You need some background here. Our nextdoor neighbors are wonderful and delightful, largely because they speak almost no English whatsoever and never bother anyone except to wave and smile. They have two boys, grown and married, and since the boys don’t live there any more, and my command of Korean is limited to basic menu items, we don’t talk much. (There are only so many social situations where it would be acceptable to greet someone with “Bibimbop! Bulgogi jap-cha! And a Coke!”)
But we do see them, because they garden – beautifully, I should add. This year, Mrs. Kim planted some kind of pumpkin-like vine next to our fence, and trained it along the fence from the middle of the yard all the way to the gate, probably 40 feet. Despite all her work, it grew exactly one item - a large, long green and yellow thing that looks like a cross between a goose-neck pumpkin and a cricket bat – on my side of the fence.
Now, there’ve been cucumbers and a few peppers that have grown through the fence, and I’ve made sure not to pick them; it’s easy enough for her to reach over for them, and they’re in plain sight. This monster, despite its size, is hidden in the vines and undergrowth.
I pointed it out to her a few weeks ago, making sure she knew that the Squash of Ages was growing there, and got some good smiles and head nods. Yesterday I decided that I would remind her about it, since I have no idea when it should be cut and harvested – nor indeed what it is. Putting thought to action, I grabbed SOBUMD’s iThingy, dialed up an English to Korean translator, and walked out the back door. SOBUMD looked on in horror.
What??? This works on those ads on TV all the time!
I looked up a phrase in Korean that would adequately express the idea of “Don’t forget to harvest this large zucchini/pumpkin/thingy before we get a frost.” It spit out something that to my untrained ear sounded suspiciously like “bibimbop with kimchi, bulgogi jap-cha, and a Coke.” It then occurred to me just how many ways talking to my 60-something-yr-old Korean neighbor through an automated translator could go wrong. Did I really want to risk telling her to grab her long thing and pull it, or worse?
I chickened out. After pointing and waving and smiling some more, I came back inside and ran my would-be message of International Vegitable Cooperation back through a Korean to English app. I would eventually have managed to tell her: “Grasp the big Earl before he cuts you, then remember to seize the day! You are a very cold woman!”
Probably best to just keep smiling and nodding. Still, I hope she takes it home before it eats my fence.