‘Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.
– Henry David Thoreau
Well, it’s happened. I am officially sick in Korea. Probably all the germy travel, but what can I do? Lie in bed and sleep, and purchase a humidifier as soon as humanly possible. And grab my computer and get blogging, friends. You benefit, I suppose!
I was feeling pretty awful when I woke up yesterday, mostly as though I had tonsillitis, but we chalked that up to the fact that the air here in the winter is extremely dry. Dry like the Sahara in the middle of the summer. I ventured to Costco yesterday to pick up a few things, but the only throat lozenges I could find were in a 10-bag pack of Riccola for nearly 30,000 won (about $30). No, thanks.
Well, I probably should have shelled out the money because by nightfall, I was begging J to take me to purchase a humidifier. Before we could do that, we met up for dinner (at Pizza Hut!!) with some long-lost friends living in Okpo, Korea who were in town for a training at J’s office. After they headed home, we swung by the Samsung store and used Google translate on J’s Korean phone to ask for a humidifier. We ended up with this piece right here:
The “sauna machine”. The only color available was mauve, to J’s slight distaste.
I was so delirious by the time we got home that I passed out in bed while J must have had a fun time trying to figure out how to work it on his own. When we awoke this morning, there was a serious cloud of mist in our room, and even the floor had a fine dusting of water all over. Well, at least it worked!
Enough about my pathetic self, let’s talk about something far more interesting and exciting: our first day here in Ulsan! Everyone here keeps mentioning that our “Korean honeymoon” will wear off pretty soon, but we were definitely in the happy phase on Sunday. We started out the day by finding obviously the most important thing on my list: Starbucks.
Starbucks made my day and I’m not ashamed of it. #firstworldproblems
Located in the Hyundai Department Store (yes, like the car company, but here they do much more than sell cars), one of the three (yes, THREE!) Starbucks in Ulsan had my two favorite things: red cups and TOFFEE NUT LATTE as the featured winter drink! Who would have guessed? They don’t even feature toffee nut back home! Ironically, I ordered something else: a “Christmas cookie” latte, which is similar to the gingerbread latte, which may have been the best tasting coffee ever. They were also playing … wait for it … CHRISTMAS MUSIC! Day made on our first stop.
After I ogled at the Christmas decorations inside the department store, we browsed around the grocery level of the store. Yes, this department store has a grocery store inside it! The selection of familiar items here was so-so but prices seemed high – $13 for a carton of strawberries. After determining we weren’t ready to make a purchase, we got back in the car to make the 30 minute dive to Costco. Yes, there is a Costco in my Korean city! Here, however, Costco is know for both buying in bulk AND for the foreigner-dense shopping population. Now is a good time to mention that we chose the most awful time to go grocery shopping: Sunday afternoon/evening. Not much different from the States; we should have guessed!
At any rate, we headed in on this awesome cart escalator that they have in every big grocery/home goods store (the two pretty much go hand in hand over here). The wheels of the cart lock into the grooves of the moving walkway to push your cart to and from the parking garage levels. Once we made it in with our giant cart, we found a plethora of American and European items and our loot grew until our cart was bursting. Still, we encountered a lot of other interesting items, such as a pineapple that is freshly peeled and cored before your eyes for only $3, lots of SPAM (Koreans like fatty meat), Korean beauty products and herbal supplements, and more types of frozen fish than you could imagine!
So much SPAM, and our stressful wait to be checked out.
After perusing the cleaning supplies and stocking up on detergents, I spotted something incredible. I thought I might be hallucinating, but no. There it was! I couldn’t believe my eyes! My favorite California vineyard’s premium zinfandel. It was next to impossible to find this stuff in Houston, and here I was in Ulsan, holding a precious bottle in my hands. So precious, in fact, that I had packed a bottle of their wine in my suitcase just to make sure I had some on hand for my first rough day abroad. Looks like I can have a few more!
The cool cart transportation system and my beloved Kenwood Jack London zinfandel.
All this wine talk is making me thirsty, but I better stick with water and OJ before I feel worse. Until next time, cheers!