After a brief Skype call this morning, I got up and went to the grocery store. I was hungry. I was still tired. I was unsure whether or not I actually wanted to go or if I wanted to stay and wait around or work on schoolwork. I was hungry and lazy enough, so I showered and headed out.
I should mention that here, the showers are not fixed. They are attached to the sink and hang on a hook on the wall. Since the bathroom is entirely tile with a drain below the sink, you just shower where you stand and aim so as to not soak your towel, something I have so far been able to manage. My showers are definitely faster now and far less relaxing then they were in America.
I was craving pizza this morning, or anything greasy. I should mention, Korean pizza contains corn nine times out of ten. It also relies heavily on seafood like shrimp and often it is advertised in half-and -half varieties. It is odd, I do love Korean food, I have enjoyed it very much, but I am having strange cravings for a greater level of greasiness than Korea has to offer. Don't get me wrong; Korean food is plenty greasy, but maybe it does not have enough cheese for my current American diet. On my trip to the grocery store I noticed most of the restaurants were closed, most likely for Buddha's birthday. It is interesting that Jesus's birthday makes so much of a larger splash in America than Buddha's birthday does in Korea. I will be interested to see how Christmas goes in this country. BBQ Chicken was open. From my trip to Seoul (post coming soon), Laura had told me about an ingenious product they serve that I meant to try. It is called Col-Pop Chicken. It is a cup with the bottom half full of cola and the top half full of chicken. I think I had a medium and it costs just under $2.50 US dollars. The chicken, especially the barbecue sauce, was about Grand Rapids school lunch quality. I was disturbed to think a place calling themselves BBQ Chicken could get it so wrong. It immediately reminded me of just how wrong we get it in America when we try to replicate ethnic foods. Think Taco Bell.
The grocery store in our area is part of a chain called Homeplus. Homeplus, at least in our area, exists on several levels of a large office building. The top floors consist of a JC Penny style store that holds clothes too small and expensive for my taste. They have a place called Ashley's that is an “American Grille” and also a buffet. Ironically, the food looks to be mostly Korean. I have heard it is good; expensive, but good. In regards to the spelling of “grille”, I have found that in Korea if you want to impress you use English or a bastardization of it, but if you really want to go the extra mile you use French, just like we do. The lower sections consist of a grocery store that resembles Family Fare and below that a general merchandise area that resembles Target or Meijer.
I swept the clothes area out of sense of adventure and headed down to the bottom to get my ethernet cable. The one I had was too short and had a loose connection. I found it telling that the longest cable they had in stock was 3m. This says something about the size of Korean households I think. 3m is enough to stretch across the width of my apartment, but not quite the length. I was hoping for 4m just for some extra leeway. I also came upon my first bargain in Korea: 3000 won for a returned optical laptop mouse. So far it is serving it's purpose; I kind of hate the trackpad on my laptop. I found it remarkable how the electronics was in the back-right corner of store, just like Standale Meijer. The automotive was almost adjacent if it weren't for a few oddly placed toy aisles. The center was designated for clothes and fit almost the very same profile as any store in America.
The large differences begin with the grocery floor. Although it resembled Family Fare, the quantity and price of each item varied drastically. Watermelon is priced at around $20 each. Eggs must be bought in bulk size of 24 or more in order to get anywhere close to American prices. Beef is expensive. Squid is dried into a jerky form. Octopus is sitting out, cold and I presume bought by the kilogram. Milk is over $6 for 3L. The milk section is comparatively tiny, while there is nearly an entire aisle devoted ramen. The cheapest beer, the stuff that is equivalent to PBR or Natural Ice, is more akin to the price of Sam Adams. Meanwhile, Soju is under 1000 won a bottle. I went through the entire store minus the health/beauty care section just price matching. Then, I grabbed a cart and started over. In Homeplus, you deposit a 100 won coin into the cart to unlock and retrieve the coin when you lock it back to the others. You also provide your own bags. As this was my first time, I bought a couple big ones. I found out at the register that 1+1 is the same as buy one get one free, which was my suspicion. I was able to get two boxes of store brand frosted flakes this way. Samples were available all over the place. I tried some juice, iced coffee, hot cocoa, stir fry, and pastries. A large pizza was available on-site for about 12000 won, which is great. I will definitely take advantage soon.
I ended up buying way too many ramen bowls, some Korean branded Spam to satiate my grease craving in the future, bottled water, Milkis (milk soda, friend suggested), soy bean oil, some candy that reminded me of Twix, Frosted Flakes, a 1.8L bottle of Soju, and some orange juice to mix. I am not sure what you call the mix of soju and orange juice, but for now as I am drinking it I am calling it a Korean screwdriver.
My big lesson from shopping today was that I have to change my cravings. I know it will take time, but I have to give up breakfast. Bacon is here, but is scary to even consider. If I want to live within my means, I need to eat as Koreans do. I have to, as much as I want to perish the thought, mostly give up beer. Milk will be a luxury. Eggs I may still swing, but not at the moment. A friend told me I also have to stop shopping at Homeplus and move to the market. Vegetables are much cheaper there. Of course, that requires real cooking, not just pouring boiling water on top of noodles. The way I see it now, I am on the opposite side of the world. This requires opposite thinking.