Saturday, December 14, 2013

Flashcards and a Duck

Heat!  I have Heat! (So of course today was the warmest day in two weeks)

The heating repair guy came today - at long last - and my landlady (who lives in Switzerland) arranged for Beyhan, the old woman downstairs, to come up here as a translator.  She spoke as much English as the repair guy, which is to say none at all.  Fortunately, I made a couple of flashcards to explain the problems I didn't think I could explain with gestures:

The young repair guy and the old woman were both very nice, but when I didn't understand their Turkish spoken normally, they shouted Turkish slowly and gesticulated wildly.  Pretty much like typical Americans confronted with people who don't speak English, as though increased volume and larger movements will somehow make it all clear.
I actually understood most of what the guy wanted to tell me:  there was a plug of nasty muck in the water pipe and he had to snake it out with a long wire (a relief to me - that means I'm not a dummy unable to operate a water heater and some radiators, my hypothesis was correct, and I couldn't have fixed it myself - and I'm also relieved I wasn't the one pulling that slimy black eew-y muck out).  Also, I shouldn't turn on the bathroom water heater ever.  Well, okay, I can turn it on if the balcony water heater breaks again, but only then.  (So why is it even installed?  It's clearly brand new!)  And here's the number to call if the system breaks again.  Call the number, say "Amerikalıyım" and give my address, slowly, in Turkish, and they'll understand and send someone out.  (I think that's what his pantomime meant...)
While the fellow was fixing the water heater, Beyhan wandered my apartment, picking up things and pointing at things, and shouting Turkish words at me.  Many of my possessions were "ҫok güzel" - "very good", some were just güzel.  Others, like the wonderful Shy Monster in a Box from the inimitable Chris Little, were...puzzling?  weird?  I don't know what Beyhan was trying to say.  Probably "AWESOME!"
I moved Dcük off the top shelf so you can see him.  Beyhan was quite taken by the duck.  I got the feeling she was hoping I would gift it to her.  Sometimes, culture is as much a challenge as language.  I knew enough to welcome her and the repair guy with "Ho geldiniz", to which they replied "Ho bulduk".  They offered to take their shoes off, and I told them they could leave them on (my floor is super-cold, and I'll mop tomorrow) - that was really inappropriate of me, apparently - Beyhan clicked her tongue and shook her head; one does NOT wear shoes in a Turkish house.  Beyhan was wearing house shoes, so that was okay, but the guy carried his shoes to the balcony and put them back on there.  Should I have offered water or coffee?  Should I have tipped the guy?
She liked my knitting and crochet and wants us to hang out together because she makes socks.  Maybe over coffee.  Something like that.  There was definitely "kahve" involved somehow, and she was pantomiming either knitting or breaking pencils.  (Anyone remember "breaking up is hard voodoo"?  Name that show?  I used to watch it every night in college.)  She had me put on my shoes and follow her down to her apartment, then she waved me away.  Did we set a date and time?  I'm not sure.  I don't want to stand her up.  Maybe she should have shouted louder and more slowly, and waved her arms bigger.
This chapter is closed for now, but the story will continue when I can get an electrician over here.  When the circuit breakers last popped, two of my lights went out - the only light in the bathroom I always use, and the bedroom I rarely use.  I finally changed the bulbs today, only to discover I have no electricity in the sockets - the bulbs themselves are probably fine.  Never mind - the emergency flashlight I'm using when I take a shower is actually brighter than the bathroom light ever was.
This post brought to you by the feral dogs in the park howling to the call to prayer. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Radiator Porn for Uncle Tom

Well, Uncle Tom, in my pursuit of hot radiator porn for you, I made a discomforting discovery:  my balcony water heater, which had previously seemed to be functioning within acceptable operating parameters since I had hot water in my faucets, is now flashing a mysterious "27".

**If you don't know what I'm talking about, scroll past the pictures for an explanation of this post. 

I don't know what it means, so I poked at all of the buttons on the digital control panel, systematically, of course. 

At one point, the enigmatic icons on the digital display switched to the picture of a radiator and the numerical readout rose incrementally from 41 to 70...whatever that meant (water temp, I assume)...then it switched back to the flashing 27.  (The radiator icon is really obvious...the other pictures on the digital display look like an umbrella and a light bulb; I don't know what the heck they mean.  It's a bit odd, since printed to the left of the digital display is the picture of a faucet, and to the right is the picture of a radiator.  Those pictures correspond directly to up and down arrow buttons on the panel.  They are obviously for control of faucet and radiator temperature.  So why isn't there a picture of a faucet on the digital display?)

I'm a bit concerned about this flashing 27 because maybe that's an error code, and I don't know what the error is, and it's a gas heater, and I don't have any sort of gas detection system.  I'm now quite leery of the "Reset" button, which I'm usually a fan of, because I don't want to inadvertently cut off some pilot light and ultimately cause a gas explosion.  (Yes, I looked around, I don't see a pilot light or any panel that might conceal a pilot light, but it's definitely a gas heater.)  Pulling the plug on the system, which is my favorite troubleshooting technique ("nothing else has worked, let's cut the power and see what happens when we plug it back in") is now right out.  (Have I mentioned I didn't use my stove for a solid week after moving in because it's a gas stove?)  But maybe the 27 is for under temperature, or overpressure, or...yeah, I just don't know.

Ultimately none of the buttons jabbed at individually or in combination caused any other visually observable change in the system.

And the radiator icon on the balcony water heater begs the question:  what the heck is the electric water heater in the bathroom for???  THAT water heater was unplugged, but I had hot faucet water, and when I turned on the radiators nothing happened, so I assumed the bathroom water heater must be for the radiators.

Anyhoo, back inside the house:  I've systematically bled all seven of the radiators, repeatedly.  Some hiss, others piddle, and one pees a frickin' river when I look at it funny. I've removed about two litres of cold water from that one (I was catching it in a bottle, so I've some idea of how much water, but then I got tired of catching radiator piss in a bottle and used every towel in the house to soak up the mess). 

I've had a very boring night.  My fingers are pruny, my towels are soaked with smelly water, the flashing code on the water heater is freaking me out, and the radiators remain stone cold.

Here's your radiator porn.  I'm going to start experimenting again in the morning, assuming I don't get blowed up while I'm sleeping.  Thanks for sticking with this.  Love you!

Bathroom electric water heater.  Plugged in, turned on, and hot water in the outflow hose.
 Piddling radiator. (Good pic, huh?  You can see the water drops and even the shadows of the water drops!)  Also, good bath towel that shouldn't be used to soak up stinky water.
  I don't know what these red knobs are for.  They're in the little bathroom I don't use.  When the radiators weren't warming up, I turned them all the way on and the one on the left leaked water all over the floor, but eventually stopped leaking.  I've left them in the open condition because why not?

 Bathroom radiator, with some of the tools of my trade.

  The knob at the top of each radiator.  I turn this to bleed off air and water.  (I really wasn't sure what you wanted pics of...)

The top of my kitchen door.  The door is closed and locked.  The black is the outside world.  The grey stuff is from the coal people burn to heat their houses; my floor is coated in it.

  Gas water heater on the balcony.

 Balcony water heater digital display.  Awesome photo, because that 27 is flashing!

For those of you new to the conversation:  Izmir, Turkey, after being miserably hot for months, is now quite chilly.  It's about 40 degrees Fahrenheit right now, which isn't bad, but my apartment is poorly insulated, so it's probably about 55 - 60 degrees in the apartment; nice in the summer, uncomfortable in the winter.  I'm wearing the fingerless gloves I knit for myself so that I can type without stuttering.  Oh, and I have to have my window open when I run my dryer, so it gets even colder inside.

I haven't been able to get my radiators working.  I have A/C units in my bedroom and living room that can blow hot, dry air, but they're noisy, and I have an only slightly terrifying portable radiator on wheels.  I don't like using it because when I unplug it, there's a bright flash of white light from the area between outlet and the wall - pretty much all of the wall outlets are loose and pulled slightly out of the wall.  I haven't caused an electrical fire in the wall yet, but every interaction with the outlets seems dicey.  Have I mentioned how much Turkish infrastructure sucks?  And I have a modern, remodeled apartment. 

I should mention that I used to be a Biomedical Maintenance Equipment Technician.  I could fix pretty much anything in the hospital - except the patients, of course.  Although it's been a while since I held that job, I consider myself a pretty smart gal and I have a handy tool bag (thanks, Mike!).  How hard can starting up radiators be?  I don't want to call a maintenance guy because I don't speak Turkish (and I'm having trouble using my Turkish cell phone...again) And I'm pretty stubborn, besides.  My Bulgarian neighbor has offered to help, and sure, I know a lot of people at work I could ask, but really, chatting with my uncle on Facebook is the closest I will come to asking a man for help with this damn problem.

So all that's left is this:  "Why oh ye gods of heat are you doing this to me?!  Is this punishment for teasing the Czech guys about their wimpy constitutions?  Seriously!  It is NOT cold in the office!"

(Thanks, P!nk, for keeping me company while I spent four hours bleeding radiators.  Now all of the neighbors know I'm a slut like you.)