house hunters international

So, a friend asks on Facebook yesterday, “Did you find a house?!” And before I even see the comment, Gabe has already replied. “Yes, signed a one-year lease today.”

“Dude,” I said. “You totally spoiled the cliffhanger blog post I’ve been writing in my head.”

“Gabe never gets to spill the beans!” another friend said.

True enough. It’s definitely his turn. And LOOK AT ALL THE WORDS HE SAVED. It would’ve taken me at least 2,000 words to tell the whole story, and he needed one little sentence.


Go, Team Gabe.


For those of you on Team Marla (wink), here’s the whole story.

(And, if you’re thinking to yourself, WHY IN THE HECK ARE THEY MOVING? I’M SO LOST, go read this post which links to this one. Both are important to understanding the whole house hunt.)

(By the way, it’s 4:30am on Saturday here–dumb jet lag–5:30pm Friday EDT for many of you, just so we’ve got a sense of the timeline.)

Backing up to Tuesday night at 10pm. We arrived in Siem Reap, sad and exhausted. Three sweet guys came to meet us (Livi’s boyfriend–so she wasn’t actually sad, his friend, and our tuk-tuk driver friend, Seng), and we were so thankful, even if it wasn’t the giggly huggy reunion we’d imagined.

AND ALL 15 BAGS ARRIVED SAFE AND SOUND. I mean, COME ON. And the customs guy waved us through with a little flick, and THERE WE WENT.

Wednesday morning. Up and at ’em. Lots of packing. Met with two guys on the board of IOM, the missions agency that handles our money (will blog again soon about where things stand as we work through what happened with HPC). Sweet reunions with kiddos. Gabe looked for places to rent online. Our friend Reece hopped on a bus from Phnom Penh to hang out with us for a few days and help us get ready to move. (He just moved from CA a couple weeks ago to work with HPC.)

Thursday morning. We have a meeting with a realtor. There’s a property we want to see near here that’s renting for $500/month. Livi is not too happy. She doesn’t want to spend that much money, and the pictures look too nice. It’s not Khmer enough. (Be careful how you raise your children. It might come back to haunt you.) We are going to go look anyway. It’s the only thing Gabe found close to here, and we would really love to live near our old neighbors & kids.

Drive two motos to the real estate office in the city. Then follow the very fast-driving realtor back out to where we live (he looks back once, realizes we’ve stopped to wait for our daughters and stops). He is showing us a different house than the one we wanted to see. Awesome. There are cute puppies, so that helps. (not really)

The house is awful. Two sets of double doors in front, so I think it’s supposed to be two residences, not one. Doors open to front room that is maybe 20 feet wide, 10 feet deep. Two hallways separated by a big wall. Two bedrooms off each hallway. Itty bitty kitchen in the back. $500/month. I don’t understand.

Older two girls are grumbling. They want to go home. Gabe isn’t happy with their attitudes. Says go ahead. Realtor doesn’t know where the property is that we wanted to look at, but he has two others. Nina climbs on Gabe’s moto with me and Gabe and we follow Fast Realtor Man back down the awful dirt road we just came down. Bump bump BUMP BUMP BUMP. Literally more potholes than road. BUMP! BUMP! I need a mouthguard.

We make it to the main road. Cross it. Realtor guy is way ahead of us. Something doesn’t feel right. Uh oh. FLAT TIRE. And, I know it seems like I’m over-using/mis-using this word (I’m NOT), but we were LITERALLY one meter (3 feet for you Americans) from a moto repair shop. We rolled right in. (Realtor Dude literally left us in the dust. Literally. Haven’t seen him since.)

Long story short. Flat tire fixed for $3.75. Moto hasn’t been starting. New battery for $13. Uh oh. Problem is worse. Need a new other part for $20. Ready at 5pm (6 hours from now). Message Livi to pick us up. Her phone only works on wifi right now. Comes to get us. Can’t find us. Has to GO BACK HOME to message me. Picks me and Nina up. Takes us home. Picks Gabe up. Sigh.

Thursday afternoon. We call our friend, Seng. He wants to help us find a house. He looks around town for an hour. He finds one possibility (we want 3 bedrooms, $500 or under). It’s $350. They’ll go down to $300.

Girls do not love the location AT ALL. And the house is so gross (which is okay, because you can clean things). Four bedrooms, and every single wall is covered in big huge old sticker things. Cars, Strawberry Shortcake, horses, big elaborate scenes of random things. I envision hours and hours of scraping, and I want to die. There’s a big open roof area, and getting to it/standing on it is this heights-o-phobe’s worst nightmare. I cannot live here. Not ever.

We are tired, discouraged. Gabe calls another realty place from the tuk-tuk and asks someone to please find out about the place near our old house. Lots of phone calls back and forth. Finally, an answer. Oh, that property isn’t $500/month; it’s $1000/month. (Oh my gosh.)

We thank Seng, ask him to take us home. We’ll regroup, cry, pray, figure out a new plan tomorrow. On our way home (less than 1 km from our old house), someone in our tuk-tuk sees a For Rent sign on a house. I don’t see the house. “It’s waaaaaaaaaay too nice,” someone says. “We could just check it out,” I say. “It’s sooooo close.”

No. They don’t want to do that.

Seng leaves us. We tell him we will find something. He doesn’t have to spend all his time and energy on us. We fight to give him $10. He says we’re his family and he loves us and he wants to do this for free. We say he’s done so much already.

30 minutes later, Seng calls. He stopped at that house. It’s $700/month, but they might go lower. Do we want to come look at it? Sure, why not? (WE MUST PROMISE NOT TO GIVE HIM ANY MONEY.) He picks up Gabe. Livi drives me. Ava and Nina stay home with Reece.

We pull up. Oh my gosh.

Oh. My. GOSH.

It’s stunning. A concrete courtyard, a beautiful house, and a slew of flowering bushes and trees. It looks like a guesthouse. Ten minute WALK from our old house. Big eyes, hanging jaw.

I look at Livi. Her face says it all. No. No no no no no. No way. Nope. Won’t live here. Let’s leave.

We go inside.

Oh my gosh.

(Be back with Part 2 within the hour. Most of you won’t even have read this installation before the next one’s up, so no hating. Whatever, I can’t stop you.)

(Go, Team Marla!)

(It’s not too late to switch teams. I understand.)

6 thoughts on “house hunters international

  1. Nicky

    I made it all the way through this and am glad that I get to read #2 in a second… But I did read Livi ha a boyfriend!!!! Congrats Livi, you two are cute together in the pic (I’m assuming that’s who you were in the pic with!)

  2. Sharon Wang

    Aha! Boyfriend. I’d seen some pics and a post that made me wonder. This is the first I’ve seen the official word. Sorry, I know that’s not at all the focus of this post. Can’t wait to read part 2. Headed there right now.

  3. Pingback: house hunters, int’l (part 2) – Marla Taviano

  4. Rachel

    Agh!!! I’m team Marla – and I’m making all my friends here read this adventure a sounds so much like Bolivia!! 🙂

Leave a Reply to Rachel Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *