By Kazuya Muto
It was Friday — one day before I was going to move out, and I still didn't have anywhere to stay. I went back to the library notice board, telling myself if I couldn't find accommodation, I would stay at a cheap hostel somewhere.
I scanned the ads. This time I found myself avoiding the ones in English and Chinese. Thirty minutes, one hour went by. I also went and checked some other notice boards too. I couldn't find anything. Perhaps I would have to stay at a cheap hostel after all.
I was on the point of giving up when I found an ad that looked promising. Thank God, I thought, where's the contact number? I found it, but as I did, my heart sank. Next to the number was written: "Prefer female overseas student." Well, I wasn't female, but at least I was a student and I was from overseas. That was two out of the three conditions. In any case, "prefer" implies "better," not "only." So I called the number.
A woman answered the phone. "Hello. I'm looking for accommodation," I said. "Do you still have a room available? I'm an overseas student, but unfortunately, I'm ... male." There was a pause, but then she politely told me, "I'm going to talk with my husband, so please call me back in 30 minutes."
The next 30 minutes felt like three hours.
When I rang back, she said, "My husband said OK. So when do you want to look at the house?" I was extremely grateful to this kind woman. We made arrangements to meet. Her husband would be waiting in front of the University Bookshop at 4 p.m. wearing a red T-shirt and a green hat.
I was impatient for 4 p.m. to come around. At 3:40 p.m. I was already in front of the bookshop. Thirty minutes later I spotted a middle-aged Indian man (yes, he was Indian!) wearing a red T-shirt and a green hat. "Hi! How're you going, mate!" he said in a loud, cheerful voice. He was so friendly and I liked him immediately, although to be honest, I was also a little intimidated. He was so tall and well-built.
On our way from the university to his house, I introduced myself and talked about why I was looking for a room to rent. He also introduced himself — his name was Kris — but it was hard for me to understand him because of his strong Indian accent. His wife, Puja, was Indian too. I wondered why I hadn't noticed her accent on the phone. Maybe I was concentrating too hard on speaking English and I didn't pay any attention to her accent. In any case, I also had difficulty understanding her, although her accent was not as strong as her husband's.
When we arrived, he told me to look at my room. I had a look but this was my first time finding a place to stay so I didn't know exactly what I should check for. I finished checking the room in two minutes, and I said to him, "Very good room! Perfect! I want to rent this room." I asked only one question: "Could you tell me what a 'bond'is?" He laughed: "Don't you know what a bond is?! Oh, my God! Everybody knows what a bond is! A bond is a kind of deposit you have to pay first, but the money will be returned when you leave the house."
Suddenly I realized I had forgotten to ask the most important question of all: "By the way, who else lives here?" He laughed and said, "My family, mate!" I was taken aback. I had thought he was the landlord and I would be sharing with other students. To be honest, I didn't want to stay with a family. I wanted to share with other students, but I ended up saying, "OK. Perfect. Can I move in tomorrow?" "No worries, mate!" he said. "I'm looking forward to sharing my house with you."
That night, I went to sleep earlier than usual to prepare for the next day. I knew, though, that the move wouldn't be too difficult because all I had was a suitcase and sleeping bag. On Saturday morning, I said good-bye to my host family. As always, they were so kind, and as I left they said to me, "Remember, if you have any trouble, you can come back anytime."
Shukan ST: May 19, 2006
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