Friday, February 13, 2009

Love in a Foreign Land

I'll try to keep the schmaltz to a minimum, but it being Valentine's Day (almost) I thought I would share my story of how a Canadian and Egyptian met in a city far away from both their homes.

The Man (the Egyptian) and I (the Canadian) first met at the Embankment Tube station a week after I arrived in London. It was a blind date, and I'd just had the day from hell. My first day supply teaching in UK classrooms, I'd been assigned to teach at a school near Edgware Road. Since I lived in North London at the time, that meant I had to take the dreaded Northern Line which more than lived up to its reputation that fateful day.

Eager to be punctual and create a good impression on my first day of work, I got up at 6 a.m. and was out the door in half an hour. All fine -- until I got to the Tube. The Northern Line was not working due to a signal failure. I had no idea what that meant; the buses were packed; I didn't know which direction to go in and I had no map. Two embattled hours later, I finally made it to the school where, needless to say, they were not impressed. My head throbbed, my muscles ached with tension and I was in no mood to meet a strange man that night.

Home late due to more transport issues, I showered and changed for our concert that evening at the Royal Festival Hall. After trying to get through station overcrowding at Camden Town due to more Tube issues, I'd pretty much had it with London. It was a rare hot, humid day in May, all my make-up had practically sweated off my face, and I was a wreck. One week -- and one day teaching -- and I was ready to call it quits.

I left the Tube station in a daze of heat and nerves, searching the waiting faces for a man who looked like the picture he'd sent me. He looked good in the photo, but as I knew from previous experience, photos could be deceiving. But in this case, the photo proved to be accurate and his friendly, smiling face was an antidote to the grim Londoners I'd come in contact with all week. As we walked across the pedestrian bridge crossing the Thames, I couldn't help but be impressed -- both by him and the city around me. The river glinted in the early evening light and in the distance, the pods of the London eye gracefully arched in the air. And The Man, well, let's just say he rivalled the city.

We entered the glass facade of the Royal Festival Hall, reveling in the heat of the first summer-like day of the season. Sipping crisp white wine, the ringing bell signalling the start of the performance could barely drag us away from our conversation. Sitting in the darkened room, I could barely believe I was in London, in a concert hall, next to a man who I'd only just met but felt like I'd known for ages (this is as schmaltzy as I'll get, I promise!).

Five years on, we are still together despite our many cultural differences. I hate the cold; he loves it. I enjoy the sun; he detests it. I am constantly closing the windows he opens, and vice versa. He piles my plate high with food, while I never cook enough to satisfy his appetite. I mock his accent; he mocks mine. Yet we have more important things in common: our love of music; theatre; art; and, of course, wine. It was him who encouraged me to pursue my dream of writing, and I was inspired by his dedication to finally become a film director -- from writing a screenplay, shooting it with a crew, and now editing.

And so, a Canadian and Egyptian found love in a foreign land.


Criss said...

Thanks for sharing! Great V-Day story. :)

One of my favorite singer/songwriters has a song called "√Čl y ella" ("He and She") about a preppy college student who goes to Mexico on Spring Break and meets a Cuban girl on vacation. She doesn't speak English and he barely speaks Spanish, but they fall in love (despite the language barrier, cultural differences, and political ideologies). They live in Paris, because it's "neutral ground."

I love the song, and I think I'm going to adapt it into a play (maybe a musical?) for Script Frenzy this April. Your blog title made me think of the song...

Marsha said...

What a great song - and a great idea. Perfect for a musical. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tan said...

WOW ... I knew I would love your writes when I saw the address of your blog ... its so similar to mine!! Check this out: Thus Wrote Tan!

I'm happy that I came here today ...


Nancy J. Parra said...

Lovely story! Happy Valentine's Day.

KimB said...

Now I know the story! Thanks for sharing!

You left something out though. Who set you up? Or was it online?