Monday, May 9, 2011

One (out of a million?) searching for a fresh start

Yesterday I did something that I really dread: went flat hunting. Now, before I go into the cons of flat hunting in Shanghai (because really, the only pro is when you eventually find something price worthy and liveable, and to be able to do that, you need to see at least 60 dumps) let me just say that yesterday’s hunt was unsuccessful.

We started at home in front of the computer. Got reasonably excited at some of the photos of “amazing apartments” that we saw on expat sites online. “Brad new furniture, oven, health club, and only 2 min to the metro station” they all said, while shining at us with tempting monthly rents of 6000 rmb.

However, when we called one of the agents representing these flats, we were immediately told that the price had been raised (over night?!) to 7500. And then one hour before we were supposed to see the “dream crib” the agent called us again –to say that the rent was actually 8500! Eh?!

We did not go and see that flat in the end.

Instead, we did things the “Jonna way” –meaning, walking on the streets in areas where I could see myself living, and randomly stopping by agencies on the way.

Soon we found the perfect little agency with the most perfect little agent: Jerry. It was love at first sight: Jerry was young, polished, and polite and when he realized that I could communicate in Mandarin without any problems, he looked as if he wanted to hug me. We had a pleasant getting-to-know-each-other (or OK, getting-to-know-me) chat before we even started talking about apartments, areas, budget and demands. It felt good. And right.

As we were waiting outside the gate of one complex, and I got tired of listening to Jerry’s fifteen apologies on behalf of the lazy landlord who was being late, I started investigating Jerry’s background, and that’s about when the day got interesting.

Turns out that Jerry, little polished, polite Jerry, was from Shenzhen. He’d graduated from a university to Wuhan, then returned to Shenzhen to set up a company, invest in a house, and build his future.

-But everything went wrong, he said, and for a short moment I saw some bitterness in his glittering eyes. Shenzhen is not a good place. There is too much temptation. Too much bad company. I tried for 4 years and I lost all my money.

-Why, what do you mean? Was the house a bad investment?

-No, but I spent all the money on alcohol, partying and having fun. I was hanging out in the wrong crew, if you know what I mean.


-So I lost everything. My company, and my house. All of my money.

-When was this?!

-One month ago. Then I moved to Shanghai. To get away from everything. To get a fresh start. To do something different!

-Oh, and how do you like it so far?

-Well, I’m still getting used to things…

-Was it easy to find a job?

-No.. it’s very hard to find a job in this city.

And just like that, the bitterness and hurt was gone. Back was polished, polite Jerry, smiling pleasantly:

-Oh, here is the landlord! Now let’s go and see the flat!

The flat turned out to be shit, and although I tried, Jerry did not seem up for telling me any more stories about his past –so we parted at the gate of the complex.

When walking home I couldn’t help but wondering how many young people that come to Shanghai share a similar story with Jerry. He was just 25 years old and had “lost everything.” Twenty five years old, and already at a “new place” to get a “fresh start.”

One can only hope that he does well.


E said...

more of this kind of stories please
so simple, yet so thoughtful.

flyingfish said...

Terrific post, Jonna. One of your best.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Thanks guys! I like these stories too. It's interesting to hear the stories of some of these millions non-Shanghainese people living in Shanghai, and find out their reason for coming here.