With few exceptions, Foreign Service apartments come furnished. The US government buys these furnishings in bulk. They find a pattern they like and buy it all. 1000 dressers, 1500 highboys, 2000 couches and love seats with 5 different styles of chairs (captain, arm, easy, rocking etc.) in complimentary patterns to match. Every once in awhile someone will get lucky and arrive to their assigned post at the beginning of phasing in the newest generation of furniture, but usually every apartment interior looks the same. There are myriad upsides and downsides to living like this, but so far it has made things pretty easy for us. We've had the same pattern in both Caracas and Lima and we actually lucked out. Dark green is ideal for small people. When we left Lima, we weren't assessed any fees for property damage. We were diligent about keeping the furniture in good condition, but even still kids will be kids. We have been pretty successful this time around too. A few cushions have split seams, and the dining room chairs will need some scrubbing, but for the most part, I'm very proud of our ability to treat our borrowed furniture with care. Or, almost.
Isaac is a budding artist. Okay, so he's not a child prodigy or anything, but he does love to color. He has ample coloring books, scrap paper, and butcher paper at his disposal and he uses them liberally. But, sometimes, he forgets and colors floors, walls, doors, people, and whatever else happens to get in the way of his flowing creative juices. We say "only color on paper" a lot around here, but occasionally the non-paper surfaces are just too tempting. His latest aberration was in the form of a desk chair. Just an ordinary desk chair to some, but to me, with it's white canvas seat cover, an accident waiting to happen. And happen it did. Several times. I guess he just couldn't help himself, over and over and over again. So, on a recent stateside trip I bought some replacement fabric and thought that I could do the re-upholstering myself. Ha! Who was I kidding? I have neither tools nor skills. The chair is solidly constructed and there are lots of screws involved, and, most importantly, it doesn't belong to me and I'm trying to avoid having to pay to replace it. I put it on my list of things to get done, knowing it might not and then moved on to the next item.
Then a few days ago as I was driving on the same street we have driven on everyday for 2 years I saw it, my salvation. A hole in the wall upholstery store. I've passed this store a hundred times, and hundreds like it. Shops not much bigger than a large bedroom stuffed into whatever space they could find. Cobblers, luggage and leather repair stores, tailors, electronics and small appliance repair stores, ribbons and notions stores and on and on. They are everywhere. Usually without storefronts of any kind, places you have to know about to find. They are so much apart of the landscape that when I told Kenny about the place, he wasn't sure where I was talking about until I pointed it out to him this morning. On my way back though, I didn't pass by, I stopped. They quoted a price, $13. I made a deal and returned with the chair. Tomorrow it will be ready and good as new. Fascinating, no? So much for living a glamorous life abroad.