Hold Your Breath

Posted: 19 November 2009 in observations

We’ve had the flu for a week.  First D got it and then she passed it to me.  Merciless.  So we’ve spent the week lying around, heads lolling to the side, moaning in misery.  Actually, today we both sound like two pack a day smokers which goes great with our headaches, sniffles and backache limping presentation.

It’s no fun.

What’s worse?  That THING in the refrigerator.  For three days, the smell got worse and worse.  For people with stuffed up noses, it must have been terrible to even be able to smell it to begin with.  We started throwing things out, certain that each one was the culprit.  Yes, there was a bag of lettuce that had seen better days.  And then we discovered a sad looking zucchini.  Well, that’s it, right?  No.

Then we tossed jars that had ever been opened, even if they didn’t smell.  Then the freezer started to smell.  How can ANYTHING in the freezer smell?  It’s FROZEN.  So we threw out anything that generally causes a smell.  Pickles.  Creamer.  Cheese.  Then the smell crept out of the refrigerator and took over the kitchen.  We were too sick to care.  Then it took over the hall.  We started lamenting and rending our shirts.  Seriously.  There is NOTHING left to smell.  Things that are left are ziplocked and wrapped and CLOSED.  What could possibly smell?  So yesterday I sat down in front and emptied the thing and scrubbed it with watered-down bleach.

Readers, there was not that much in the fridge to begin with.  Really.  Not. That. Much.  We’ve been sick, we’re not eating.  We’re not shopping.  There’s nothing in there.   In the Great Scrub, we tossed a small ziplock with five perfectly firm, reasonable looking grapes.  The smell is gone.  Could it have been those grapes?  I couldn’t smell anything, but my wife made that face.  The face that rumples beyond recognition in disgust.  I don’t know whether the grapes smelled or if she was overwhelmed by the open door of the refrigerator, spilling it’s empty stench into the room.

Just so you can see what we were working with, here is the fridge, short one small bag of grapes and its personal Bog of Eternal Stench.  Disgusting.


  1. Don’t you hate it when you can’t find the source of a smell? Our refridgerator REEKED for a few weeks a couple months ago, and we could never figure out why. It has stopped now, but we never really found the source.

    Random fact: In Korea, most non-poor families have a separate refridgerator to keep their kimchi in, because otherwise it reeks so badly that the smell infects the other food in your fridge and then everything tastes faintly of kimchi.

    By the way – out of curiosity, what made you leave the foreign service?

  2. m says:

    ugh – the smell. I think it’s seared on my memory.

    The decision was a really hard one. Essentially, the service and I were no longer on the same path. I wasn’t as ready to be separated from my family and the service showed no real intention of making that less of a possibility (though, to its credit, things have improved significantly since then). On top of that, and perhaps more importantly, I disagreed strongly with the approach the service was taking in assigning officers to dangerous posts. At ten years and a bit, it was time to commit or choose a new path. I’m very happy with my choice.

  3. Good to know. My boyfriend is a foreign service brat, and while he seems to think I would be good as an FSO, he also has somewhat discouraged me from taking the FSOT for reasons similar to those you mentioned. His father spent his entire career life in the FS (indeed, his first post was Iran in ’79), and only once was he ever assigned to a post that was even in his top 10 list (Paris, which was given to him after the Iran debacle). My boyfriend and his family spent the entire rest of the time bouncing around hardship posts in Africa ranging from Guinea to Nigeria to the Congo. Even though his father repeatedly requested to be stationed on some other continent, they kept placing him in Africa, which eventually led to some major resentment down the line.

    Sorry for the little rant-by-proxy there! I guess I was just trying to say that I was hoping that things had changed, but from what you said, it seems they haven’t, really.

    • backlist says:

      it’s worth talking to more folks if you’re still considering. I felt like I had tons of choices during my 10 years, but as the world changed, the rules changed regarding services in dangerous places. I’m a better asset to U.S. education than I am to Pakistanis (for example) but you may find that those work conditions enhance your ability to serve.

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