Finally, I made it to France. I was ready to settle into my Airbnb French abode. So . Ready 123…I was so happy to arrive. The host’ main language was Portuguese. They were a husband and wife team from Brazil. The language created a small barrier to communication but we were able to get through it. I arrived in a personal cab. Although I was scared for my life and my wallet. But, the cab driver seemed alright despite his body odor! I didn’t have cash so the taxi had to take me to the nearest ATM once we arrived at the Airbnb location. The host husband told me later not to take personal cabs because they could be part of the mafia. He suggested that I take Uber instead. The host wife couldn’t make it out to meet me so the husband went over the house instructions. After 30 minutes I was ready for a nap! I felt like the place was pretty clean and I was happy the place was as pictured. Just a couple of things arose…..
I noticed some ants on the kitchen counter but it didn’t seem that bad. Coming from living in the south in Miami, Florida, I was just glad the ants weren’t roaches. If there’s one creature I can’t stand that’s a dang roach. Those things don’t even deserve life. I digress, the ant problem continued. so I decided to get the bottom of it. There was a loaf full of breadcrumbs left in the bottom of the toaster and sugar cubes in a gappy container left on the counter as well. I opened the sugar container and a bundle of ants flew out. I kept saying to myself at least it’s not a cocka-roach, at least it’s not a coca roach, Amen. So I emptied the dish of sugar and the breadcrumbs from the toaster and voila, no more ants!! Problem solved….. I also purchased some bug spray.
I noticed that there was not a flat sheet on the bed just a comforter and the under sheet. I’m not a sheet expert but there were two sheets there. I was used to 3. I thought maybe it was a difference in culture perhaps. I looked in the closet and there were a few folded sheets with some hair on them and the sheets smelled of smoke but I just brushed it off and put the sheets on the bed since it was getting late. I was getting a little hungry but didn’t even know how to get to the nearest store. Luckily there were a few leftover unopened snacks in the fridge and the host husband gave me a bottle of water, a bottle of wine and 3 rolls of fluffy toilet paper. It was the best I was going to do for the first night. I eventually found out that everything in this secluded part of town, La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, closed early so if I wanted food then I had to get it before dark. Everything was going normally for a few days and then the garage door broke. It started to just go in all different direction and then it just didn’t move at all. Apparently, this has happened before.
The neighbor came by and started working on fixing the garage door. At first, I was like what a nice neighbor! His wife stopped by and I was able to practice my French as the neighbors didn’t speak any English. The garage door eventually was fixed and the neighbors invited me out to dinner. I was so happy because I still didn’t find where all the food was and it was great to meet some nice people. We were able to communicate just fine over a bottle of wine and Chinese buffet. That’s my kinda night! It was July 14. Which was Bastille Day in France. It’s the French equivalent to July 4th. So after dinner, the neighbors and I went to see the neighborhood fireworks! How fun…..But things quickly headed in a different direction a few days later…..
The host wife wrote me on Airbnb and said they will make sure the garage door was fixed and not to worry. She would check the door on Sunday. She told me she wouldn’t enter the home and she had extra keys to the house. I told her okay I had an event to attend and would not be there. The previous day the neighbor fixed the door and had been knocking on the door all day for me to look at each update. The door had been fixed before Sunday, so I didn’t think the host would come and check the door. I was a little jet lagged still and didn’t get out to my event as early as I planned. I was napping, (my favorite hobby) and all of a sudden I heard knocking at the door. I wasn’t expecting anyone and I wasn’t presentable to come to the door as I was half asleep. Still, the knocking persisted and soon it turned into banging on the windows. I heard someone yell up to the window in a sweet soft voice– TEEENA TEEENA. I then got an e-mail notification I had a message on Airbnb from the host. The wife said, Tina, we are at the door we just wanted to drop off some items for the house… I was still under the covers. The knocking got louder and louder at this point I didn’t want to open the door because I felt invaded. I jumped out of bed opened the door and I said yes? I am just about to get into the shower. I closed the door. The knocking persisted. and when I was done with my shower I started packing to leave. I opened the door again and the host rushed in with the items. All the while I heard all the neighbors talking in French about me they were all gathered outside the door. I felt so upset at this point that I started packing the rest of my things. The house owners had moved on to the couch with the house items an iron, ironing board, fan, hot water maker and some cleaning rags. They were putting together the fan. I said well, I am going to my event. and we all moved out of the house. I left my things packed hoping that Airbnb would let me out of my 5 week rental agreement before I returned. I left to go to my event hoping that was the end of that terrible and uncomfortable invasion of boundaries.
The host wife wrote me a note on strict instructions that she was unhappy, She explained how I have to close the security door and lock the door that needed a million twisted and turns to lock. As a Realtor, it was even hard for me to lock it. But I thought the security alarm and the steel door and window shutters would be enough. It was so hot I left the top floor windows cracked open on the tall two-story home. I didn’t think anyone would jump to the top floor to break in and they would have to be Superman to do that. But the host wife was very upset about what she saw… me not closing the top windows and not locking the tricky door although the steel door was secured. She said look at it from her perspective. I definitely understand having a stranger in your house for 5 weeks and not being able to have access to your own house. Scary…well if they wanted to still have access to their house then I could’ve just have been a house guest, not a paying renter with rights. right? I wrote her and explained that if I didn’t look at it from her perspective I would never have replied to her email and I would’ve left immediately. I said if she wanted to stop by just drop me a note as most likely I would not be there. The wife said in spite -well enjoy the rest of your trip! But she continued to watch every story on my Instagram feed. She requested to be Instagram friends but she didn’t allow her Instagram feed to be open to me. I started to put two in two together. French people aren’t that friendly (at least initially). The neighbors didn’t take me out to dinner because they were being gracious they were taking me out to dinner to ensure I didn’t write a bad review and they were monitoring me. That’s when I noticed the windows had steel shades that were half drawn. There was no way to move the shutters up or down but when I looked out of the shutters I could see the shutters were exactly in line with the neighbors window. When I took shower I saw another neighbor looking in the bathroom window in the shower. I know how this sounds! But seriously, every time I took a shower, I looked at the old man neighbor down the street he looked away like he wasn’t looking and every time I checked back he was looking again. There were also cameras in the house. When the host husband was showing me the house on day one, I asked him what was that camera there for. and he took it and turned it around to face the wall……
Airbnb didn’t get back to me until days later to address the owners smooth attempt to overtake moi, a napping jetlagged renter. Airbnb said they couldn’t move me to another place without checking in with the host to mediate first. How good would that be for someone in their house? I said just forget it… Since then the neighbors never came out of their house, if I did see them they would turn their backs to me. The host also said oh, the fan didn’t work we took it back. I had a heat rash because t was so hot but eventually, I bought my own fan! Petty boots!! (and I left it there as a parting gift at the end of my very long 5-week visit).
While I was still renting I’m the home I didn’t contact the host for a few weeks until I needed to get some mail. She said all the mail comes to the house if I put the correct address on the package. (petty shade) Then she sent me a note with a screenshot of all the accounts I use she said I sent it to her but I did not send it to her screenshot had my accounts including Evernote, Hotmail, and my internet provider it was weird. Still hoping I would get my package at this very moment. (as I am writing I will not post this until I check out of this place for sure!) At times I wished I could have handled it differently I wish I could have upheld my boundaries while still respecting hers without offending anyone. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the time. I felt my boundaries were pushed. I feel like I could have considered her feelings as it was her home but not respecting my own. I wanted to save face with the neighbors as maybe they were just being nice after all. The host said I have never dropped over items before… Perhaps I did overreact? At the very least I wish I wrote her back online at the time and said I’m in the shower and unable to come to the door please leave the items in the storage cabinet in the garage I’ll get it when I come back from my event. I sometimes think of better ways to handle weird situations after the situation happens. I’m getting better at finding on time solutions. If I handled with a direct email then my privacy would not have been invaded and I would still respect hers….. my rule still stands as Kermit says when you at my door knocking and you didn’t call first!!..you ain’t getting in! That’s the best I could do for that day. It doesn’t matter how bad you are at first at setting your personal boundaries but as long as you start somewhere.
When I returned to the states the owners attempted to charged me for a broken front door that was already broken into from the previous neighbors, according to the owners who revealed this to me in a written Airbnb online message. They claimed there was dog poop left, however, I cleaned up after my dog and I took out the trash 3 times a week and I even took out the trash for the previous guest who the wife host told me were so messy. Apparently, this is her go-to phrase as she said the same thing after I left although the house was perfectly clean. Her vacuum was disgusting and I didn’t know how to work it so I had to sweep the dog hair up and a lot of it was hard to retrieve but that was the only thing that needed to be cleaned up. She went through Airbnb to request money from me for the “damages” she requested $600. I sent pictures of the home cleaned as I knew this was not the end of this situation so I took pictures of the home right before I left as I had a feeling I would hear from them again. Airbnb did not protect me, the renter. The house was so far out from Paris I wasted a lot of time and energy in this prison with locked windows, doors and cameras and on the time to take the train going to Paris. I removed my credit cards from the Airbnb site and they were not able to collect payment from me so they said they would drop all attempts to collect the money as they should of done from the start.
I felt that their response should have been we see you’ve done nothing wrong and we are not going to attempt to collect any money from you because you were not at fault based on the evidence you have provided including picture and emails.
All in all, looking back, trying to positively reframe my experience I’m glad that I experienced the town of La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, as no one spoke English there and I spoke a lot of French that way. The hour train ride into Paris allowed me to gain perspective on my day. I learned about my personal boundaries and that it’s probably best to just get a hotel at the end of the day and that’s what I did the next time I visited Paris!
Here are pictures of the Airbnb, the peeping tom window that I covered to take a shower, the cameras, the items the owners brought as they sat on the couch to put together, and pictures of the town me and Webster