Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Living With Strangers

I've lived with my fair share of strangers over my 20 years, especially considering that I didn't move out of my parents house until I was 17. I've lived with Egyptians, Italians, Chinese, Spanish, Turks, French, Sierra Leonese, Latvians and Irish.

I grew up in a tiny village on the West Coast of Scotland, where there is only 1 grocery store, 1 butchers shop (the butcher is also the farmer), 1 odds and ends shop and 1 hotel. There is no place to eat out or get gas for your car, and everything is crazily overpriced because they know it's your only option. If you do anything, your family will know about it before you even get home. A dog dies and there are numerous rumours about what happened. You might wake up with a cow in your back garden if the farmer was unlucky enough to lose his herd again. However, the place itself is beautiful. There are gorgeous old churches, some are so old that the walls of their cemeteries are rounded - they were built at a time people were afraid of demons hiding in dark corners. Every year, we have Highland Games where the strong men get kitted out in their sporrans and kilts (bodybuilders have got nothing on a Scotsman) get together and toss cabers (tree trunks) and compete in other games. Boys and girls get to march through the village to show off their skills at traditional music - most kids there join a pipe band, mainly because there's nothing else to do! I played snare drum. I love the drums, but a lot of kids want to go straight for the bagpipes. Here in Edinburgh, men play pipes on the streets but that's for the tourists benefit. I think songs are far more complete with the tribal drumming, though a lone piper can sound quite melancholy. Not in an airport or tourist trap though ;). Below is a picture of the place, these mountains have a proper name but when viewed from a distance they look like a human lying down so we tell the kids it's a sleeping giant.

I've lived in London, when I graduate I really want to go back. However, it's so expensive I'll probably end up living in a box.

I lived in Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt, too. Cairo was my favourite. Everytime I think about it, my heart aches a little bit. I had a flat in a very 'balady' (local) neighbourhood, right on the Nile with a view of both the 3 great pyramids of Giza and also of Saqqara. Cairo is crazy, busy, and one of the largest cities in the world but where else on Earth can you see skyscrapers, be bombarded wth billboards, Louis Vuitton, donkeys, British and European colonial architecture, Medieval arabian markets, grand mosques built less than 10 years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed, and pyramids silhoutted on the outskirts of the city from the first civilisation on earth? Cairo is the newest and oldest of human life. I haven't seen what it's like after the revolution. Below are pictures I took from my window of the various pyramids in the distance.

What was the point of this post? I've been reminiscing and got carried away.

Living with Strangers.

So, currently I live in Edinburgh (my 3rd capital city), one of the most beautiful cities in the world in my opinion and most certainly in the top 5 of Europe. I've lived here for a year and a half in 3 different flats. I lived on my own for a while in a studio flat. The rent was extortionate for what it was - one room with a fold down bed, a tiny bathroom and a small kitchen. So as soon as my year's lease was up, I left. It took me 1 day to find a new flat (it always does!). This time I decided to take a room in a shared apartment advertised as a student flat, sharing with students. My flatmates were from Shanghai, married with a baby and were illegally subletting me the room from their University. But, they were students so I couldn't really complain. And I had only given myself 1 day to find somewhere new to live so that was my only choice. They turned out to be great! It was just me and the husband for a while, as the wife was away in China giving her baby to her parents to look after while she finished her dissertation. They rented the other room to an Italian man who was here solely to improve his English. We ended up becoming good friends before Ying started finishing up her studies and I decided to find somewhere else to live. I gave myself one day again. It was a failure, every place I looked at was either too expensive, the flatmates were crazy, the neighbourhood was the type of place pitbulls guarded unleashed, or the flat was shabby. I had almost given up. Before calling it a day, and ending up having to go to back to my hometown to stay with my parents for a few months, I checked at an internet cafe one more time. I saw a flat which looked suspiciously cheap, but I called up anyway. It was almost time for the last train and I wouldn't be able to travel to the city again for a while if I went home. I managed to get the first viewing for 10 minutes later and put a deposit down for the place.

I share with 4 other people now, and they're all science students (like me, I'm a physical therapy undergrad). I live with 2 French guys, one of whom is as Blond and as French as you can get but wears a rasta hat, is growing dreads and says things like 'One Love, One Aim, One Destiny'. He plays us songs with lyrics like 'Black People Unite'. Which is a fair point, but it is a rather humorous one to see a European white boy make so adamantly. The other is your typical French man. I also live with an Irish postgrad student, who is never in the house. He doesn't use the kitchen and we never see him go in and out of his room.. but oddly, we do hear him on the phone in his room sometimes. Which is definitely odd because his car sits outside and disappears during working hours. I think he climbs in and out of the window. My favourite flatmate is a lovely woman from Sierra Leone. She's the only one I spend a lot of time with and she cooks for us all several times a week.   It's not an ideal living arrangement sometimes though, like when your food goes missing because someone helped themselves to it or when you're trying to get to sleep and you've got people knocking your door or talking loudly in the hall. Or when you're a complete mess and you don't want to be seen by anyone else? Fat chance! You share a kitchen! Luckily I have my own bathroom, so does my other female flatmate. But the 3 guys all share one, which I think would drive women insane.   I never thought I'd get used to living with strangers but this is a good bunch!