All it really is is a glorified hot plate: two burners and some buttons. If you're willing to get your hands dirty, you can even lift the entire unit out of the countertop. Who knew that such a seemingly simple decive could spiral such a saga?
My first hunch was that maybe I just didn't know how to work it. I can't read the buttons so my feeble attempts to operate it resembled the hunt & peck method akin to eighth grade keyboarding class. No matter what combination of buttons I pushed, I got the same result: incessant high pitched beeping, no heat, and extreme frustration.
I asked two of my local (and literate mind you!) friends if they could diffuse this dubious device. Despite their best efforts, no immediate solution was reached. So we called the landlord to seek his expert advice. Unfortunately, he was out of town on vacation and could not be reached.
Two weeks later, we finally heard back from the landlord, who had this brilliant piece of technical advice to offer: unplug it, wait 24 hours, plug it back in. Seriously? That strangely seems to resemble what you do if your PC is acting up, not your stovetop. My other American friends thought that sounded like a pretty reasonable idea, so, even though I was convinced they've all lived in this country way too long to believe such a ridiculous idea, I tried it anyways. No luck.
So the landlord himself came to my house to investigate. He took away my stove and brought it back later that afternoon looking like this:
Yes, there is certainly cardboard on top of one of the burners wrapped in packaging tape. The landlord told me, "You can't use this today. You can use it tomorrow." (And I actually understood him!) Apparently, the 24 hour recovery time is common for Asian appliances. To prove his point, he took my new crockpot (courtesy of Asian e-bay) and put it on top of the recovering burner.
My local friend that had been helping me with this (since January!) called me to ask if it was working. I turned on the other burner (not the bandaged one with the crockpot on top) to check. And guess what!?!? More beeping...no heat...more frustration.
Another call to the landlord elicited this final piece of electrical advice: I have the wrong kind of pots.
Now if that isn't the stupidest thing I've ever heard! You're telling me that my stove is SO smart that it can detect what kind of pot is on it before it decides to heat up or not?
Yes. That is exactly what they said.
This news sent me into a downward sprial of culinary depression that lasted at least another two weeks. Our diet, now vastly improved with the addition of the crockpot, still consisted of far too many pb&j sandwiches. My microwave vegetable steamer was going into overhaul with the absence of a stove to boil water.
That is until one fateful day...
Another national friend verified this hypothesis about the wrong kind of pots. Still skeptical, I borrowed a different kind of pot from an America friend. Ten minutes later, I sent her a text at 9 PM that said: "You'll never believe what I just did! Boiled a pot of water!"
So at 9:05 that very night, with her kids in bed and my studying put to rest (where we both should have been!), we went out to buy me some pots. We were the only folks in the deserted store (which is truly a rare phenomenon around here) and perused the pot selection until our heart's content...well, really until they kicked us out of the store by turning off all the lights.
Here is why I'm thankful for this adventure:
* the words for "pot" and "stove" are forever etched in my mind. Nothing like experiential learning to make it stick!
* I now own four pots that work on my stove.
* I can fry an egg for my husband.
* I was thoroughly humbled by my disbelief of the rationale behind my broken stove.
So the next time someone tells you you might need new pots, I'd take their word for it!