The first time I encountered it in my host family’s house I assumed it was simply an incense burner… because the smell of incense was coming from it. Then I freaked out when I saw my host sister rest her feet on top of it. I assumed the iron grill was incredibly hot (there was a ton of charcoal ash below) and that she either had superhuman feet or was about to get burned to a crisp.
In fact, the iron grill is intended expressly for resting feet upon, to warm them up. Like a British hot water bottle, but with bonus features. I suppose the incense is to counteract the scent of warm smelly feet wafting through the air.
It’s fascinating to me how so many of the same things are actually quite different country by country.
In related news, as my 7-week homestay was drawing to an end last month, I checked out several apartments to move into, all north of here in more happening parts of town. But I ended up staying on with my host family after they offered to keep putting me up (putting up with me?) as long as I’m in town. I get along with them well and get tons of (and some days my only) French practice with them, so it seemed like the best option, even though it feels a little like being 17 again.
That has been awkward at times. But it’s also been oddly reassuring to finally be doing the French study abroad semester I regret not having done in my youth. A four-month homestay – just like this one is turning out to be – would have been my setup had I gone to Dakar back in my junior year of college. Better 15 years late than never.