Reader E-mail!

Sadly, I don't have my own web server to set up a comments/feedback system. Maybe someday.

But I will read your e-mail! And perhaps post and respond to it! And here's one now, from Mahesh:

Hi James,

I'm a travel and technology writer based in Bombay, India. I was researching
Washington, DC on the Net because there's a prospect of me living and
working there a few months from now. However, if even 1% of what you say on
your blog is true, you've made me a very worried man! Anyway, I enjoyed
reading it all. Maybe you can help me find an apartment someday should the
need arise :)
As you might have guessed, I wouldn't recommend moving here.

Everything posted here is true. I might exaggerate here and there for the sake of humor... my upstairs neighbors aren't *really* building a dirty bomb. Probably. But most of what I post has a reputable link to back it up, or at least is provably true. The murder rate is real; the horror stories about housing prices are real; any personal experiences I post are real (I promise).

In Washington, you get all the complications of living in a big city, but not many of the benefits. For me, it's been every nightmare I've ever had about living in a big city realized since I moved here.

Granted, my situation is unique. I'm here because my wife is earning her doctorate degree here (I'm taking one for the team). I didn't have a job in Washington before we moved, despite months of looking--and it took another two-plus months of frustrating searches to find one. The move itself was difficult. Our movers ripped us off, and our apartment is a dump. Right after we moved, 9/11 happened (we live in Arlington a few miles from the Pentagon). So, from the beginning I was sour on Washington. Since then we've suffered through anthrax in the mails and, last year, weeks of random sniper shootings (to go along with the non-random, "traditional" murders).

My job is fine, and my salary is much higher than most people my age, but the cost of living here has kept us from saving any money at all, even with the supplemental income from my wife's assistantship.

If you already have a job lined up here, I suppose that's half the battle. The job market is slightly better here than in most other metropolitan areas right now, but it's still very competitive, and you might be hard pressed to find the job you want. From a travel standpoint, the three local airports are often difficult to access, but you can get to a surprising number of cities directly. There is a big technology presence, although a lot of it is government-related, which I personally would not find all that interesting to write about (unless you looooove acronyms).

However, finding a decent place to live without going broke is nigh impossible. Also, getting around or through D.C. is surprisingly difficult, both in traffic and navigation... I can't count the number of times I've gotten lost or trapped on the road. Traffic volume in the city and suburbs is often horrendous, which contributes to poor air quality in the summer. You might need a car if you're planning to travel a lot, but just finding a place to park is often time-consuming and/or costly.

I don't know how any of this compares to Bombay. Washington bills itself as "the most powerful city in the world." I, for one, feel powerless to improve my situation here, and that frustration led me to create this blog.

Etc. etc. etc., bitch bitch bitch. As far as finding an apartment, my only advice is not to move next door to Pat Buchanan. He's not a big fan of the foreigners.

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