HAVANA TIMES — The opportunity to live alone is something that, for many Cubans, is as impossible as finding God inside a church.
When I first came to Caracas, I was worried because I knew that I didn’t have a definite place to stay. Although my girlfriend’s parents had visited me in Havana, I didn’t know how long their Venezuelan patience, certainly homophobic, would allow the two of us to live together under the same roof with them.
It turned out that finding a place to rent in Venezuela, especially in the capital, was possibly more difficult than in Cuba.
Am I exaggerating? I don’t know, but it took us 10 months to come across one that was even half decent.
What are most commonly rented here in the capital are rooms within the landlord’s house, generally without a great deal of privacy and where you have to share the bathroom and kitchen.
What about two women living together? We already know that it’s not easy for most people to allow this “class of people” into their homes.
Likewise, often they’ll request a letter from one’s job, references, several months of rent in advance plus some other “gift” in order to sign the contract.
If one has children, it’s even more difficult, though the new tenancy law calls for fines against those who discriminate against renters with children.
To live in a “barrio” (on the hillsides) isn’t the best option if you don’t know anyone in the area. Being new in one of those neighborhoods doesn’t provide much personal safety.
That’s not to mention Caracas rents themselves, of course they’re very similar to those in Cuba, with the difference being that here there’s more freedom when it comes to coming up with money.
Despite all this, we weren’t pressured out of my friend’s parent’s house. I thank them for having generally been patient in putting up with our presence.
Just before the end of the year, we received a call that we were glad to get. Thanks to our having saved from our jobs for several months, we got a room in an old and somewhat rundown house.
Neighbors call it the “ugly house” because it’s not like the rest of the homes in the area, which are brightly colored and well kept. However, it has a backyard with nice shade from a mango tree, and other tenants who have opened up their arms and their friendship to us. There’s also a cat named Ramon and — surprise! — a dog whose collar bears its name: Havana.
Our room has two wide windows through which lots of light comes in. One of them opens up to a view of the mountain, which it seems you can reach out and touch.
At dawn, instead of the racket of car horns and engines, there’s the ruckus of birds as they begin to stir, along with a neighbor’s hens.
The rainy season hasn’t begun. This has kept us happy because for the time being the leaking roof hasn’t begun its unconditional sneezing.
For the time being, I wouldn’t change this ugly house for anything.