I know America is supposedly a land of creativity and innovation, but, after barely 2 weeks in Korea, all I can say is, it is clear to me that we're falling down on the job. The level of technology and gadgetry that is infused into daily life here is absolutely amazing (and, by 'amazing,' I mean 'terrifying.')
Now, I consider myself to be a technologically competent person (Mr. Logical and Sons would probably strongly disagree, but it's not their blog now, is it?) By 'competent,' I mean, I can make purchases using a debit card; I can download photos to FaceBook; and I can save a file to a flash drive from one computer and - voila! - open it on another one. No, I can't reformat your hard drive or install a wireless router, but as far as interfacing with technology on a daily basis, I am not a complete Luddite.
But let me tell you, the amount of technology that saturates daily life here in Seoul is awe-inspiring. Now, I will grant you that that we are living in a relatively new and extremely high-tech high-rise apartment building, but it's not like we're in some sort of experimental lab. We're surrounded by thousands of other people living exactly the same way, and they seem to take it all in stride. However, I feel that they have an unfair advantage in that they speak Korean and I do not, so I look even more technologically challenged than I am.
"That MsCaroline exaggerates all the time!" I hear you thinking to yourself. "One subway card and she's all, 'There's too much technology in this city!' " Well, yes, swiping the subway card has taken a teeny bit of getting used to (only because I kept putting it safely back into my wallet and then back into my purse, which meant that, when I was being swept along in the tide of fast-moving Seoulites towards the turnstile, I would have to leap out of the human current and huddle behind the shoeshine stand to dig out the card, lest I cause a bottleneck at the exit by not having it instantly available. I have solved this problem by keeping the card in my pocket, so there.) But really; the subway (t-money) card is just the tip of the iceberg. For example, to enter our apartment building, we have a magnetic access card that we wave at a sensor to get the lobby doors to open. But once you're in the elevator, you can't just press your button and head up. No, you have to wave your card again in order to press your button to get to your floor. And once you're there, you key your personal code into the front door handle (which glows blue and looks like something from 2001: A Space Odyssey.) Once you're in, the pleasant disembodied voice (which the boys have named 'Sasha' - do not ask me why) welcomes me (at least I am assuming that's what she's doing) and - unnervingly - automatically locks the door behind me just like those doors in the SuperMax prisons.
But wait! There's more! In addition to the previously mentioned arse-blaster 9000 , there are sensor lights in the entryway which turn on automatically; a 'home management center display' that is used to manage all the electronics in the home( but only if you know Korean, so I just use it as the doorbell;) and a drawer that (I think) is supposed to sanitize my cutting boards and metal chopsticks (my cutting boards are way too big to fit in there and I don't have any silverware OR chopsticks yet, so I just store Tupperware in there, but the important thing is that I have the technology. Right?)
So, yeah, these are things we did not have in any of our typical American suburban family homes. I know that there are some Americans who have this kind of technology in their homes, but not in the crowd that we run with. The people we hang with use lowbrow technology like Blu-Ray players and gas grills and MacBooks and front-loading washing machines, not talking doors and home management center displays and toilets that offer you your choice of 'pulse' or 'massage.' I mean, I thought I was doing pretty well in Texas because I had a warming drawer that could also function as a slow cooker, so you can see that I'm clearly out of my league. And no, it's not like I'm going to produce a possum from under my overalls and butcher it right there in the immaculately tended bonsai-style garden in front of the building; I'm just saying that all this technology
can be a little overwhelming, especially when most of the directions are in Korean. And even when they do provide helpful little labels in English, it's still not always clear what you're supposed to be doing:
|The 'Home Management Center' aka 'The Doorbell'|
|There are already 2 other climate controls besides this one. We have no idea what' it's for.|
|Washing Machine, once again with the 'boil' option...but nowhere does it tell you how much detergent to put in....|
|The clothes-dryer 9000....it dries your clothes|