On Sundays I was stuck at my dad’s house, and he didn’t have cable TV. So, the only thing to watch was PBS, the US public broadcaster. For an eight year-old kid PBS was the most boring channel ever. One show was called This Old House, and dealt with home repair in… you guessed it old houses! 30 years later and I wish we had a similar show here in Croatia. It could be called This Old Socialist Apartment.
Last year we moved into an apartment that was not completely redone. The kitchen is old and doesn’t have a dishwasher, the walls need repaired and painted, the floor in the kitchen and dinning room needs changed, and about half of the apartment has old windows that are great for making large amounts of propuh.
Do It Yourself
America has a strong tradition of DIY culture. After all, many of us grew up forced to watch This Old House. So, I imagined we could do a lot of these repairs ourselves. Ha! No. I thought I could paint and repair the walls myself because I used to be a house painter. I tried and discovered that the walls in the apartment are made out of some kind of concrete that I have no idea how to repair.
Even the experts tell us they can’t do things that should be simple, like moving a light switch from here to there, or trying to center an off center light. When asked, we get a look that says, ‘trust me, it’s not worth it.’
One big repair
And when it comes to trying to repair one part of the apartment you quickly learn that everything is interconnected in a dependent relationship. Frustrated we decide, let’s do something simple, like paint the apartment! Ah, but if we are going to paint the apartment we should first replace the kitchen floor, but if we are going to replace the kitchen floor we should replace the kitchen, but if we’re going to replace the kitchen we need to have the plumber and electrician move the water and the outlets. Even the simplest tasks turn into gargantuan, expensive endeavors.
Before we moved in, our friends thought we were nuts for moving in without first repairing the place. And I thought they were nuts for thinking so. I mean my social media feed is filled with photos from friends in the US who have installed their own kitchens, painted their own bedrooms, and tiled their own floors. But no, my Croatian friends were right and I was wrong.
My apartment is like…
Here, things that seem simple anywhere else, have a tendency to become overly complicated and difficult. And now, like most things in Croatia we are stuck with a not awful, but not optimal status quo. Yes, that’s right, while I might not be able to repair my apartment, I can at least turn it into a metaphor for the whole country. I like it. It’s okay. I’d like it to be better. And making it better will seem impossible as long as we can’t decided what to repair first.