While it may not have been from a happy chance, that first meeting, the serendipity that brought new friends into my life was certainly more than worth the angst I experienced!
They say bad things happen for a reason, if this is so, I had such a wonderful outcome from my initial woes here in the U.K. Now, I’m not one to complain on social media or write negatively. In fact, I always try to look on the bright side. For instance, if I suffer a setback, I prefer to focus on the positive side of my life, realizing not everything is going to go my way.
When I first arrived in Nottingham, I was quite lonely. Add to that, the fact I could not find anyone willing to do a “short let” for my stay. I was in a hotel and desperate to have a place to call home for the duration of my research. As the date to start work approached, I still had no place to live. Finally, after three weeks, I found a landlord willing to allow me to sign a lease for less than a year. I was so grateful. The small flat was within a thirty minute walk to campus (all downhill in the morning!) and was on a quiet little street. The landlord was out of the country, so the leasing (pronounced “lessing” over here) agency handled all the paperwork. After that, they were out of the picture, as they didn’t manage the property.
This next part is not me complaining…just some information. When I moved in, I couldn’t lock the back door, the heat wasn’t on, the refrigerator didn’t work, the hot water tank wasn’t working, the shower kept cutting out (once with me in the middle of washing my hair!). The oddest thing, however, was the breaker would flip and the power would go off at least three times a day! I called the agency, but they could not help. I emailed my landlord, who sent an electrician over to the house. He was unable to fix the problem. Each night I’d have to feel my way out into the garage to get the breaker flipped back. I would lose the internet and have to reboot the modem repeatedly. I kept telling myself, “At least I have a roof over my head.” Or, “It could be worse.” And, “At least I’m not paying for a hotel anymore!”
My landlord finally contacted an acquaintance of hers to help sort out the issue. This is where my predicament led to friendship. Without the hassles of my housing, I would have never met Lin and Chung, who in turn introduced me to their family – daughter GarYein, husband Marjan, and their adorable son. They found another electrician, who not only fixed the tripping breaker, but every other problem on the list.
After I was sorted on the property, they began inviting me for dinner. Chung is an amazing chef. They’ve treated me to crispy duck, the most amazing pork EVER, chicken stewed in a sauce until oh-so-tender, Chinese hot pot, and curry dishes. Some of those were all in the same meal! It was a feast each time I went over.
After dinner, GarYein, who is a law professor here in Nottingham, would talk to me about education, both from her perspective as a mother and as an educator.
They made me feel like I belonged.
Tonight was our last meal together. As I sat in the living room, drinking some Chinese tea Lin made in the tea press, Chung came in to the room and began hunting around in the sideboard for something. GarYein and I kept chatting.
Then he handed me this:
I’d never mentioned I collected little English cottages to them, but I do. My mother and
father started buying them for me as a sentimental token of where I was born in the U.K. Chung gave me the gift and said something to his daughter. She translated, “He wants to give you more.” You see, they are moving house. When they leave their huge house in the city and move to a cottage in the country, there won’t be as much room. So, I’m getting their cottage collection to add to mine as a reminder of my special time here in Nottingham. They are mailing them to me when I get back to Vermont.
Tonight when I walked home, with a cottage for me in one hand and a jar of homemade chili sauce for Jim in the other, my eyes watered, even though I was smiling. I’d come to Nottingham to work, research, and study education. But I got so much more than that.
I made friends.