After years of night class and planning, we are finally off to medical school! We left Boston at the end of May and have been in Miami now for almost three weeks. Miami is a completely new city to us with our only exposure to it coming from a brief visit in April. The butterflies were ample as we drove to Florida - but so was our excitement. It is still kind of hard to believe that we have made it here.
Finding a place to live was priority #1 upon arriving in Miami. When Kelsi is I visited Miami in April, landlords and realtors told us that it was too early to view apartments for June. Kelsi spoke with several people who had moved to Miami and found an apartment, put in an offer, and moved in by the end of the week. So we decided to move to Miami without an apartment and seek one out upon our arrival.
Our first week was extremely difficult emotionally as we contemplated how we left all our of friends and support networks behind as we searched the internet for housing options from our always-just-slightly-too-warm-room in an Airbnb. The neighborhoods we had scoped out and the plans we had created for finding a new apartment seemed to go out the window upon touchdown in the city when availability and price differed from the impressions we had online from our Boston-based searching. We scrambled to view apartments, feeling increasingly stressed and desperate. At the first apartment we went to go see, our appointment was for one in the afternoon and we waited in the blazing heat for a realtor that never showed up.
Our most eventful apartment viewing experience was a 2 bedroom apartment in an area called Coral Way. The community was cute and suburban feeling and the apartment was one of three in a large house. And by "cute," I mean Florida cute, not Boston cute... Lots of palm trees and small, blockish, Spanish style houses, not big oak trees and giant triple decker homes. Definitely less homey feeling compared to our current standard of homey.
Upon arrival we met the landlady (an unusual occurrence as normally real estate agents show apartments). She noted my Red Sox cap and remarked that she was from Maine. We exchanged pleasantries about the Northeast before she took us inside.
As Kelsi wandered off exploring the apartment, the landlady's cell phone rang (as it would ceaselessly during our visit). She picked up and said into the phone two or three times, "I don't speak Spanish," before hanging up. "I have had so many people call about this place, but they only speak Spanish. It really is a different country down here..."
The apartment was by far the largest we'd seen and a bit quirky. It had two bedrooms, but only one had windows while the other was an interior den of sort with French doors. The kitchen had no cabinets, but had an industrial sink and fume hood. It looked a bit like a restaurant kitchen that would be excellent for serious cooking. The ample patio, which was painted a deeply unnatural red, would have had plenty of space for a grill as long as we wore sunglasses when we looked at it. Most strikingly was the grey paint that covered every single wall inside the house.
There were a lot of positives about the apartment, given the size and quality of fixtures. The grey weighed on Kelsi, however, and she asked if it would be possible to paint.
"No," was the reply.
"Well... I mean maybe," backtracked the landlady. "I have to talk to my husband. He's the one that really cares about the paint color, but he's from Boston and would really like to have someone from Boston in the apartment. I can ask him."
We agreed to fill out the basic info on the rental form in case we got the okay to paint. She told us to skip the section about employment and income verification.
Unprompted, she observed, "It is tough down here being a minority."
We let that comment hang in the air for a moment.
"...You mean, like people from Boston?" I asked. "Or people who speak English?"
That is not what I thought she meant. If she was going to make the implication I thought she was making, however, I wanted to make her say it explicitly.
"No... I mean being white," she replied.
As we were walking out, she promised us that she would ask her husband about the painting, but wanted us to know that the apartment was ours if we wanted it. "I think we need a few hours to mull it over..." I told her.
"The apartment will go to the first people who get us the money for it... But call me when you make a decision and you can move in right away. I mean, legally, there isn't any more I can say than that, but we'd love to have you."
I'm not sure if we did or said something that gave her the super-secret-white-person signal that we were cool with this white-renters-preferred plan. She seemed to have convinced herself over the course of our visit that we were cool with the inside game that she was playing.
We chose not to pursue that apartment. I would like to say it was because of the landlady's behavior. In reality, in evaluating the apartment we didn't get beyond the fact that we really wanted to live closer to the medical school to even consider her "cool white person club" tendencies.
I feel kind of guilty that her behavior was not the obvious and main reason we passed on the apartment. Not having a home yet put a lot of pressure on us to keep our mouths shut and not say anything. It sparked a great discussion between Kelsi and I about how racism has changed over time. Rampant redlining is associated with the past, but I'm sure lots of activity like what we experience still exists today. It wasn't fair to the other callers she hung up on that they didn't meet the linguistic criteria for "good tenants" this woman had already established.
A few days later we signed a lease on an apartment about a five minutes walk from the medical school. We sorely wanted a 2 bedroom apartment to have a study room and a guest room for our (hopefully frequent) visitors, but we could not find an open one in our price range in the area we wanted. Miami feels like it has a lot of very upscale and a lot of very basic apartments, so when we found one in the middle we pounced. It has much nicer fixtures than our old place: granite countertops, a proper shower, a dishwasher, in unit washer and dryer, proper bathroom storage, central AC, and a balcony that looks out onto the medical school campus and has a view of Marlins stadium. It definitely lacks the precious neighborhood feel of Somerville, but it's $200 cheaper per month and a 7 minute walk to class. Airplane often fly over our apartment as they approach the airport and we get a fun close-up view, without being bothered much by the noise. There's a smallish, no-frills pool out front and we have a covered parking space that gives us relief with the upcoming hurricane season. We have an electric stove top now but it seems to work pretty nicely and get hot fast. Our windows provide ample natural light, and from the small trash chute on our floor its kind of neat to hear our garbage bags fall down eight stories into the bin below. Also on the plus side, after six months if they have a 2 bedroom in the same building open, we can transfer our lease to it for a relatively minor fee.
Acclimating and Aclimatizing
Landlady-from-Maine was correct about one thing - we certainly aren't in Boston anymore. I have driven our car in Miami probably almost as much as I have driven it in Boston this calendar year. One thing I've noticed driving here is that turn signals, particularly for lane changes, are not a common practice. Is that normal everywhere and I'm simply driving more here so I see it more?
This YouTuber put together some examples of some of the driving we've seen.
I think we might get a dashboard cam.
Our short time in Miami has heightened our empathy for minority and immigrant groups. We're still in our home county, but it doesn't always feel that way. Even Kelsi, who moved for two years to Tunisia, says Miami feels by far to be the most unlike any American city she's ever been in. There have been some adjustments. Radio plays music in another language, fashion and standards of dress are different (and frankly, pretty entertaining), the businesses that line the shopping centers are not exactly the ones we are used to seeing (fewer Dunkin' Donuts). In Boston, Kelsi and I were definitely part of a higher power base group based on our education, income, and appearances. Stepping out of that role in our first couple of weeks was more noticeable than we expected. It makes day-to-day life feel slightly more taxing... Kelsi has felt this living abroad before, but neither of us expected it here. On an intellectual level, we think living someplace so diverse and out of our comfort zones is awesome and should be embraced. On the other hand, it's hard to feel this way in the middle of already big life changes with relocating, not knowing anyone, leaving our jobs, and starting school. This is an feeling and an idea I'm sure we'll explore in future posts.
A New Adventure
We have approached this as a new adventure and are excited to get going. This is a new city for us and it is culturally unique. I have started my public health program at the medical school and will begin medicine in the fall.
The goal of this blog is to keep a connection alive with all our friend and family we have left behind in our move to Miami. We will make new connections here, of course, but we will miss all of you not here with us.
And I'm sure I'll have an existential crisis or four about medicine while I'm in medical school and will gladly use this forum to share my thoughts.
We hope you enjoy reading. Stay in touch! Drop us an email or a comment here if you like.
Oh yeah, it rains a lot here in the summer. This video is from our apartment balcony.