Kyiv First 100 Days: Technicalities

I consider myself a fairly literate person. I read. A lot. I write some. I can follow directions, I can gather context clues, and I have a lot of confidence that if there is ever anything that I need to know about, I can totally find out the how-what-where-when-why about it, just by reading. Nothing that can't be found or explained by a written word somewhere.

But perhaps all that is what had me so flummoxed with all of our household appliances for a while after we arrived. I had to interpret pictographs in order to know what cycle, what temperature, and how much time to do everything. You'd think that pictures would make things universal, wouldn't you? I maintain that when the pictures reflect German or Russian engineering (the Germas would probably cringe that I put "Russian" and "engineering" in the same sentence, but oh well), they are definitely not universal.

I did find a couple of manuals for our appliances in pdf format, and they helped a very leetle bit. But mostly it took a lot of trial and error to be able to cook, bake, and run the washer and dryer here.

Wanna try out your pictograph skills? Here you go.

The oven. This is one of the three knobs on the oven. One of the others is the timer (which doesn't work, but dings incessantly should your 20-month-old play with it). And the second of the others is the temperature setting (in Celsius, which I'll talk about later). But this one is the best. Which setting would you put it on for your average batch of cookies?

Next, the dishwasher. Yeah, we just keep it set to this all the time. It seems to do the job. But the pictures are interesting to guess at, nonetheless.

The microwave. Also has three knobs. Four, if you count the one that you can spin to add time while the microwave is functioning. But there is no end to the fun possibilities of this microwave.

First of all, "Grill?" In a microwave? Eww. And "Combi" just cracks me up for some reason.

Then, "jet?" Frightening. Except that I think "jet" might actually be the most effective temperature, seeing as how American microwaves usually operate at about 1100. Except the word "jet" in combination with the large warning sticker on the front of the microwave that says not to stand near it during takeoff use just scares me too much. And what is that little bedpan picture across from "jet?"

The buttons are where the real fun begins. If little helping hands should happen to push the start button a second time, it adds 30 seconds automatically. A third time? 30 more seconds. And so forth. Helpful little function, eh? And again, the jet. I just want to pop some popcorn are reheat a burrito, for crying out loud.

Here's the washer. All the cycles are over 90 minutes except for the "Quick" and the "Mix." And since I can set the temperature manually with some other buttons, I go for "Mix." But I have come to appreciate the cute drawrings of different types of clothing. And I have found the "empty" button helpful, since the washer is right at Charlie's level and he has helpfully restarted a cycle just as I was going to move already washed clothing to the dryer.

And, the dryer. The black sun and the empty sun do about the same thing, as far as I can ascertain. And the closets really mean something like "closet ready," which isn't exactly dry. Interesting concept. And the iron means that it's still damp because that's when you can press things most effectively. Assuming you don't have the steam setting on your iron, I guess. So usually we do one of the suns and then a timed setting, because we like our clothes actually dry. Also, because it's not a vented dryer, we have to empty the water tank at least once during one drying cycle.

Other than pictures and asking about chicken parts in Russian, the other two things that trip me up are the metric system and temperatures in Celsius.

On about Day Two, I had already had enough of looking up a conversion chart for temperature so that I could turn the oven on, so I scribbled out the chart with a purple crayon and taped it to the inside of the cupboard door for quicker reference. I still use it, because those numbers just don't stick in my head for some reason.

FYI, 350 degrees F is 176.6666 and 400 is 204.44444... Unfortunately, the oven doesn't have temperatures with decimals. Or even little lines to indicate increments between 160, 180, 200, and 220. And it only goes up to 220 degrees Celsius, which is only 428 degrees Fahrenheit. There go any recipes that might require 450 degrees, largely because of the puzzling pictograph settings of the oven (which is actually a convection oven and requires different temps and rack adjustment anyway), as well as the temperature settings. Ah well. We improvise. Sometimes successfully.

Then there is the metric system. Which, truth be told, is a lot more sensical than feet, yards, and horses hands or whatever else we inherited from the Brits / Romans. But all my recipes and craft instructions from home are in good ol' pounds, ounces, cups, teaspoons, inches and feet. Everything for sale here is in kilograms, grams, meters, centimeters.

It took me twenty minutes to decide what size of school pictures I wanted to order because they were in centimeters. I just wanted it to let me off the hook and say somewhere "8x10" and "4x6" and "wallet size." Nope I had to scrounge up the ruler and figure out what size they were talking about. Because I'm quick like that.

But my lowest point of mathematical prowess came one day at the market when I wanted a 1/4 kilogram of walnuts and was racking my brain trying to "remember" the Russian word for "1/4" and was saying, "you know, a half of a half of a kilogram" or something ridiculous like that when the lady next to the one who was talking to me finally chimed in, "You want 250 grams, then."

Well, yeah. Heh. Don't I feel brilliant. 250 IS a quarter of a thousand, now isn't it? It's just that I grew up knowing that a quarter of a pound of butter was one stick. I bet YOU didn't know THAT, now did you, Miss "250 Grams"?!

I do like taking the "one hundred" (and then some) off my body weight, though. It's so much nicer to weigh something in the double digits for a change.

We really should switch to the metric system.


Andrew and Linda said...

yay little me! I recognized your oven as being a convection oven BEFORE getting to that part of the blog! Still would have no idea which one to use, because I've only ever used two convection ovens in my life, and one of them is in the temple; the other simply asks me what temperature I normally cook things at and then does its own adjustments. it's a digital thing. what i want to know is if you can bring those cool little gadgets with their absolutely fun pictures back to the USA. And where were they when we were on our missions?????????

Helen said...

The measuring systems go the other way as well :) about 3 years in US and I have not yet figured out the Fahreheits ... if someone asks it is either hot or cold outside :) i don't really have time to cook or bake (or even the place for that at the moment) so the baking temperatures are no problem.
what comes to instructions and signs on appliances, i understand you ... had the same problem in Taiwan. they usually did not have pictures but traditional Mandarin characters.
It's a wonderful world ... and we learn every day :)