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I am 31 years old.  I should know how to use an oven, right?  Not so said the brown cow.

There is something very different about using appliances in foreign countries – 1) there are no English instructions, 2) the buttons are either in another language or they have pictures that may not mean what you think they mean.

Prime example, a few nights ago, while in China, I decided to reheat my quesadillas in the oven.  I mean, who wants soggy quesadillas from a microwave?  In order to achieve the crispness that I desired, I made an effort to use the wonderful stainless steel oven in my furnished apartment…and the evening became an adventure from this point on.

First came the task of converting Celsius to Fahrenheit.  I had this down to a science after living in Guangzhou for two years, but after two years of being back in the United States, I – of course – forgot these conversions.  Thanks to Google, this was an easy task.

Second was the task of figuring out what the buttons on the stove mean.  There were four buttons and two knobs.  The buttons consisted of what looked like a clock, a timer in the shape of a diamond, and – my favorite – a stop and play button (similar to what you would find on a DVD remote control).  So, intuitively, I hit ‘play,’ thinking, maybe this will start the oven.  And voila!  All of the red lights began to light up.  I further discovered that the left knob controlled the pictures that indicate how you want the heat to circulate inside of the oven (at least that’s what I think those pictures mean).  The right knob, on the other hand, allowed you to choose how long you wanted the oven to remain on…again, I think.

my kitchen in Chengdu

stop and play buttons on the oven

After only two minutes of having my quesadillas in the oven, I smelled something burning.  I immediately rushed to the kitchen and opened the oven door to find smoke and quesadillas that were slightly burned.  “How did that happen in two minutes,” I thought to myself.  Anyway, I couldn’t figure out how to turn the thing off.  I soon learned that the “stop” button does not make the oven stop.  I still heard the fan in the back of the oven running and –five minutes later – the oven was still hot.

I proceeded to call the front desk to request help with this contraption.  The maintenance guy showed fiddled with the buttons just like I did, then said, ‘Bu zhidao’, which means ‘I don’t know’ in Mandarin.  He soon used his walky-talky to loudly call for help and walked out without saying goodbye or whether or not he was coming back.  Three minutes later, another guy came.  By this time, the fan in the back of the oven had stopped.  He too fiddled with the buttons and turned to me and said, ‘It’s off.’  Well by golly it certainly wasn’t off a moment ago.  I thanked him for coming and kept checking the oven periodically to make sure it was off…. And it was.

This is just one of the many anecdotes I will continue to share from my time in Chengdu.  Thankfully, I am back in the United States, with MY oven – with familiar buttons. *smiley face*  Yes, I really am smiling at the thought.