Wednesday, September 07, 2011

...Two Weeks Later Part 2: The Apartment Hunt

Roxi and I woke up at about 5:00 in the morning on Friday August 26.  Between our excitement, anxiety and not having made the adjustment to our new time zone, we couldn't sleep any longer.  We made the spontaneous decision to drive to the east end of Oahu to watch the sunrise.  We didn't quite make it in time see the actual event but we did get to enjoy a quiet morning at the Halona Blowhole.  The tide wasn't quite ideal for the water to spray up through the rocks but the views of the morning sun and island of Molokai were both breathtaking.

Sunrise at the Halona Blowhole in East Oahu

After enjoying the natural beauty of East Oahu, we headed back to the hotel for breakfast before we were set to meet Sandy to talk about our apartment hunt.  I liked our hotel but what they call a continental breakfast wouldn't even be considered a snack in most places.  They basically had sliced bread that you could toast and/or butter, banana nut muffins, some kind of breakfast cake and there was a lady making pancakes on a portable griddle.  It was included in our room price so I made sure to punish them for their meager offering but Roxi wasn't of the same mind as me.  On subsequent days she chose to forgo the breakfast altogether.

After breakfast we met with Sandy, our realtor connection, to talk about parts of town we should investigate and see some apartments that she had made appointments at for us.  She really gave us a crash course in Honolulu neighborhoods and steered us away from areas that offered much cheaper rent but ridiculously long commutes.  Oahu's dirty little secret is that the traffic is horrendous.  There are a couple of "interstate" freeways on Oahu and at many times of the day, they are more parking lots than roads.  As a result, the surface streets around the freeways are also terrible during the morning and afternoon rush hours.  Oahu is not big and commuting for work is common, but a few miles on the map translate to an hour or more in the car one way!

We settled on searching in the downtown area and adjacent neighborhoods.  Sandy had made an appointment for us in a downtown high-rise so we visited it and were actually quite pleased with what our money could get us in Honolulu.  It was not going to be an palatial apartment but it also wasn't going to be as bad as many of the tiny studios that we were expecting from our online research prior to arriving on the island. 

After our time with Sandy, we compared our notes with ads on Craigslist and in the newspaper.  Roxi and I were able to make several appointments during the afternoon and by the end of the day had found two studio apartments that were at the low and high ends of our budget that we could actually see ourselves living in for at least six months.  Housing is very competitive in Oahu and even if you have had an application accepted, there is no telling how many other qualified applicants are vying for the same space.  So we had no guarantees but were given encouragement from the leasing agents for the two apartments.  After a long day we called it night feeling a sense of progress in our Hawaiian adventure.

We woke up very early in the morning on Saturday August 27 to get ready for a faculty orientation event that Roxi needed to attend for Hawai'i Pacific University.  She will be teaching classes at the downtown campus but this orientation was being held at the Loa campus over the Ko'olau Mountains northeast of Honolulu.  The drive from Waikiki up the Pali Highway is beautiful and capped off by an amazing view of the towns of Kailua and Kaneohe from various spots along the road.

I dropped Roxi off and headed back to the hotel to do much needed laundry.  We hadn't had the opportunity to wash clothes since we had been in Lafayette more than a week before and we were running low on a few everyday items.  While I was waiting for clothes to dry, I did some more research on Craigslist and in the newspaper to find an apartment.  A few hours later, I drove back up the Pali Highway to get Roxi and we decided to take a drive down to Kailua and see what we thought of the area.  It was definitely more suburban and calmer than Honolulu, but the beaches were very crowded for the weekend and we felt like this would probably be too far out of the way for a commute to the city.  On our way back to Honolulu, we had time to stop at a food truck for some delicious garlic shrimp!

View from the Pali Highway

View from the Pali Highway

After a few hours rest back at the hotel and still more research on apartments, we played tourists and had a sunset dinner at the Hula Grill along the beach at Waikiki.  After dinner we went for a walk along the beach and tried to remind ourselves that despite all the stress and hard work we were doing, we were getting ourselves set up to live in paradise.

We slept in a little on the morning of Sunday August 28, but were still up and out of the hotel rather early.  Roxi was busy at work preparing syllabi for her upcoming classes but we took some time out to visit another potential apartment on the west side of Oahu.  It was another strong contender.  On our way back to the hotel, we paid a visit to Chinatown.  Based on our realtor friend Sandy's recommendations, we took some time walking through the markets and getting some very fresh fruits and vegetables.  We also marveled at the multitudes of fresh meats and fish that were available as well.  Roxi made a few mental notes about potential gumbo ingredients. 

We decided to have a dim sum lunch at Mei Sum and it was fantastic.  Not only was the food outstanding, it was the best value for our money at any restaurant since arriving on Oahu.  I have a feeling that we will be eating in Chinatown quite a bit!  After lunch we did a little more exploring of the area before heading back to the hotel.  Roxi continued working on her class preparations while I returned to the grocery store to get a few more things we had run out of.  Roxi spent the rest of the evening working on her classes while I completed several apartment applications and emailed them on to the leasing agents and/or owners.

Monday August 29 was more of the same.  Roxi was working on her class preparation and I was making contacts with apartment leasing agents.  We left the hotel at around noon to head to an appointment to see a place not too far from downtown.  We drove by before our appointment and thought it looked promising.  It was cluster of bungalows as opposed to the larger apartment buildings that we had been looking at.  We met with the agent about thirty minutes later and were pretty amazed at what he showed us.  It seemed like a pretty great deal although it was at the upper end of our price range.  We talked with him about ourselves and he urged us to fill out an application on the spot.

After Roxi and I left, we were discussing the possibility of the apartment we had just seen and decided to start thinking about furnishing whatever we ended up getting.  We were looking at mattresses when I received a phone call from the agent that we had met with only thirty minutes earlier.  He had spoken to the owner and she had given him the okay to rent us the apartment.  I was so shocked at how quickly he got back to us that I was lost for words.  I told him I had to talk it over with Roxi and that I would call him back in a few minutes.  Roxi and I went to a Starbucks to discuss the pros and cons of the apartment.  Besides being a little bit more that I wanted to spend on rent, there weren't really any other cons.  I called the agent back and we made arrangements to review and sign the lease later that afternoon.

After Roxi took care of some paperwork at the HPU downtown campus, we went to the leasing agent's office, reviewed and signed the lease, paid our deposit and first months rent and were given the keys to our new place in Hawaii!  It is located about a mile north of the heart of downtown Honolulu where both Roxi and I will be working yet it doesn't feel like we are living downtown.  It is in an area called the Lower Punchbowl named for the proximity to the extinct volcano crater that is a few hundred yards from us that is now the site of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  It was such a relief to find an apartment and be done with that stage of the process and it only took us five days!  The next step was to furnish the place but that work would start in earnest on Tuesday.

Lower Punchbowl: Our new neighborhood in Honolulu

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