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Charles Laffiteau\'s Bigger Picture

Last update - Thursday, August 1, 2013, 12:43 By Charles Laffiteau

Since I’m getting married today, 1 August, I thought I’d take a temporary detour from my analysis of the Arab Spring’s ‘second wind’ to discuss the role Ireland, and a series of seemingly unconnected coincidences, played in bringing about this day.

At the beginning of the autumn term in 2010, an Irish Master’s student moved into my three-bedroom flat in the postgrad residences on the edge of the DCU campus. My other flatmate, Annett, was a German medical doctor doing post-doctoral research at the university, but after sharing the same flat for three years Annett and I had also become very good friends. Since our previous flatmates had been from Malaysia, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, we were both looking forward to sharing the flat with a native Irish person for the first time.

Our new flatmate was actually much friendlier than our previous Asian colleagues had been, and she also had an Irish boyfriend who was a very nice and friendly chap. Mind you, Annett and I were already used to the comings and goings of our previous flatmates’ boyfriends and girlfriends, so her boyfriend’s presence in our apartment wasn’t disturbing at first. But after a couple of months it soon became apparent that Annett and I did not have just one new flatmate – we had two. Furthermore, our Irish flatmate’s boyfriend was actually spending more time in our apartment than either Annett or I was.

These two new Irish flatmates soon commandeered the living room, and hardly an evening went by without Annett and me returning home to find them using my DVD player to watch movies on my TV. I didn’t mind this so much, but they also took over our kitchen, cooking lots of meals but neglecting to clean the pots, pans and dishes they used. We discussed this with our Irish flatmate on several occasions and each time she acknowledged our concerns, apologised and promised that she and her boyfriend would clean up after themselves in future.

Things got better over the next few days, but within a couple of weeks the dishes were piling up again. Worse still, when I returned to Ireland after the holidays I was greeted not only by a kitchen filled with dirty dishes, but also a living room filled with men’s clothing. We once again discussed this with our flatmate, who promised us her boyfriend would be starting a new job and getting his own place in two weeks. But this never happened.

To make a long story short, at Annett’s behest I took photos of our kitchen and living room and brought them with us to a meeting with our landlord, who was not amused. At first our Irish flatmate denied our complaints when the landlord confronted her, but once she saw the photos, she reacted angrily and demanded to be moved to a new flat. Coincidence? I think not.

But as luck would have it, three hours later a woman named Kinda arrived at DCU to look at a vacant apartment on the floor above ours. But since we now had a vacancy, our landlord invited her to view our place too. Kinda later told me and Annett that as soon as she saw our apartment she knew it was the right one for her, even though the vacant room on the floor above had a lower rent.

For her part, when Kinda decided to follow a UN colleague’s suggestion that she get a Master’s degree, she’d planned to go to the United States to pursue it. But her father was very concerned about her moving halfway around the world from her native Syria to study. He begged her to consider getting her Master’s in Ireland, where her brother Alayham was already enrolled in a postgrad programme. So Kinda reluctantly decided to forgo her dreams of studying in the US and instead applied to DCU’s International Relations programme. Another coincidence?

When Annett and I first met Kinda, while her brother was helping her move in to our flat, we were both a bit concerned about what kind of flatmate she would be, given our recent bad experience. But within a few days it became apparent that Kinda was the polar opposite our recently departed Irish flatmate. She was both friendly and very considerate in all of her interactions with us. She would often invite us to join her in the meals she prepared, and then insisted on doing all of the cleaning up afterwards. Over time, Kinda and I became best friends while we played chess, watched movies, took day trips and shopped together in the city centre.

Although I was initially excited about returning to the United States last January to finish my PhD studies, within a few months I really started to miss being around Kinda. Mind you, I missed Annett too, but what I missed most was doing things with my best friend. When Kinda and I would chat via webcam, I also felt my longing to be with her growing with each conversation. Then after six long months of being apart, on 28 June something came over me at the end of our webcam chat. I told Kinda how much I missed her and asked her if she would consider marrying me so we could be together again. Three days later, Kinda said yes and we began the year-long process of getting her a fiancée visa. 

So now I thank God every day that due to a series of seemingly unrelated coincidences, I am getting married to a beautiful woman with an even more beautiful soul, and who also happens to be my best friend.



Charles Laffiteau is a US Republican from Dallas, Texas who is pursuing a PhD in Public Policy and Political Economy. He previously lectured on Contemporary US Business & Society at DCU from 2009-2011.

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