Sunday, February 08, 2004

Fixing Two Houses

A letter from a reader of my blog asked me today if I'd quit posting because she hadn't seen anything new since the end of December. The time has been slipping past me so quickly that I haven't even noticed. January was a busy month for me. I found a place to live in Abu Sir so that I can finally move out to the country with the menagerie and I found a tenant for the lovely old house in Maadi that is much too big for me now that the children are living outside Egypt.

Naturally (for anyone here in Egypt at least) that meant that first I have to arrange with the owners of my leased house in Abu Sir to finish the portions of the house that were still unfinished in some kind of reasonable time frame. Since the house was essentially unfinished, this has been rather instructive. Having gone about all the negotiations through the area omda (family head, boss, capo da capo, take your pick) I could be fairly sure that items agreed upon would stay agreed. Luckily for me (and the omda family too) they also take care of much of the local construction, happily at fairly high levels of competency. So I had to pick tiles for floors on the owners' budget, arrange for elecrical outlets, have a bedroom cupboard constructed, order a small kitchen, measure all my appliances (Hooray! everything fits!) and the furniture that I want to bring, design new flight cages for the parrots, pursuade the landlord that they REALLY do want to build a small laundry/storage/freezer room out back, look for curtain materials, reupholster furniture, and pack a seven bedroom three story villa into sufficiently small boxes to fit into a two bedroom cottage. Not much going on, really.

The packing of the old house has been going on apace with both of my children's rooms almost finished. The main thing to pack has been books, which in itself has been very satisfying, not to mention the thrill when yet another of my missing treasures has shown up in a child's bookcase. Some of these books will go to the house in Sharm, while the second bedroom in Abu Sir will be a library to house my personal collection. Over the years I've accumulated rather a lot of Arabic literature translated into English, Egyptian history especially as related to some of the odder aspects of the British occupation and the peculiarities of cohabitation that evolved, and some very good literature in general. I think that the time has come for me to re-read a lot of my books. I bet they will have new meaning for me.

Then there is the renovation of the Maadi house to arrange. The new tenant is an English engineer for a multinational oil company and this is his second stay in Cairo. He fell in love with the villa and fortunately his ideas and my own are very much in synch with regards to the renovation. We've found contractors that both of us are comfortable with and now I just have to get out of the house to be out of the way. Right now I feel very much like someone with one foot on a boat about to set sail and the other on a dock that is fixed immovably to the shore. Someday very soon I will get both feet on the boat and be underway, but right now I'm getting very good at doing the splits.