Thursday, November 30, 2006

Desire for Burning

It's winter here -- and by 'here' I mean here inside my apartment. Outside, the weather could still be reasonably termed autumnal, but for some reason within my living room I'm on the verge of being able to see my breath. Getting out of the shower is like being flash frozen; standing in the kitchen making tea, I briefly contemplate putting my cold-stiffened hands to the burner. Every little muscle in my skin is pulled so tight, my arm hair is in constant fuzzy halo formation. People ask me all the time what it is I miss the most from America, and today I realized the answer: fireplaces. They do not have fireplaces in Japan, and I would like one. I want an open hearth with a roaring flame and all the treasures of Hestia contained therein. I want a mantle with stockings and a wreath, and a chimney, and a grate, and one of those giant metal hooks to poke the logs with so I can watch the sparks race up the flue under the pretense of tending the flame. And while I'm wishing, I'd also like two chairs (preferably with a classic design and nice lumbar support) positioned in front of the fireplace, facing each other, so that when I'm reading by the fire and start to feel too warm, I can simply move into the opposite seat and let the other side soak up the heat.

It's my dream. My longed for dream.

Realizing that one should never give up on a dream, I thought I might approach the GSO about it. I mean, rumor has it that he's installing a petdoor for someone; surely a fireplace wouldn't be so different. I caught him as we were walking to the shuttle. Turns out that the petdoor is an impossibility (our doors are made of metal), more so a fireplace. Okay, well, to be fair, I already sort of knew that. But it never hurts to ask. Thus my warm, shimmering dream died an ignominious death there on the steps of the compound.

In some sort of warped consolation, at work the building design has turned the 2nd floor into a dry sauna. The minute I walk in to sit at my desk, my eyes shrivel up like two umeboshi, and that particular brand of thickly viscous 'not-actually-exercising-just-sitting-here' sweat starts up beneath the layers of clothing I'd put on to survive the conditions in my apartment. If that weren't bad enough, the heaters (which we can't turn off) are emitting a smell not unlike a silent bout of flatulence in a small room full of close friends. Today, they kicked on while I was at the window interviewing two brazilian applicants. As the offensive odor wafted through the little tray beneath the glass, I could see their nostrils begin to twitch. They glanced at each other, shot me a knowing look, and moved ever so slightly back from the window. "No, no; it's the heater..." I started, but as they didn't speak English or Japanese, and as I don't know the Portuguese for "He who smelt it dealt it," I'm afraid they may have formed the impression that Americans eat a lot of cabbage. Luckily, just at that moment, an applicant two windows down reacted to her rejection by going into full 叩頭 [koutou] mode: kneeling on the floor, pressing her forehead to the ground, and crying out over and over "Please, I beg you!"* Her awkward moment having effectively eclipsed my own, I quickly issued the couple in front of me while the guards came and dragged the unfortunate woman away. My hope is the Brazilians left talking about that and not about the smell.

I think next week I'll bring in some candles. That's sort of like a fireplace. And maybe they'd help burn up the awful stench.

*note to applicants: this has never worked. Never. Not once.


Mike said...

I just wanted to let you know that I have just finished reading you entire blog, from beginning to end. No, I'm not a stalker. :) I am however, an FSO hopeful (like so many others who read your blog I imagine). Your entries, whether about the Foreign Service or life in general, are always insightful and entertaining. Keep it coming... and know that you have a dedicated new reader!

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a heater mode on that unit in your apt??? What is it with freezing to death that so appeals to the culture there???!!!

And we'll definitely fire up the little furnace on the patio while you are here! Do you want S'mores with that??


PS...this mike guy must be quite insightful! 8^)

Katie said...

Mom, you have to ASK me to know whether or not I want s'mores..!?

Good luck to you, Mike!

Sharon said...


Check out these downloadable screensavers

With your extremely cold apartment, you could snuggle in front of your computer with a cup of hot cocoa (with marshmallows!) and pretend you really need the fire. Who knows, with the power of the human mind, you may actually feel it's warmth.

Chris just got done househunting in MD and our favorite house had two fireplaces. If we end up buying a house with a fireplace, I'm definitely going to buy two comfortable chairs.

Katie said...

Sharon, I should be in DC sometime in March or April of 2008; if it's still a bit cool, we can sit in front of your fireplace and play mah jongg... (I can't wait for you to see my new set!)

dandelion feet said...

i cannot wait to see you, sister. <3