All / Originally Posted on Skirt

The Good Ship Serendipity

While in Egypt, I’ll be living on a houseboat in the Nile.  That’s right.  A houseboat(!), in the Nile. It’s got two levels with two separate apartments, a large garden, and a washing machine that a previous occupant describes as ‘looking like R2-D2.’  Unassailably cool.

Making housing arrangements from overseas is a bit of a trial.  If there is a problem it can be difficult to rectify from afar.  In this case, I’d heard all the boat amenities, seen some photos, and exchanged lengthy e-mails with one of the occupants to ask about various niggling issues.  She couldn’t have been kinder or more thorough answering, so I finally decided that this was definitely the place for me.   The girl I’d been corresponding with (let’s call her Bee) was very excited, pleased to have someone ready to take over her room when she leaves.  This is how it would work: Bee would find a new roommate for the room that became free in August, then when I arrived in September I could have Bee’s old room.  Fine.

Except the girl who moved in at the beginning of August ultimately decided she was too far from her work downtown, so she moved out.  I understand her predicament; Cairo traffic is unpredictable and getting to work on time each day from the other side of the Nile would require rising at an obscene hour, outweighing the many perks of houseboat(!) living.   Bee e-mailed to let me know the situation and started looking for a new roommate right away.  I didn’t hear anything for a while.  Then yesterday I e-mailed Bee to see what was going on. 

Here is the vision that kept me awake nights: Bee would move out, leaving me alone in the apartment.  I’d have to find someone by the end of the month or pony up both halves of the rent myself.  I’ve never spoken to the landlord and considering Bee’s been handling all the details of my moving in, I suspect he doesn’t speak a lot of English.  I didn’t really want to live by myself in a city that I’m not yet comfortable in or try to deal with corralling a new person into a rental contract on my own (they’re written in Arabic, after all.)  The whole situation could be, in a nutshell, no fun. 

This morning I saw a fresh, unopened e-mail from Bee gracing my inbox: a young woman henceforth to be known as Immy, who had lived on the houseboat(!) in the room that was now free for a year and a half had just returned to Cairo and was staying, temporarily, with a neighbor in the other apartment in the houseboat(!)  She decided to take over the open room and has already moved in!  And the cream?  Immy is from Cornwall, the next county over from where I live in England. 

I couldn’t have asked for a better person to share a flat with.  Immy knows the neighborhood well having lived there before AND she’s from the West Country!  Serendipitous indeed.

It’s astounding how simple it is to go from a state of anxiety, trepidation and uncertainty to ease and confidence.  The situation could easily have gone the other way, with no one interested in the room and me scrambling to figure out if I wanted to stay there or find a new arrangement.  Instead the very best thing that could possibly have happened, happened.  (Have I mentioned serendipity is one of my favorite words?)  Of course I know nothing about this girl personally or what she’s like to live with…but I’m trying to worry less about things in general, because no matter what happens situations ultimately always come to some sort of resolution, even if it isn’t what I originally thought it would be.  There are some things worth being prepared for; fretting about everything else just makes me crazy.

Equally excitingly, in the same e-mail I learned our neighbor in the other flat on the houseboat(!) is a documentary filmmaker.  I’ve been toying with the idea of filming some of my research, because that will be so much more dynamic than the 80,000 or so words I’ll have to produce at the end.  I’d like to produce research that people–ordinary people, not just academics–will want to see.  Film could be a way to make that happen.

In other news, we donated my small white car today.  This is a wee tribute to that vehicle, which one year my Mom and I drove from New York down to Florida via the somewhat circuitous route of Kentucky, over the Smoky Mountains.  That car served us well in the five years I owned it, taking me everywhere I wanted to go.  We gave it to a local organization, Everyone’s Youth United.  When they came to pick it up, they were so overflowing with excitement and gratitude that my mom cried.  Though it was difficult to part with, I couldn’t have been happier that we’d clearly sent the little car to the right place.