The Roommate Annals: 1999-2000

Posted on March 28, 2006


In my seven years of post secondary education, I have had six roommates, all very different. I like roommates. I get lonely when I live alone, and roommates are certainly preferable to blood relations (my sister, who is a devout Christian, nevertheless has the temper of a sea monster and screams like a banshee quite often).
For my first two years of university I lived at the YWCA in Cairo, which is a mere ten minute walk from the American University in Cairo, where I went at the time. Those familiar with Cairo know that this places it in a pretty unpleasant part of town for a sheltered 16-year-old to be abandoned in. Indeed it was, and the place was revolting beyond measure. That’s a story for another day however.
So eventually after the numerous bureaucratic hitches that plague both Egypt and non-profit organizations, I was assigned to M, a sweet girl from Alexandria studying French at Ain Shams University. As lowly freshmen we had a teeny tiny room that inexplicably had a sink. We had no TV, no phone after 10 p.m., no computer. Therefore, one of our favourite forms of entertainment was to draw up floor plans of our room and try and move our furniture around so that 1) our closets and door opened; 2) there was room to sit down 3) our desks were somewhere near the medicalesque fluorescent lights. It was usually too hot to sleep, so we’d move the furniture around all night (it never fit right) and then we would dangle our bare legs out of the window into the moonlit alley off the Meidan. It was too hot for us to care that we were arousing neighbourhood lusts. We’d talk in a hodgepodge of French, English and Arabic till we fell asleep exhausted. When I woke up for my 8:30 Freshman English (can you believe they made ME take English? OK, enough arrogance there) I would wake her by accidentally splashing water from the inexplicable sink on her sleeping face.
The only thing she ever complained about was my super, super loud whistling. For that entire year I only ever whistled “White Christmas” and it would echo around the 19th century high ceilings of our room unbearably. One day she finally screeched “La2! Kollo ella el tasfeer!” (No! Everything but whistling!) and I had to desist. During winter nights, we’d sometimes cuddle for warmth. We’re still friends. I like to think my “rebelliousness” eventually influenced her to break off her numerous engagements because she was “bored”. She was probably as unconventional as nice Coptic girls who grow up in Egypt get.

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