This past week here was a national holiday--7 days' worth. There are two of these week-long holidays spaced strategically in the spring and fall, as well as a longer one around the New Year time. We have heard it said that the spring and fall holidays are called "Golden Weeks" because the merchants make so much money. Many people travel, so tickets of all sorts, hotels, and restaurants are in high demand, and many businesses have special sales during this week, since most people are off work and have time to go shopping. There are fireworks every night (and day, too--why wait for the evening?!), people get together with their families and eat big meals, so there's just a lot of excitement.
Last week, unfortunately, the weather was a big bummer. It rained almost every day, and the days it didn't rain were chilly, gray and dismal (an objective fact, not just my opinion! We didn't see the sun all week. This was too bad for my laundry, which after hanging for more than two days did not dry but just soured and I had to wash it again). Even our national friends commented on how it was too bad that this year the weather was so yucky. Usually the fall is quite lovely and so everyone really enjoys getting out and about during Golden Week. But it surely didn't stop everything--there were still fireworks being set off near our home at random moments, and the big stores were quite busy.
The weather also didn't stop us from doing a bit of shopping ourselves. Before the week started, I had been pondering a dilemma. . . what to do about my oven situation? Some of you have seen the picture on my blog of my tiny toaster oven; actually I think it was somewhere in my first month or two of posting. My oven was still working fine, though the dilemma came in that before we went to the States I sold it to my house helper. She really wanted an oven, I didn't need it for at least 6 months, and besides, when we got back we were planning to move right away to a new apartment where I could buy and install a full-size oven. What actually happened was that when we returned and figured out that we wouldn't be moving for quite awhile, my house helper loaned me her oven (my old one). It was still running great, except the fan seemed to be somewhat noisier than usual--to be truthful, turning on the oven sounded like there was a jet engine in my kitchen! But it still worked just fine!
At any rate, I was feeling like I couldn't just keep on borrowing her oven forever, and also was thinking that maybe the Golden Week would be a good time to buy an oven--maybe there would be a sale, even! John was willing to go with me to look, and my friend Amy even offered to keep my kids for an afternoon so that we could search around.
The searching was necessary because ovens are just not very common here. Most locals do not bake anything, not even bread. The most common type of bread is a steamed bun, but many people eat rice more commonly even than the bread. Baked goods are kind of an unknown, as are ovens. When we first arrived here, almost 4 years ago now, there were people who didn't even know the word (that we had found in the dictionary) for oven.
Now things have changed quite a bit. There are very nice model kitchens on display in several locations around town, and thanks to the sleuthing of our friends Brad and Amy, we knew exactly where to go. This department store had kitchen store after kitchen store, with all of their model kitchens beautifully outfitted, and many of them had ovens. We went slowly and patiently through them ALL and found that many of the ovens were the same few brands, some slightly fancier models and some more basic. But the one we found last was the best! It was a "Chef" model--a division of Electrolux, an American company, yay! To us that meant good quality as well as an English instruction manual and some of the "goodies" that Americans like--a roaster pan with lift-out tray, two (not just one) metal racks, and a couple of small cookie sheets thrown in for good measure. The price was also the lowest of pretty much all of the ovens we looked at!
So I am happy, so very happy, to tell you all that now in my kitchen, sitting up on the counter, is my brand new, shiny, Chef oven. Fitting it into my kitchen was slightly tricky, however. There was absolutely no room on the floor. My old oven used to occupy a place on top of the microwave in a corner of the counter. That obviously was not going to work with this oven. However, John, through sheer ingenuity, rigged up a way to extend the counter slightly sideways so that the oven would fit there. When we move to a new place, we can have it installed flush with cupboards like a normal oven, but for now, it works great! We had to be a bit creative in finding space for the microwave after that, but now everything is resettled and is working out wonderfully. I have already used the oven numerous time--I baked some potatoes for Baked Potato Soup, I've made some lovely Honey Pan Rolls, and today some carrot-raisin muffins baked in only one batch! Wow, what a nice change!
As we were oven shopping, we found that the outside of the oven usually measured the same (60 cm) but the inside space varied. We were a bit concerned about that because I had purchased some pans in the States--a big pizza pan, some 11x17 cookie sheets, etc--which I had unthinkingly bought, simply assuming that since I was going to buy a full-size oven everything would fit. The evening the oven was delivered, John measured again the inside space and said, "Yep, those cookie sheets should fit!" He then brought them over and began to slide them in only to discover that no, in fact, they were too big, just by a hair! However, there was no stopping him; he soon had the pliers out and very carefully bent down one side of the cookie sheet's handle. Now they fit just right! No rack is needed--they slide right over the grooves on the oven wall. The pizza pan also fits, though it didn't need any adjusting. Yippee!
So, my "jet engine" is gone and in its place is a shiny, purring, efficient machine. I'm so thankful! I'm sorry to say, though, that the big idea about "hey, it's Golden Week, they'll give us a great discount!" was pretty much a myth--we only got 5% off, and it wasn't just the seller. Very few of the sellers were willing to bargain, and those that were would only give us 5% off. But I'm so glad we bought it now, rather than waiting to move to a new place. I shall be enjoying this new addition for many Golden Weeks to come!