More Culture Vulturin’

Should have stayed home today. I have been sick, and I stayed in all weekend to recover.

Yesterday, I realized that my sore throat might be worse because I haven’t been drinking enough water. And I also realized, it may also be aggravated by the unfiltered tap water I have been drinking at home.

So, I decided to locate and buy a Brita pitcher. Not all supermarkets carry them. My beloved Hanaro Mart doesn’t, Lotte Mart (also awesome, but in a more pretentious, nouveau riche sort of way) doesn’t…

The only supermarket chain I found that supposedly has them is Home Plus. For the record, Home Plus is also awesome. There’s two of them in Gimpo (at least circa 15 years ago, when I lived there) and I went there all the time. The ramen aisle at Home Plus is one of the greatest things I have ever been fortunate enough to experience.

Anyway, I decided yesterday that in spite of needing some recovery sleep, I would make a quick trip to Home Plus and get a Brita pitcher. First I wanted to eat something, and I didn’t want to eat at home, so I took the elevator down to the ground floor and walked around my apartment complex to see what was open.

I walked a hundred yards or so and felt dizzy, so I decided not to go. I got 3 two liter waters before I did, because like I said, I didn’t want to drink any more tap water, because I have heard you shouldn’t. To be clear, I am reasonably sure it’s actually ok to drink it, but filtered water tastes better.

I decided to try Coupang. Coupang is a super-fast, super efficient Korean delivery service that can bring you basically anything, and it’s always there by the next day, sometimes sooner.

While I respect the good people at Coupang and stand in awe of their efficiency, as a visiting foreigner I am personally opposed to the service in a deep and profound (or maybe I should say “shallow and ridiculous”) way, simply because being in a beautiful country like Korea, and furthermore being in (or right outside) an amazing city like Seoul, I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone wouldn’t want to go out exploring every chance they got, especially since people like me are not permanent residents. But I digress.

Long story short, after a lot of phone screenshots and Google translates, complete with getting locked out of the signup process temporarily for entering something the wrong way too many times (Coupang has fantastic security features), I finally managed to place my order.

Initially, the Coupang app told me my Brita pitcher would arrive the next day (Sunday), so I watched a few episodes of Divorce Attorney Shin on Netflix and took a nap. Some time later in the day, I got another notification saying my pitcher would be there that afternoon or evening.

It got there about 4:00 pm or so. I eagerly tore the bag open, impressed with Coupang despite my deep/shallow philosophical objections to it, a bit giddy even…

And the goddamn thing was busted.

Luckily, Coupang has a fantastic return system. You request a return, repackage the item as best you can, and leave it by your door. Within a day, Coupang will replace your item and retrieve the damaged one.

It’s really a great service. But as I said, personally, I would rather go and get whatever I want to buy, simply to have an excuse to go look around a bit.

My pitcher came with 2 filters, one that’s in it now and one that I will put in there in about a month. And I resolved to go out and buy replacement filters, instead of having them delivered.

Getting to the point, today I felt better. So I decided to make a quick, 2 subway stop trip to Lotte Mart to stock up on Taurin energy drinks. Hanaro Mart (which is in my neighborhood, no need for a subway ride) doesn’t carry them.

Well, I got to Lotte Mart and it was closed. Apparently they close every other Sunday.

So, as I wandered around aimlessly, bored out of my skull, I decided to find and go to a nearby Home Plus to see if they had Taurin 10 packs, and to make sure the nearest Home Plus had the right Brita filters for future purchases.

I got back on the subway and rode another 10 stops or so, making one transfer, and somewhere along the way — probably when I pulled out my wallet to get a thousand won bill to buy a bottle of water — I lost my T-Money transit card, which had about 20,000 won on it, roughly $20.

I had to tell the security guard that I lost my card (Google Translate is an amazing tool, in case I haven’t mentioned that) because you have to scan your T-Money card when you leave the subway, as well as when you go in.

I bought another one at the Home Plus stop (Hapjeong) and followed the signs to Home Plus… and it was also closed today.

So, I went into a nearby Starbucks and had a Caramel Macchiato, and typed most of this on my phone. I left because a good looking, well-dressed young Korean couple needed a place to sit, and I was sitting at a table designed for two people.

Anyway, I didn’t get any Taurin drinks, I don’t know if the Hapjeong Home Plus carries the right kind of Brita filter, and I lost a transit card with about 20 bucks on it. Gonna look for it on the way back, but I am not optimistic about finding it.

Shoulda stayed home. 🙂

The Culture Vulture, Part 3

This one’s gonna have to be short. I am in a crowded Starbucks near Seoul Forest. Not sure what that is, to be honest, a park of some sort, I am assuming.

I got here via the yellow line, which goes from Cheongnyangni Station to Incheon. I went to Cheongnyangni (I will check the spelling later on that one) this afternoon to sort of scout things out, because I want to make a solo trip out to Gangchon, an area in Gangwon-do I went a few times with friends years ago.

It took about 45 minutes to get to Cheongnyangni from my apartment, so I may as well figure on an hour traveling time, whenever I decide to make the trip. Might go tomorrow if I am feeling better.

Got kind of a light cold. Got it from coworkers.

Anyway, the train to Ganchon leaves from Cheongnyangni. I know it takes about an hour to get to Cheongnyangni, but it might take another hour to figure out where the right platform is, ha ha. I wandered around for a while there today and didn’t find it.

Matter of fact, I am here at Seoul Forest now because I was looking for the Gangchon train platform. I saw that the yellow line goes through Apgujeong — aka gorgeous Korean lady central — and I had originally decided to go to one of the 4-5 Starbucks there and type this, but when I heard “Seoul Forest” over the subway PA (in the English version of it), I decided to look around for a bit. Gonna finish my cafe latte and do that.

I walked all around Cheongnyangni Station. Like I literally made a loop around it. It’s a pretty big station, connected directly to a Lotte Mall.

The area around the station is more of an “old Seoul” area than anywhere I have been yet. I walked through an “open air” market where all sorts of stuff was for sale — fish of all kinds, kimchi, rice, as well as many different types of meat, many cuts of which still had feet attached to it — and it was a really cool place to walk through. I wore my mask the whole time — I’ve had it on all day, I have it off now to drink my coffee, but I am sitting alone — and I will wear it when I am looking around Seoul Forest.

The open air market is something every foreigner visiting Korea should experience at least once. What’s striking, aside from all the strange food items and interesting smells, is the way order seems to self-generate out of what could easily be abject chaos.

People walk every which way, in close proximity to each other. Buying, selling, carrying armloads of whatever they’re selling… and nobody bumps into each other.

Meanwhile motorcycles, scooters — the moped kind and the “rascal” kind, somebody on a rascal almost hit me but he yelled out just in time for me to move — as well as cars weave in and out of the mass of humanity… and nobody gets run over.

I mean sure, I am sure sometimes there are accidents. But they don’t seem to happen very often, considering how close everyone is to each other, in the purely physical sense.

It’s tempting to attribute this to “Korean people” and some unknown, exotic trait they must have… but I don’t think that’s it.

I think it’s cultural. I think that people in this environment learn from an early age to be considerate of other people, while still making their way through the crowds in a self-interested and even aggressive manner.

Everybody’s got somewhere to be, and they’re making their way there as fast as they can. But at the same time, nobody’s running into each other.

Try this in south Arkansas, and there would be fistfights every five minutes.

Here, everybody moves smoothly through the crowd, ajosshis sitting off to the side under canopies, eating bossam and drinking makgeoli or soju, ajummas arguing over prices, foreigners enchanted with the whole scene, probably sticking out like sore thumbs.

Anyways, I gotta go. Gonna go look around in Seoul forest.