Languages take such a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about.
– J.R.R. Tolkien
Now that we’ve had a few days to settle in, it is time to face the next necessary task in our new Korean lifestyle: performing basic household functions like washing dishes, doing laundry, and adjusting the thermostat when it gets too hot or cold. Thus, we’ve come to the dreaded task of facing head-on our obvious deficiency of Korean language skills… wait, what do you mean by that? Stick with me, folks.
Since our arrival, we’ve been able to avoid learning Korean thanks to our English GPS, our ability to find food with labeling in English, and Google translate to ask for help when we found ourselves in uncertain territory. Recently, though, Korean and the Hangul alphabet have become unavoidable. (And besides, who wants to be the annoying Westerner who has a dumb and confused look on their face all the time?)
Google translate is my best friend right now.
It all began when Leo and Dexter rang the doorbell. Leo and Dexter work for an agency that serves a lot of expats here in Ulsan by providing housing arrangements, loaner furniture, an inventory of electronics (TV, wifi, etc.) and even a housekeeping service! Another of the agency’s services includes orienting you to your new home, including demonstrating how to use all of our new-fangled technology as well as the appropriate way to dispose of waste (that will be an entire post itself) and use of important security features, like the pin-pad for our door.
We scheduled orientation one afternoon this week, and though they were on time, I wasn’t prepared for what will become the norm with inviting Koreans into your home: having the dogs crated away before the arrival of guests. Koreans are not very amenable to “large” animals, but I digress. After running through some very important items, like how to change the thermostat and why we have three television remotes, we reviewed how to use our basic appliances, including the dishwasher, washer/dryer combo, water purifier, oven and stove top, as well as our sink (yes, our sink required instructions as it has a foot pedal).
While the agency provides a written manual for all the appliances, I thought it would be useful to have a human being demonstrate how to operate said machinery. That was until I realized that these two were, to put it gently, not very domestic. It became clear rather quickly that neither of them had ever really used a washer, dryer or dishwasher, as they really couldn’t explain what the settings were on the machines other than a vague translation of the markings. For example, our washer/dryer combo:
Our super-powered washer/dryer combo.
This baby is supposed to wash and dry your clothes all in one! However, I have heard from many other Asian expats that these machines don’t do the same quality job as ones we might be used to back home. In essence, I have been warned. Well, with all of the gibberish written above, I was about hopeless, and the only thing Dexter could really tell me was that the far left button was the ‘temperature’ setting. Oh, and the far right button is used for the dryer settings. He couldn’t describe very well what the setting options were, though. The manual wasn’t much help, either.
So, I have spent the past couple of mornings completely translating (using my new Hangul keyboard on the iPad and Google translate) the functions of both the dishwasher and the washer/dryer. If any of you have ever studied another language, you know that direct translation is only about 50% accurate, depending on what languages you are working with. Here is what the washer settings said:
The crude translation of our washer settings.
Alright, well I’m not sure if ‘dehydration’ was what I was looking for, but I took that as ‘spin cycle’ and went to set the machine with my best guess. Oh, darn it. Now I’m seeing the dial in the middle needs an entire translation as well. That’s what you need for pre-sets, which ironically is the only way to then customize what you really want it to do. Here goes:
Please tell me you notice the cartoon sheep on top. Rock on, Korean cartoons.
Well, ya’ll, I’ll be honest, my first load was full of wool lingerie, so I’m very glad this has an applicable setting on my machine. Ok, we’re ready to go. Just fill it up with some detergent, yep the Tide that I bought at Costco – oh, Lord, here we go again. Silly, assuming me just poured the liquid detergent into what I thought was the correct container. Until I realized there were, in fact, three detergent options. Google to the rescue again:
Now THAT was straightforward.
Whew! I guessed right. Finally, we’re ready to play! ‘Bing!’ The timer comes on: 4:18.
4 hour – WHAT?! – you’re telling me that washing and drying 3 regular bath towels and 6 hand towels is going to to take four hours and eighteen minutes? Well, little machine, I’ve got news for you! I refuse to spend all day running Korean appliances to maintain my household! You hear me? I refuse!
Wait, what’s that you say? You changed your mind? I went to check on you after 1 hour and 45 minutes, and this is what I see:
I can’t write a caption. I just can’t.
THREE HOURS AND TWENTY TWO MINUTES LEFT? Sigh. I think it took a break out back by the dumpster, because there is a marijuana leaf icon on the left now, next to the ‘Bubble Shot’ button.
Well, if the washer is this difficult, the dishwasher can’t really be any worse, right? Oh, you silly American! Our pink counter-top dishwasher looks so cute and adorable on the outside but harbors pure evil upon opening the door. I hear it laughing at me: push down on the handle, you fool!
Our deceivingly adorable countertop dishwasher
This life-enhancing contraption fits about 5 bowls, 3 plates, 10 pieces of silverware and 4 cups before it can barely close. And can I point out that our larger sized plates and bowls don’t even fit due to height restrictions on the bottom rack? Well, anyhow, let’s be positive and at least cram in what we can.
Like I said, our deceivingly adorable countertop dishwasher.
With the tiniest bit of detergent required (hey, I guess we won’t have to buy another bottle of this stuff while we’re here), I used the magic of Google translate to set it on what Leo said was the “standard 49 minute wash” and push play. Timer: 2:08. Oh, holy baby Jesus, tell me it isn’t true!
If I don’t have time to blog ever again, call me while I’m washing dishes. I’ll try my best to keep in touch. It’s been real, friends..
P.S. It’s 2:32 PM, do you know where your laundry is? STILL IN THE @*!$&^@#%& WASHER! 4 hours and 32 minutes later.