Logistics for new students - part IX: Things you'll need for your apartment
Things you'll need for your apartment
Living in an apartment in San Pedro is similar to living anywhere else, except that certain luxuries may not be available. For example, I have not been able to find a coffee warmer -- that's a hotplate the size of a coffee cup bottom. If you want one, bring it with you or buy it online. Also, you will not find a pocket-sized radio in any store; they only have boom boxes that play radio, tapes, and sometimes CDs. I had to settle for the cheapest box I could find for $60BZ. Those little headset radios you see in the dollar store are absent here.
I bought a six-foot ladder and a toolbox and collection of common tools for doing simple things around the house. The ladder is for changing lightbulbs; don't expect your landlord to do it, and don't expect to see all light sockets with working bulbs in them. My bathroom light fixture had a refrigerator bulb in it, and I could hardly see. Another ceiling fixture had a broken light bulb in it, and required a longnose pliers to remove it.
Your landlord will probably not clean your yard. Yards have a way of becoming littered quickly, as passersby throw bottles on it, and dogs drag garbage bags from your and other people's cans on to it. Therefore, you should have two rakes: one steel, one leaf. You'll also need a mop and bucket, a broom, and a dustpan. You can buy all this stuff in Amal's, a hardware store near the school. Your apartment may come with some of these things, but don't be surprised if they're unserviceable (an army term meaning useless). Sand has a way of getting into everything; you'll be sweeping a lot, and if you like to walk around barefoot, you'll start mopping when you notice your skin being abraded off your feet.
Be sure to inspect your refrigerator and microwave. My refrigerator ran continuously and had a thoroughly corroded door seal, which was pointless to replace because the door was deformed from being kicked. So I unplugged it bought a new miniature frige from Amal's hardware; it works great -- runs five minutes and is off for hours. My microwave's food compartment was so thoroughly corroded that metal flaked into the food when it was turned on. I put it aside and bought a nice 1.0 cubic foot Panasonic from Amal's. I also bought a wide slot toaster from Amal's.
Just because the housing list shows some amenity that "comes with" the apartment, close inspection tells another story. You should not depend on your landlord to remedy these problems.
I also don't like gas, so I declined having the propane stove activated, and bought a 2-burner electric countertop stove from Amal's. Works great.
You will be hard-pressed to find pots with handles on them in San Pedro. I have been in every hardware store in town and didn't see a single one. Well, I may have seen a couple but the price was beyond outrageous. The custom here seems to be to use pots without handles, and to use potholders to move them. Since there was a couple of pots with handles in my apartment when I arrived, they might be available somewhere (or they may have been bought online). Respond to this post if you know where to buy them.
If you're concerned about bathroom safety as I am, you'll want avoid slipping in the shower and breaking your neck when you try to get out. In the states we either have nonslip surfaces in our bathtubs, or we use shower mats with little suction cups on them. You can forget about nonslip surfaces in San Pedro; that's a luxury that's not to be found. You can buy the rubber mats, but they don't stick to anything because the tile used for bathtub floors in often slate, which has a rough surface to which the mats won't adhere. In fact, the mat becomes a skateboard on the tile surface when it is wet with soapy water. I avoid the mat and get out of the shower by getting on my knees and climbing out, one knee at a time.
Speaking of showers, you may get a shower with a type of water control fixture you haven't encountered back home. It's a free-spinning handle, one for hot and one for cold. I.e., you can turn the handle in either direction continuously. One position of the handle is "off", and all other positions are different degrees of "on". The trick is to remember how to turn the water off, as the tactile feedback for 'off' is almost imperceptible. After a little trial-and-error, you'll get good at it.
If you're safety conscious you will want fire extinguishers, at least one in the kitchen and one big one for elsewhere. They can be bought in Castillo's Hardware at the northernmost end of Middle Street. The kitchen models cost $34BZ and put out fires by spraying a solid chemical (probably sodium bicarbonate) over a wide area. I bought two, just to be safe. The big pressurized extinguishers are too pricey for me; they cost $380BZ. If you can afford it, you should have one. The clerk in Castillo's told me the cost is due to the fact that these extinguishes get very hot during transport and discharge part of their contents, making them unmarketable, so the loss must be compensated for by the surviving units.
If your apartment is on the second floor, you may want to consider a metal chain escape ladder. When I asked about this at Castillo's, the largest hardware store in town, the clerk laughed uproariously. That meant they didn't have them, and how silly was I to ask. I have this on my to-do list, and will amend this post when I've found a good online source. You won't think an escape ladder is overkill if you've been at the top of a burning building as I have.
Bed sheets and towels are terribly expensive in San Pedro. Not all apartments on the housing list come with them. Bring them with you if you can; if not, this is something it's probably worth buying online and shipping. Even with the shipping cost and Customs duties, you'll get a better deal than if you have to buy them here.
Aftershave lotion is another thing you should bring or have shipped. You can buy it at the pricier stores like Island Supermarket, but you'll pay big bucks. You can buy shaving cream here, and you probably won't be able to ship this anyway because it's in pressurized cans.
You'll want to lay in a supply of fly swatters -- one for each room -- and a few cans of "Fish", a bug spray that kills on contact. You should also buy rat glue traps at any hardware store; there are no rats, but the traps work for all large crawling things, like scorpions and those pesky geckos. Iguanas run freely here, too, but they don't get into apartments.
You'll need a supply of weather stripping, available at hardware stores. It will pay for itself in saved electricity. Doors fit like barn doors, and your air conditioning will be fighting the leakage continuously. To save money on a/c, plan to spend most of your day in the air-conditioned 24-hour study center, then go home at night when it is cooler. The study center is quite nice; not fancy, but has a/c, electrical outlets everywhere, and is within range of the wi-fi hotspot. There is also a microwave if you want to bring a snack, and the bathrooms are always open.
Everything else you should have in your apartment will either be there or is readily available. Remember, labor here is cheap, but hard goods are expensive. Try to bring or ship anything you are used to having around you, like the electric pencil sharpener which I haven't yet found. Please make a post regarding any item you have doubts about, and I will try to find it here and tell you its cost.
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