In real time—September 1, 2017—I just woke up in my own home for the first time in three months after living, traveling, and working abroad. It’s disorienting. My place feels the same, yet different. Maybe that’s because I sold it right before I left, and as soon as I unpack my suitcase I will need to start packing everything to move in one month.
This will be my third move in two years. This one will be hard. I love this place—its location on The Hill near all the mansions and shops and restaurants, and the character of the condo itself—with beveled glass, graceful curved woodwork, exposed brick walls, fireplace, high ceilings, and warm wood floors.
When I woke up at midnight last night to the creaking and thumping of my upstairs neighbor walking around on his wood floors, I smiled and knew I had made the right decision.
I’ll be moving into a duplex on St. Paul’s east side. You know what they say about rents and real estate: “Location, location, location.” And it’s true. The duplex is very nice but there’s nothing much nearby except other duplexes. Therefore it’s cheap. I’ve signed a 10-month lease and I can lay low there until I decide what to do next.
I am lucky to have the choices I do. I knew that intellectually, but spending time in refugee camps made it visceral.
I arrived at Heathrow from Addis Ababa at 7am. I had barely slept due to my cold and, well, having to sit upright in a cramped airplane seat.
There was Lynn waiting for me in the arrivals hall—the one where they filmed the opening scene in Love Actually. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a sweet montage of people meeting people at the airport. Friends, families, business associates … smiling, waving, hugging, laughing, and then walking off to start whatever lay ahead for them in London or beyond.
I transferred myself from Maki’s good guidance to Lynn’s. I am a “take charge” person but Lynn is even more so, and we were on her stomping grounds now.
First stop, Boots, the chemist, which is like a prettier version of Walgreens. I loaded up on sore throat spray, cough drops, and tissues. We got a cup of coffee at Costa and found the car rental kiosk. Lynn bought all the insurance they offered, which would turn out to be a good thing.
This was supposed to be the vacation part of my sojourn—two weeks of driving around the southwest of Britain, starting in Cornwall.
Until recently, I’ve never had a problem logging off of work email and not checking it while I’m on leave. I crossed a line somewhere and started doing that, and when I did, at Heathrow while Lynn was making the car arrangements, there was an email about an opportunity for us to submit a concept note to DFID, the UK’s Department for International Development. It was due in less than 10 days.
A concept note is like a preliminary sales pitch to a potential funder. You send them 3-5 pages summarizing your big idea and hope they ask for more, in the form of a full grant proposal. Thing is, you have to put almost as much work into a concept note as a full proposal because you have to give them a top line budget number, and to get that requires, basically, developing the full project and budget.
I was really glad we were going for this, and I wanted to work on it. I had met with a DFID representative two years before when I was in Amman, Jordan. We had tried to stay loosely in touch with him, and if we are funded, it would be almost a textbook example of how development/fund raising works.
But the timing that was inconvenient. Lynn doesn’t need anyone to entertain her, but I thought it would be rude to be constantly checking my email and on Skype while she was having a G&T by herself on the patio at the resort in Cornwall. Being online too much would turn out to not be a problem.