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30 January 2017

A look around our place – Let me begin by wishing you a happy Year of the Rooster! I thought that today I would talk a little about our place and our neighborhood, now that we’ve been here for a little over a week. The place where we are staying for the semester is not huge, but it is close to school and has pretty much everything we need. Let me give you the grand tour.

“In 1849, the land the house now stands on was tidal marsh, but a nearby hill was dug up to fill in the land and the house was built on top of that.”

On the first floor are the living room, to the west, and the kitchen, to the east. These are split by the staircase leading to the upper floor, where the bedroom sits above the living room and the bathroom sits above the kitchen. We also have a laundry room in the basement.

This is our living room, as seen from the space just inside the front door. I’m not sure what to call this space. It’s definitely not big enough to be a foyer, and probably not even big enough to be a landing. There’s enough space for a mat to take off our shoes, and that’s about it.

Anyway, the living room is nice. The couch and the chair are good for just sitting and reading, which we have been doing a lot of, seeing as we do not have cable here. You might have noticed those two screens sitting there on the left, one in front of the other. The one in the rear is an actual TV, but it only gets public channels. The one in front is a wide-screen monitor that we can hook our computers up to if we want. We do occasionally watch stuff this way, but not very often. Our landlord said that if we wanted to get cable we could talk, but I kind of like the idea of not having a television around to distract us.

This was taken from near the armchair, and you can see the desk and work area; that’s my new HP Spectre x360 on the right, sitting atop a dual-fan cooling pad. I am sitting here in that chair typing on the keyboard this very moment. Well, not this very moment, most likely, depending on when you are reading this, but you know what I mean.

I don’t know if you can tell from these photos, but the floor is not actually even—it slopes from the outer walls of the house toward the center. We learned from our landlord that this is because of the geology. In 1849, the land the house now stands on was tidal marsh, but a nearby hill was dug up to fill in the land and the house was built on top of that (although the house might have been built earlier and moved from Beacon Hill, because the architectural style fits in with the mid-18th century, not the mid-19th century). However, filling in the marsh didn’t change the fact that the underlying land is not all that solid, and over the years the footing has sunk, leading to the uneven floors. It takes a bit of getting used to, but apparently there are houses in the neighborhood with far worse slopes, so I suppose it’s not too bad.

Here is our kitchen, which is fairly large—larger than our kitchen in Korea, at least. We also have an oven, which makes me very happy, although I think I am going to need to experiment a bit to get used to it. That stainless steel bowl on the counter in the background contains bread dough that would later be baked in that oven, but although it rose fine during the proof, it got no oven spring at all. (I have since experimented a bit since I first wrote this, and I discovered that the internal temperature of the oven when set to 350 F is only around 330 F). Still, we only have a little mini halogen oven in Korea, and I think once I get this thing figured out I will be a happy baker.

On the down side, the sink is tiny, but this has had the effect of forcing us to do the dishes right after eating, which is not necessarily a bad thing. There is a dishwasher next to the sink, but we don’t use it—it seems a bit wasteful to use a dishwasher for just the two of us.

Here is perhaps a better view of the table where we eat our meals, right by the window overlooking the garden. You can probably see that it has two extensions that fold down, only one of which is up at the moment. This means that we can put the other wing up for when we have company and comfortably seat four people for meals.

This is more or less what you see when you walk in the front door: the stairs to the upper floor. They are rather steep, and the railing is a necessity when coming down. I don’t know how many times we walk up and down these stairs a day, but I can tell you that it’s pretty good exercise.

Here is our bedroom, simply furnished with a bed, a table, a chair (that we throw our clothes on), and a chest of drawers out of frame to the left (although you can see the drawer handles at the very left edge of the photo). There is also a closet, so we have plenty of room for our clothes—not that we brought that many. The heavily sloped ceiling makes life interesting; HJ sleeps on that side of the bed, and I’ve already lost track of how many times she has bumped her head.

Last but not least is our bathroom, which is quite spacious. In fact, it is probably the most spacious bathroom I’ve ever had in my life. The bath/shower is to the left here, behind the shower curtain masquerading as a map of the Boston subway system, with the sink and large mirror to the right. The ceiling slopes in this room as well, but most of the sloped area is filled in with closets and storage areas. Between the closets is a gable and a window that looks out over the street, and that is where the bathroom scale resides.

Now that you’ve seen the inside, let me take you outside briefly.

This is the front of our place, at the rear or west end of the building. The very narrow porch in front of the door is another artifact of the geology—the garden keeps sinking, necessitating elongation of the stairs and shortening of the porch. The glass door to the right leads down to the laundry room and storage room, and I hear the garden is a lovely place to sit in during Boston’s mythical warm weather.

Here is our street, looking north from the driveway toward Mt Auburn Street, the nearest thoroughfare; Mt Auburn Street heads southeast and joins Massachusetts Avenue, which leads past MIT, over the Charles River, and into Boston proper. Follow the street west and you go past Mt Auburn Hospital and soon arrive at Star Market, where we do most of our big grocery shopping (because there is a bus that runs from in front of Star Market back to right by our street—we call it our “taxi bus”).

Here is Mt Auburn Street on a crisp, blue sunny day, with some iconic Boston architecture to brighten things up. The school is located to the east and northeast, and is only a short walk away—depending on where I am going on campus, I can usually get there in ten to fifteen minutes.

And I suppose that it’s for now—just a quick introduction to our place and our neighborhood. I will have more photos of the area for you in the future. In fact, I plan to revive an old tradition here at Liminality for that purpose. Back when we lived south of Seoul, out in the “countryside,” I put up galleries for each of the seasons, as well as things like arthropods and flowers. I called these galleries “theme” galleries, and they differed from “event” galleries in that they were ongoing; that is, I would add photos to them from time to time if they fit the theme, rather than putting up a bunch of photos at once. I’ve decided to create a new theme gallery for our stay here in the Boston area, and hope to get that up soon. I will let you know when that goes up—and will keep you informed of updates to it—through my RSS feed.

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