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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Magic Floor

I mostly like our kitchen here in Tashkent.  I can't say that I've loved any of our kitchents; each one has a mix of features that I like and ones that I can't stand.  Our Egyptian kitchen was pretty big, had full-size appliances, and lots of counter space, but it didn't have any air conditioning.  Our kitchen in Baku had air conditioning and ceramic floors, but it didn't have a full-sized oven or range.  The Dushanbe kitchen was huge, had room for a freezer and a refrigerator, and plenty of storage space, but we had another easy bake stove and oven.

Our current kitchen is mostly okay.  It is somewhat on the small side, but it does have a door to the backyard, which is really nice when it gets too hot.  There is definitely a lot less counter space than in our last kitchen and I've had a fun time trying to fit everything in the cabinets.  Our pots are currently living on the window sill until I put some wall shelves up.  We do, however, have a wonderfully large, deep sink that I love.  I've never had a sink large enough to fit a half-sheet pan in, and I'm really enjoying my sink.  But the best part about my kitchen here is the stove - a full-sized American gas range.  Every time I put two 9x13 pans side-by-side in the oven, my heart sings with happiness.

Our kitchen has one very interesting feature: the floor.  It is a black-and-white ceramic tile floor, which in principle I am okay with.  The tiles are nice and large with very small grout lines between the tiles, which are wonderful after having a tile floor in Baku that dirt would get lost in every time it fell into the canyon-like cracks between the tiles.  It actually looks really nice when it's clean, but it's almost never clean.

It turns out that our floor is magical, but in the not-good, Sauron-makes-the-One-Ring kind of magical way.  It makes dirt spontaneously.

Our housekeeper comes three times a week, and every time she comes she mops the floor, often twice.  She leaves at three in the afternoon, and by seven in the evening the floor is usually coated in dirt and in need of another mopping - the third for the day.  Footprints, crumbs, dirt, splashes, smears, and streaks defy the law of conservation of mass as they appear without anybody seeming to do a thing.  Often one of my children will simply look in the kitchen and crumbs will appear on the floor.  Another one will wash their hands at the sink and dirty wet footprints will pop into existence all around them.  Every time William eats his high chair is surrounded by a virtual Jackson Pollock of drips, splashes, and splatters.

One would think that between black and white, one of the tiles would hide dirt, but instead they both just show different kinds.  The white tiles show every smudge that thinks of being in existence, and the black tiles showcase every single microscopic mote of dust that happens to wander by our house.  And to make it even better, the tiles are high gloss.  So even if a perfectly clean, crumb and dirt free set of feet walks across the floor, it leaves smudgy footprints across the mirror-like surface.

When I talked with the woman who lived here before me and she mentioned that the floor was a nightmare to keep clean, I rolled my eyes and figured that she was exaggerating.  I have a fairly high tolerance for dirty floors (the gift of laziness) so I didn't think that the 'nightmare' floor would cause too much of a problem.  But I was wrong.  It's one thing to deal with a dirty floor when you can't see it, but it's something else entirely when you can see every single drip that lands on your floor.  I thought I was strong enough to deal with it, but I didn't last more than a month before I broke down and bought a steam mop, something I've always mocked other people for owning.

Now every night after dinner, I have a new ritual.  After the dishes are washed and the counters and table wiped, I kick everyone out of the kitchen.  First the floor is swept and I vainly try to get every stray speck off the amazingly filthy floor.  I feel like I should start a photo diary of how much dirt it's possible to generate in less than four hours, in the cause of scientific inquiry.  After the heap is swept up, I pull out my steam mop.  In a carefully devised pattern that allows the floor to be mopped and dry before I step on it, the entire floor is cleaned.  I finish by admiring my perfectly clean floor and then admire it.  I soak in the beauty of a perfectly clean kitchen floor.  I treasure it in my heart, remembering that once a day the floor actually stays clean for more than ten minutes, if only because everyone in the house is asleep.  Then I go to bed and try to remember in the morning when someone splashes their milk all over then entire kitchen that the floor will be clean once again.  If only overnight.

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