The two most basic needs of a new migrant anywhere in the world are getting a place to live and getting a job. Searching for a place to rent is relatively easy but actually finding one may be difficult especially when on a budget, same goes for job hunting. After doing some research and asking around, the go to place to search for houses and jobs was gumtree especially if you were looking for a shared house, apartment or room. The way this works is people list their houses for rent and you contact them if you are interested in their listing. Getting a house was relatively easy for me. I had decided I was going to live close to school which was in the city and supposedly more expensive than living in the suburbs. I narrowed down my search to Kensington and Kingsford areas and after sending out several text messages, I got a response from a house owner in Kingsford, NSW.
I didn’t have any class the next day so I went to check out the place. It was a huge house with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It had a huge yard and a swimming pool that wasn’t functional. Maryanne, the owner of the house, gave me a tour round the property; she showed me the room I would be renting and it was a decent size with a walk-in closet that was already serving as a mini storage. During the tour around the house, I noticed the house seemed unkept. The backyard was overgrown, shelves were collecting dust, the swimming pool was dirty and the kitchen seemed cramped with too many appliances. Since she was the only one living in the house, I figured it was too big for her to maintain by herself. I thanked her for showing me around and we settled on me paying AUD$180 per week with a 2 weeks bond. This was almost a one of a kind deal because Kingsford is an expensive suburb and renting a single room for $180 just did not happen. She told me she had another room for rent and if I knew anyone else looking to rent, I should let them know.
The house was about 10minutes walk to UNSW so I decided to go to the library for a while. When I got in the library, I met one of the friends I made the other day sitting close to the entrance. I knew from our earlier interaction that he was also looking for a place to rent, so I gave him Maryanne’s contact and address for him to check the place out. I was excited at the prospect of sharing the house with a familiar face because I was uncomfortable sharing a house with a stranger. So when he called to say he was renting the house, I was relieved. We both moved in over the weekend and spent the first week getting the place all cleaned up and making the place feel more alive.
Maryanne was quite impressed with us. I overheard her calling several of her friends excitedly sharing with them how two Nigerians rented her house and were taking care of everywhere. I remember her saying “its just like when Dad was alive”. She was quite appreciative and she one morning, she made us breakfast; bread, bacon and eggs and baked a pie for each of us. We lived cordially for the next couple of weeks and inbetween, she bought a lawn mower so we could keep the lawn tidy.
The first indication that something was wrong should have been the rent price, but living on a budget, you take what you can get. The other one should have been the appearance of the house. However, a few weeks into living in the house, I started to notice some suspicious behaviour. My room was adjacent to Maryanne’s and sometime we would have a chat and she would tell me stories about her family, her daughter and some issues with the house. Apparently, there was an ongoing issue about the ownership of the house with the council. Also, she started requesting for rent before it was due and asking for extra money inbetween. I later discovered she had a major issue with gambling. Whenever she got payed rent or was able to get some money in advance, she went to the casino to play as many hands as she could and often came back with nothing.
Despite the odds, I was glad I had a roof over my head and could pay my rent every other week. Everything was going according to plan except one; I had yet to find a job.