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Posts from the ‘House Hunting’ Category

Limbo

It’s been two weeks since we arrived in Paris, and Tuesday felt like it marked the end of our transitional phase. Up until now our life here has felt somewhat dreamlike, but with the first day of orientation at the boys’ school today, reality has set in.

Aside from a few hours spent on campus, not much has changed in actual fact. We’re still in our temporary housing on what I have come to call Tourist Central. We’re renting a little flat right on the Rue de Rivoli, right next to the Place de la Concorde, and really, the only Parisians here are the ones working in the cafes. Actually, that’s true for pretty much the whole city during the month of August, but one feels it particularly acutely here. There are no real supermarkets and everything costs double what it would in a residential neighborhood. But we knew that coming in.

What was entirely unexpected was the ongoing serenade from the apartment upstairs. At least I think it was upstairs. Over the past two weeks I have become fascinated with the person who plays violin beautifully from morning to night. He (I have decided it’s a he) is incredible. This is no student. He plays amazing piece after amazing piece, with very little repetition. And it is serious, concert-level music he is playing.

At the suggestion of a friend, I decided I would write a note to let him know what peace and respite his playing has given me during this transitional and somewhat tumultuous period of my life, but after traipsing around the building and through the courtyard, I couldn’t figure out what apartment the music is coming from. The mystery just heightens the magic. I hope to someday find out who it is—and pay for the privilege of watching a performance. I have no doubt he (or she) is a professional.

The boys have been troupers, but I know that being unsettled the past couple of weeks has been hard on them. There’s been very little fun. We spent our first day here at the bank, and the next several days looking at apartments. We found one we liked and they seemed relieved once we started the negotiations, but then we found out the lease would be for less than a year and we’d have to do this all over again. I was so keen to give the boys some stability that I was willing to take the place anyway, but while waiting for various hitches with the rental agreement to be ironed out I found another apartment in the same neighborhood that works even better for us—and with a renewable lease. It’s still not finalized but I’m feeling hopeful.

The owner of the apartment very sweetly took me around the neighborhood and showed me all her favorite spots. Having a place of our own will be a big relief. Although I will miss the music. And there are still plenty of logistics to deal with: phones, sports registration, establishing residency, health care…all the fun tasks of starting life in a new city. Oh, and finding a job. Fortunately, the beauty of this city really does take the edge off, and our relocation agent has been a rock for me. I resisted hiring one but she has been a godsend. I will gladly pass her name along to anyone considering a move to Paris.

Going to orientation made the boys miss their Cairo friends even more than they already did. I’m traveling back to Egypt soon and am looking forward to seeing my friends there, so it’s a bit less painful for me. But I’m enjoying being out, too. Today I wore a short skirt (that wasn’t even particularly short) that I wouldn’t have been able to leave the house in in Cairo. It was entirely unremarkable here. There is a certain liberation in that.

Still, life in France has its own worries. Someone I know is planning a trip to Egypt and asked me if I thought it was safe. His message came the same day that the mass shooting on the Thalys train was averted. I couldn’t help thinking that, despite bombings and beheadings, in many ways we had been safer in Egypt than we were here. I’m not sure how long will be the case. There is by all appearances a growing insurgency there in spite of the increasingly repressive environment, but it has yet to become a real threat to ordinary civilians there. The same thing cannot be said for lone-wolf actors in Europe.

Lucky for me I don’t need to think about any of that. The fiddling is so lovely…

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Exodus

Okay,

So it wasn’t exactly Biblical, but I’ll never experience a Passover dinner in quite the same way again. Getting out Egypt was an ordeal, to say the least, both logistical and emotional. We had to sell all the furniture in the house (which I didn’t quite manage to do, but thankfully O was there to deal with our aftermath), and cull for the movers. The boys were saying goodbye to their father and I was saying goodbye to the Tunisian. All very painful.

So here we are. In Paris. Setting up a new life yet again. There’s a lot to write about our last couple of months in Egypt and about our settling in here. So watch this space. The adventure continues.

What I Won’t Miss

 

 

After my last posting, quite a few people seemed concerned that I was upset about leaving Cairo. While there are plenty of things I’ll miss, there are quite a few things I won’t. Here are a couple of them:

 

Bugs

 

These are giant, winged ants. We are being overrun by them. The more of them we kill, the stronger they come back. There were hundreds of them outside the other night. I’ve abandoned the barbecue. I won’t be sad to leave these behind.

 

 

spider

This is the gargantuan spider probably still crawling around my house somewhere. I posted a picture of it on Facebook a while back and a friend told me it was very. very. poisonous. I know there are spiders in Paris, but hopefully I won’t be sharing a house with one as big as a quarter.

And speaking of Paris….I’ve been stressed about finding a place to live. Not that I’ve done much about it. I wanted an apartment to fall out of the sky. Today one did, a lovely little place that is, fittingly, near the Place de la Concorde, so we will have an obelisk to remind us of Egypt. And it’s on a direct subway line to the boys’ school. It’s not a permanent solution, but we will spend the first month or so there while we look for long-term digs near the Canal Saint Martin. And if anyone knows of a great apartment for rent near the Canal, I’m all ears.

I had a fascinating day last week visiting Garbage City that I will write about shortly. It’s been a busy time with work, end-of-year school events and going-away parties. The pace doesn’t look like it’s going to let up any time soon. And we’re in the middle of a brutal heat wave. But relief is in sight. I’m going to a conference on Russian-Egyptian trade tomorrow, and then the Tunisian and I are escaping to the beach for a few days, More to come from there.

 

 

Great News

We found out last weekend that the boys got into the school we wanted them to go to in Cairo. Rationally, I knew they would, but until the acceptance notice came there was always a lingering fear. I think T was most relieved. He’s so excited to be going. He loves UNIS but I think that after seven years there he’s ready for a change. He’s really looking forward to perusing the elective offerings and choosing his courses. He’d leave tomorrow if he could.

X is also getting excited about the new school. I came home from Egypt with a bunch of photos, and when I was putting him to bed after I showed them to him, he told me, “Mommy, I might be feeling better about moving to Cairo.” It’s no surprise. The school looks like a summer camp. It’s huge—I read 11 acres somewhere—with soccer fields and playgrounds and basketball courts and volleyball courts and ping pong tables and foosball tables and an outdoor Olympic-sized swimming pool. I think it was the photos of the swim class that got X over the hump. The teacher was in the pool and he was squirting a bunch of kids who were lined up at the side—all wearing goggles, which is X’s prerequisite for going in the water. The kids looked like they were having fun.032 107

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I think it also helped that the school looked so much like UNIS. I’d taken a photo of a wall mural detailing the UN Rights of the Child. “We study that here!” X exclaimed when he saw it. The classrooms had a similar set up, too, with cushions in the book area and math and reading prompts taped to the walls. It was helpful for him to see that the new school wouldn’t be the alien experience he’d feared it would.

The boys also enjoyed seeing the pictures of the houses I’d looked at. Of course, it would be too much to ask for them both to like the same place. T preferred the villa and X preferred the penthouse. I’m on the fence. The villa is sweet. I love that it’s on a quiet street and feels like a house, which we’re unlikely to ever live in otherwise. It’s great space without being ostentatious or over the top. High-end places in Cairo tend to have gilded furniture and shiny marble floors and feel more like bank lobbies than homes. While this place has marble floors on the ground level, they’re white and worn and don’t feel overly fancy. The kitchen is huge and filled with light. The stairs are rose-colored marble and a little cracked, and while it’s four bedrooms there are only two bathrooms upstairs, so it still feels fairly modest. Overall it’s got all the space we need—including an office and a guest room—but it has a warm and homey feeling. And the huge garden is fantastic. On the downside, though, the street is quiet and I wonder how safe I will feel there.

Bedroom013 KitchenLiving room section 1

The penthouse, on the other hand, has a doorman and is far more secure. It’s also great space, five bedrooms in total, so we could have a guest room and an office there, too, and it’s on multiple levels. The roof deck is amazing, with a built-in barbecue and lounge chairs. It would be a great place to throw parties. On the downside, it isn’t as light, the kitchen is smaller and darker—though still large by NYC standards—and the floor of the entire, enormous, living/dining area is a highly glossed marble. The space is fantastic but it’s hard to imagine it ever feeling like a home.

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I haven’t done anything on the housing front since I got back. I will soon, but I don’t feel too worried about it. I could take either, and others will come on the market once school lets out in June. I’ll get back in touch with both agents in the next week or so. In the meantime I have to wire the deposit for the school, and now my father tells me my grandmother is unwell again, so there’s that to worry about.

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