take a taxi to the accommodation they have found. It is in a central are, in walking distance from school.
«The lady I am going to live with is Spanish, she has two big black cats, is an accountant and has a home office. «
Inside the apartment, I feel claustrophobic.
It does not help that she gives me a long list of house rules and harshly shut the door to the living room where she is working. Inside my small room, my eyes get big reading that I can not shower in the evening, I have to keep away from the living room (and skype) all the hours she works, I cant go barefoot, I cant have visitors and I have to make meals within a short time and keep away from her cats.
«Holy bananas!» a girl friend writes on Fb when I complain about my distress. «This is militant!»
Two days later, I cant take it anymore. I feel more like an intruder than a guest.
I’ve been trying to be quiet at night, I have struggled with the keys outside in the dark to get in, and I have worked to get one of the cats out of my room; it was stuck under my bed. Inside awaits me a letter she has written; it says I have to remember to lock the door when I leave.
The cats are meawing, now she will wake too. I have breathing difficulties and feel frustrated and I write on her note that I am looking forward to more rules tomorrow.
The next day she sits on a chair waiting for me. She is furious and she screams that I’m rude.
We stand in front of her front door and argue. I tell her I want to move and she gets angry and says she will report this to school. «The bathroom floor,» she continues screaming: «It was water there.»
I’m becoming cold as ize: «Please tell the school,» I say. «I will go there now.»
She tries to take the keys out of my hand.
«Next time you come here, you ring my bell,» she scouts.
But I will not let her have them: «You can not take them as long as I have my belongings here!
She gives up and I leave.
The school is understanding. An employee goes there to get my stuff and they start looking for something new.
– Accomodation, that’s always the problem, the house- employe sigh.
They bought a house and made student apartments to avoid such problems. Here I should live, on campus, but there was no room left. The school has grown and they struggle to find good enough rooms for all the students. An agency do the job for them.
-Do I trust that she’s doing the best she can?
«When something like this happens and there is a complaint, they never use the place again,» she assures me.
She admits that residents of downtown Barcelona can be stressed. They may be a little more relaxed in the areas around the city, she smiles.
It’s May 17th, Norways National day, nobody has said happy birthday and I’m not exactly on top. I have lunch and go for a walk while the school is looking for a new residence.
I did not make it to class this day.
Late in the afternoon, they have some new suggestions, I can live with a couple with a little baby (njaaaa …), or something called «Maria’s house» but it’s only available the next day. What they can give me now is an apartment 50 minutes away. I can go and have a look, they will pay the taxi.
The place they send me to turns out to be an office where an employee distributes student apartments. All the lady has left is a room in an apartment with two Spanish students. The room is small, but they are good girls, she says. She is in a hurry to close her office and she puts the keys and a paper with the address in my hand and leaves.
New taxi to new location in Carrer de St. Marius . When I am finally inside the block and have found the right floor in the apartment and enter the little creepy room, I start crying. Shall I just give up and go home?
I unpack the mac and put on some good music. It helps a little.
Then the door opens and two surprised Spanish girls around 20 enter.
– No one told you were coming!
One is smiling, the other one shakes her head, she feels sorry for me , who had to travel all the way from Norway to learn Spanish. She sighs. – Puuh; that’s far.
They open the fridge and say I can get a shelf there, if I want to. I find some old bed clothes in a closet and try to get some sleep.
The class text me the next day in the WhatsApp group.
«Tina, where are you?» I reply that I will come soon, I just need to find some photos for a Norwegian magazine. They feel sorry for me who had problems with catwoman, and they invite me on a beach trip – it’s almost an hour walk – with kebab lunch and sightseeing.
«You should have taken her cats,» a study mate comforts me. «You take my keys, I keep your cats.»
He also thinks the school should give me some free books or something because of what they put me through.
I still do not know where I live and take taxi to school every morning, it costs around 8-9 euros. Eventually I find a local bus, it takes 24 minutes and stops near the school.
I’m making friends with the Spanish girls and we go on fine, except for a night where I’m locked out because the apartment is locked from the inside. The neighbour opens in the end and wake up one of the girls.
After that I add one of my roommates on whatsapp, so we can have contact after midnight.
My last week the school finds a better room for me – closer to the study location. It’s hard to leave the girls in Sant Marius street. I’m going to miss them. We agree to stay in touch on WhatsApp and send photos from our home towns. One of them lives north of Spain and she says it’s beautiful there.
It’s Saturday and I have to get out of the room at 11 and pick up the key to the new place at school at 14:00. I leave the suitcase at school and go to a cafeteria.
I have been to a birthday party the night before and was a bit absentminded, I took the iPhone charger that belongs to the hostess and I have a headache after the wine we drank. Now I’m waiting for her friend, a Spanish boy to come on a motorcycle and pick up the charger. He comes and I keep waiting for my new key.
I will take a taxi to the new place at the school’s expense. They have sent me a lot around now, and I insist they pay it.
I open the door to my new apart in Calle Muntaner, 3rd floor, and meet two French students. The girls giggle and they ask if I need help to open the door to my room. The long hallway is dark, the light does not work.
I have a lump in my stomach, but it disappears when I open the door to the seventh room in the apartment with three bathrooms and eight rooms. The room is big and bright, it is high ceilings and it has a balcony.
This is luxury compared to what I’ve experienced so far. Here I can breathe. The kitchen and the bathroom is dirty and full of other people’s belongings and the French students smoke in the living room, but it is not important. I’ve got a decent room.
After a week here I do not want to move out, but I can not keep the room. In a few hours a new student will take over, a man around 60.
I dont want to leave my classmate S who also lives here, it is nice to have company from the salsa and school.
This room they should have given me all fire weeks. Mierda.
(Ironic enough, the reason why I got this room, was because another student complained and did not want to stay here. She got an onsite apart, i did´nt. But who cares, I liked it.)
I am searcing hotels.com to find a cheap hotel, and it is difficult. I end up with a hotel by the beach, a beautiful place with flowering rooftop terrace and harbor view. Here I spend the last two days; My luxury event after a challenging month with accomodation worries.
At home in my house outside Oslo, Norway, I notice that my garden is overgrown and that my rooms are dusty. Time for a change, maybe. I can move or rent out some rooms. If I manage to share flat in Spain, why not also in Norway?
What I have learned:
- I have learned that it is not normal for everyone to have your own flat with bathroom, kitchen and living room. Around Europe there are many who share household – and they can not afford to buy – they rent! Teachers like students, live in shared aparts and many earn some extra euros by renting out rooms.
- I’ve learned something about what’s hard for me; I have anxiety for angry women and too many rules and I do not like sharing room. It is a challenge to live in dirty flats, and I have to concentrate to manage to ignore it. After four weeks in a shared apartment, I kind of got used to it. It’s social, you save money and as long as I have my own room and there is no «landlord», what’s the problem? I have changed.
- I quickly connect with people and miss several of those I met in Barcelona. I do not like break ups and I struggle with transitions and going homes.
- I’m not seen as typical Norwegian. It’s nice to hear people say that I’m warm-blooded and open and that they miss me when I leave. Some people have told me that I live in the wrong country and sometimes it feels like that. I could have stayed longer in Spain.
- It is hard to find good accomodation in Barcelona. I wanted to live onsite, but it was fully booked, I was too late. My study mates also had a hard time finding decent rooms and aparts. One student had traveled back several times to find an apartment and ended up in a student residence far away from the center. People living in AirBnB were partly happy. One good idea if you are staying for a long time is to spend the first week in hotel and find apartment while youre there. Better to see it with your own eyes. Hostels and motels are cheap, but they are often fully booked, or you have to stay there long-term and share sleeping room with several people of both sexes. Do you want to live private, make sure you’re ready for it. Some students chose host family with meals and were pleased. They lived with retired who had time to make conversation and serve lunch and dinner. Such places you cant have visitors.
- It takes time to get to know a new country, it is demanding to adapt while learning the language. Much of the concentration is on fixing practical stuff and find your way around. We should consider this when we demand that refugees and new people in Norway learn Norwegian immediately. It is not that simple. Many are worse treated by landlords than I experienced, and it might be even more difficult to complain when you are not Norwegian and have the right skin color.
What did it cost?
Single room in shared apartment arranged by the school: I paid 716 euros, which corresponds to approximately 6800 kroner for 4 weeks. For more prices, check the school website.
A friend pays around 350 euros per month for a room in an apartment with a single mom with teenage son. The room is small and he can’t have visitors.
A girlfriend pays 670 euros a month for a small, nice apartment centrally located. It’s a good deal, unlike what I was offered.
Hotel: Hotel 54 at Barceloneta beach cost about 150 euros per day without breakfast. The hotel I stayed first night, Viladomat, is about 120 euros.
ps; I like to walk barefoot. :)