Fear Sandy, Miss Irene

(For my two friends: Janice and Liz)

Superstorm Sandy is picking up its speed, lashing East Coast and threatening some 60 million people including me and all my people from Maine to South Carolina.

Last night, I got emails from my school and my professor which announced the closure of all classes Monday.

Governor Davel Patrick already declared Massachusetts a federal disaster area for Monday.

Like other cities in the Sandy zone, Boston closed all schools. MBTA suspended all train and bus services across Boston at 2 p.m. today.

In this NASA satellite image, Hurricane Sandy churns off the U.S. East Coast as it moves north in the Atlantic Ocean Sunday. Photo by WSJ/Getty Image

It’s blowing a gale outside. The heavy gales scare me and remind me much of the day before Hurricane Irene hit New England region 14 months ago.

Irene made its way to East Coast when I was about to transfer to Boston after a month of attending a pre-academic program in Northampton. On the day people were advised to stay indoor for safety, my host Janice drove me with most of my luggages to Cambridge to view the room because its landlord urged me to sign the lease as soon as I could.

At the time when my school would start in four days, I hadn’t found a place to stay in Boston. I was quite nervous. I decided not to go to Columbia, Ohio for my American instructor’s wedding to solve the housing issue.

During the month at International Language Institute of Massachusetts, the house hunting tired me. It distracted me from studying at ILI.

I went to Craiglist almost whenever I had time. I sent countless emails. Janice asked her friends for help. I bused to Boston three times. I viewed nearly 10 houses.

Still I secured no room.

Some weren’t affordable. Some were too far from school. Some looked unsafe. Some had male tenants. Some frustrated me – potential roommates behaving as if they had been landlords. Most asked for two-month rents as a deposit and the first rent when signing the lease.

I knew we took a risk driving to Boston when Irene was making her way to East Coast. So did my friend Liz and her father who also drove to Boston from Concord to be my references.

That Saturday morning was overcast. It was raining. On the three-hour trip to Boston, we got stuck behind a long line of cars. Janice looked nervous behind the wheel. She worried that we couldn’t get back home by the afternoon to put aside the stuff in her gardens.

We had two houses to view. One furnished in Cambridge and the other unfurnished near downtown Boston, pretty close to Emerson College.

We arrived at Fulkerson Street in Cambridge almost 10 a.m. Liz and her Dad were already there awaiting us. We felt glad with the nice neighborhood.

I phoned the landlord who said he wouldn’t be available until 11 p.m. I said I had an appointment with him at 10. We were on time and we needed to return soon because of the hurricane.

What I didn’t know he lives right in the basement of that building and the man showed up a few minutes later in front of it was he.

Everything went well, mostly thanks to the presence of Janice, Liz and her Dad. I learned that landlord always prefers a reference.

They advised me to sign the lease because everything looked very okay – nice house, nice landlord, nice kitchen, nice room, a train station just 10 minutes walk, a lot of shops nearby.

The landlord said my two roommates were American, one from California and the one from Florida. That information rejoiced me because my target was to stay with American students to improve my pronunciation and learn American culture.

No first month and last month rents. Just one-month rent as a deposit. No need to pay the first rent until I moved in September 1.

I felt like that room was saved for me. Yes save the best for the last.

I signed the lease, paid half of the security deposit, and moved all my stuff to the kitchen. I said goodbye to the Bulgarian landlord who gave me the keys and reminded me to pay the rest of the deposit via Paypal.

I texted the second landlord to cancel the appointment at 11.

We went to an Italian restaurant three blocks away to celebrate my Cambridge room. I felt so relieved. At last I found an affordable house in Cambridge, a city I didn’t dream to stay because the rents are reportedly higher than other cities in Greater Boston Area.

Sometimes, I tried to remember when I sent the first email to the Cambridge landlord to ask for viewing the room. But I failed. I just remembered when he gave me a call  right after I read his reply. I talked to Janice and asked if she could go with me to Boston.

With Janice and Liz in Cambridge August 27, 2011. Photo by Liz’s Dad

With Liz and her Dad in Cambridge October 27, 2011. Photo by Janice

On the way back to Easthampton, the dark sky made Janice more nervous. She wanted to get home as soon as possible. It rained again. Long lines of vehicles congested the highway again.

The sky looked calm when we got back home. Janice and I tried to move all the stuff outside into her basement and her tool sheds. We secured all the windows and doors. She said if the hurricane hit hard, we would move down to the basement room.

I always feel thankful to Janice, Liz and her Dad for risking themselves to help me that day. Without that timely help, I might not have a successful year at Emerson.

Now I hope all my friends and all the people in the Sandy zone be totally safe. I texted Liz and Janice and wish they all well. I felt so warm to receive Liz’s messages which suggested me to call her parents in case I need help, have a flashlight and some bottle water handy, close the curtains on the windows.

I can’t help laughing when reading Janice’s reply which reads “Happy Hurricane…”

The street near my house is murky, windy and full of falling yellow leaves.

The street near my house is murky, windy and full of falling yellow leaves.

The howling gale keeps blowing non-stop outside. Inside my room, I’m crossing my fingers for myself and all people in the Hurricane Sandy zone.

Hope all be safe this stormy time.

(Hurricane Sandy, October/29/2012)

Read more:

Hurricane Sandy: 5 things to know



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