Poland,  Sept 2017

Translations Part 5: Washers

We stayed with Mary for a few days, exploring different places near Bialka Tatranska, and eventually trekking to Krakow. This was where we’d say good-bye to Mary and officially start on our own in Eastern Europe, armed with Google Translate and a few survival phrases, along with a couple backpacks each and a loose itinerary for the next 6 weeks. It was exciting and stressful.

The trek to Krakow from Bialka Tatranska is lovely (and much lovelier when I’m not jet-lagged and narcoleptic on my way to BT). Poland is really beautiful: rolling hills grazing livestock, and steep-roofed, colorful houses dot the scenery. Mary told us that after Poland was released from Communist rule in 1989, people painted their houses crazy colors just because they could now. I probably would too, honestly.

The other fascinating thing you notice while driving through Poland is their agricultural fields: they’re divided up into long, narrow strips—sometimes so narrow that if I laid across it with my 5’4’’ frame, I’d probably touch both points. Apparently, this has to do with the laws of passing land down within a family. When parents of a land-owning family pass away, the land is divided up, and the way they do that is by cutting up these narrow strips into even narrower strips. Kevin, the agriculture guy, found this incredibly fascinating. I just thought it looked cool.

Later that day, after saying good-bye to Mary and settling into our AirBnB, we discovered a second struggle when you don’t speak the language: using a washing machine. Fortunately (or perhaps not, since we could have used help), we had a washing machine inside our apartment so we didn’t have to embarrass ourselves again like we did in the restaurant trying to translate our receipt.

Washing machine setting names, which can be even shorter than items on most receipts, seem to be a particular challenge for Google Translate. I think because most of the settings are only a word or two, and many of them are supposed to be creative, attractive-sounding functions to a native-speaker, Google Translate doesn’t have much to go on with its “context clue algorithm,” so it’s just gotta take a shot in the dark.

I WISH I had recorded some of the translations on our washer in Poland. The best I can do to show what it was like is share the translations of some other people we knew that had just moved to Europe. They posted to Facebook their choices on their clothes dryer:

  1. Extratrocken – extra dry
  2. Schranktrocken – cupboard dry
  3. Leichtfeucht – slightly moist
  4. Bügelfeucht – iron dry
  5. Mangelfeucht – lack moist

Then they added, “Which one would you choose?” Honestly, I’m really not sure; however I do feel I could definitely say not, “Slightly moist.”

The only setting I do remember for sure from our own washer was a translation of a little, wordless symbol—the last setting that we tried to read. We moved the phone around the dial of settings, reading encouraging options like, “Feather Ash” and “Gentle Scratchy.” The last setting with this little symbol was my favorite, though. It seemed like our normally diligent, faithful Google Translate finally gave up. We hovered our phone over the symbol, and it just said, “WHAT.” Seemed like we were all feeling about the same way.

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