Today at 9:00 in the morning, the young gent who works the front desk at our apartement building called to see if the guys who are painting our balcony could come up. Seeing as it was the first we'd ever heard of it, we had some further questions about what exactly they would be painting (the exterior wall) and whether they needed to come through our apartment (yes) and whether they were sure they needed to come through our apartment (still yes).
Yesterday, while sitting on our couch, I had seen the bottom half of a ladder dangling from above. Maybe I've lost my sense of childlike wonder for ridiculous workplace risks; I didn't even get up to investigate. Just as well: Today we witnessed their strategy firsthand. Two workers arrived, one tied himself into a harness, then tied himself to the ladder. The other guy secured a second rope to the ladder, which they then swung over the side of the balcony. The ladder -- not the rope. Non-harness guy wrapped the rope attached to the ladder around his foot a couple times and then stood on it to keep the ladder from falling any further. Then the other guy climbed down the suspended ladder and painted the outside of the balcony. I'm sure they were making about 15 bucks a day to take these kind of risks in service of a building that didn't seem to really be in that desparate need of painting. We drank our french-press coffee and ate garlic-and-tomato omelettes and watched.