Africa · China · South Africa

Beijing blues- the saga of the “psycho” rental agent; and South Africa’s funeral farce

The weekend is supposed to be a time for relaxation and joy, but so far it has been the complete opposite, full of anxiety and concern.

This is because of the latest threats from my apartment agent in which he wants me to meet his demand or else pay over 5,000RMB. I say latest, because this is part of an ongoing drama stemming from when I moved in, having taken over from the previous tenant whose lease still had a month. Unbeknowst to me, the agent hadn’t been informed I was actually moving in so when I called him, saying I was the new tenant, he literally blew a gasket and ordered me to go to his office right away. When we actually met in person, among the agent’s first words to me was to threaten to kick me out of my home. “Who said you could move in? Who let you live there? Get the hell out! Where you going to go?”
Eventually we settled on a new lease, in which he raised the rent by a substantial amount, and I also had to pay him an extra fee for the time remaining on the previous tenant’s lease (which she had already paid the agency for, and which I had paid her). The agent wants some sign of a deal between me and the previous tenant, which was private and doesn’t concern him, and he gave me an ultimatum by next Tuesday to cough it up, even if it’s a handwritten scribble. Otherwise he’ll (A) make me pay up 5,000 for that time I spent on the previous tenant’s lease, (B) call the police and (C) notify the authorities. Such a prolific guy he is, he combined several threats within one main threat. I believe the latest drama from him is because of a dispute he has with the previous tenant over her deposit which he still has. Way back in October, after he got over his pique and let me sign a new lease, he talked to her and said she’d get her deposit back. Since then, he’s apparently reneged and finally has drawn up this subleasing accusation. Which has some validity to it (I wasn’t aware of it), but given he made me pay an extra fee and let me sign a new lease for an increased rent, he benefited from it. In addition, the fact I moved in while the previous tenant’s lease was ending made it easy for him since it meant continuous rental revenue and no need for him to go search for a new tenant.

This is a lesson about life and society here, and one that’s shaken me a bit. The guy is a bit of thug, a tall, lanky guy who always look as if he’s sizing you up, his agency is a small one, and I don’t rule out the possibility of him showing up to demand money from me or calling people to get physical on me. Regarding this issue, I’ve had two different people, both local Chinese, tell me not to be too trusting or honest about dealing with people. As one said, you might be honest but you think the other person will be the same and admit if he’s wrong?

Coincidentally I was going to write an article for my paper about settling in to Beijing with the headline being what the agent said to me. My point was going to be that despite Beijing having a rough reputation, it wasn’t so bad. Given the new threats from my agent and that I might be forced to leave my current place without my deposit, I’m not so sure right now.

Aside from my rental agent problem, I was shocked, amused and then angered by the news about the fake interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. What happened is this guy who was supposed to be doing the sign language interpretation for all the speakers at the funeral, including Barack Obama, was faking it the whole time and making gibberish gestures. Understandably South Africa and the ruling ANC government have been embarrassed, as they should be (one official even claimed the interpreter was overwhelmed by the English because he’s a Zulu speaker!). Usually such a farcical incident would be really funny, which I initially thought, but taking the broad view, it’s a shame that the funeral of such a famous and influential icon is being tainted by this BS. That very “interpreter” had the nerve to claim he is schizophrenic and had a schizophrenic incident as he was signing at the funeral, accounting for his meaningless and ridiculous gestures. Obama also had his own incident at the funeral, where he was pictured having a “selfie” taken with the British and Danish prime ministers, the latter of whom Obama also appeared to be very happy with as they sat next to each other. Usually I’d be disgusted by the taking of a selfie at a funeral, especially when the people have big smiles as if they were hanging out at some restaurant or mall, but the circumstances kind of mitigate that. The local culture in SA concerning funerals means there’s singing and dancing which means it’s not only about being solemn and shedding tears.

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