Sunday, October 12, 2008

Material boy

Did you ever see "Survivor", when the tribes have been out on the island of East Kumqatki for a few weeks, and they go bull-goose loony over the opportunity to win a hamburger or a beer? Well, I've been something like that in regards to a few things.

I have searched and searched for frozen veggies (not available here), fresh broccoli, cauliflower, and so on (not available till I found some expensive broccoli at E-Mart a few days ago), a flat (top) sheet, flannel lounge/pajama pants for wearing around the apartment... Yesterday (Saturday), I hit the mother lode.

I was paid for the first time on Friday and was worried because the bank the school uses for direct deposits is way out of my way, as the various banks' ATMs do not display English on their welcome screens. But I found that the ATMs for all four bank chains I've tried do display English once you've put your card in. And that includes one in the school's building and one a block from my apartment!

I wasn't certain I wanted to join Costco; for one thing, I thought I had to go all the way downtown to catch the bus there. But the bus stops a block from my place (right across from the ATM). So I went. Costco is the only really English-friendly store I've found; one of the women at the customer service desk spoke excellent English, and every item at least has a sign in English saying what it is. (That's important; I'm afraid to buy half the food at E-Mart because I don't know if it has dead animal in it, and when I do buy something... well, a few weeks ago I bought what I thought was tube-like pasta, brought it home and slathered it with Prego, and found it was some kind of sweetened Chinese extruded rice pellet stuff.) And a lot of the stuff at our Costco came straight from the US. Even half the clothes are in American sizes.

And. I. found. A six-pound bag of frozen mixed veggies. Flannel lounge pants (two pair for nine bucks.) A flannel sheet set (fitted and top sheets and pillowcase: fourteen bucks). Winter gloves. A soft, lightweight fleece blanket. Soft, thick socks for hiking and surviving winter. And, on my way out, a gigantic, delightful, greasy, sinful slice of New York-style pizza. Also, though I didn't get any on this trip, they have (absolutely essential for me) glucosamine at a good price and nice, heavy cold-weather shirts in my size.

So the place is feeling a little more homey all the time. And later, in the building next to the school, I found some good hiking/winter boots for 1/3 off.

The Won has fallen from 1,000 Won=96 cents two months ago to 1000 Won=76 cents today. I don't know what up wid dat, but I hope it goes back up before I go back to the states. Still, most things are pretty cheap here... a few days ago I got the best haircut I've had in a long time (at the "Blue Club Men's Beauty Shop") for $4.50.

I've come a long way in my thinking in the last year or so, realizing that I don't need a lot of stuff to be happy. But it feels good to have at least a little stuff to make this place seem more like home.

Now it's back to the $15 a day regimen for me.

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