September 9, Costco

I haven’t been sleeping much these days now that my cycle was thrown off from weekend shenanigans but even the tiredness couldn’t stop me from the excitement of possibly getting a Costco card.

I took a city bus which made me carsick and then a local bus which made me fear for my life and crossed my fingers that Costco wouldn’t need an actual ID for me since I don’t have one to show them right now.

The process luckily was fairly straightforward and I was done within five minutes. And to my great surprise my picture is not terrible; it does look like a mug shot but it looks like a mug shot with popping cheekbones.

Unlike other shopping marts in Korea, the carts here were free to use. I caught the eye of all the kids with my billowing yellow shirt and dangly earrings. One boy stopped midsentence to stare at me and the two women with him laughed. I said hello and he finally said hello at the encouragement of both of them. It was so sweet.

I really commend and am grateful to Korean parents for being so friendly when it comes to their children.

There was a young woman shopping with her mom in whom I saw myself. There were college boy packs and couples and families and singles.

In the health aisle I also asked an older Korean woman to help me figure out if the protein powder was chocolate flavored or just brown. We had a short and simple chat and she asked if she should eat protein, too. Like it was the most normal thing in the world.

It was surreal to be in what could’ve been an American Costco talking in Korean with strangers. Is this the magic of Busan? Or just the magic of Costco?

I exercised some restraint knowing that whatever I bought I would have to carry on the bus back home. My items were few and yet my bill was high because I suppose this is my fate: to have expensive groceries in Korea.

I had added a large Kirkland brand bag of whole bean coffee to my purchase with the assumption that like every other American Costco there would be a grinder at the end of the metaphorical rainbow. The kind cashier explained that they do not in fact have anything of the sort and I was on my own.

I muttered to mostly myself in Korean, how am I supposed to do this on my own?

Upon return to the guest house I regaled the house owner with my follies which made her laugh. But the benefit of having roommates is that she did in fact have a hand grinder and, a huge bonus, she works at a café. If I want to grind the entire bag at once she can take it with her on her next shift, although for better flavor she recommends hand grinding small amounts. The magic of flatmates!

Somewhere between doing homework and making dinner and lamenting my lack of a grinder, my former Busan tutor gave me a call on the phone. An actual phone call? What year is it?

I loved it.

She asked me what I was up to and also wanted to discuss plans for our meetup. She has a whole schedule in mind for the weekend after this one.

It even includes a sleepover.

She lives on the western side of the city and made plans for us to go to the museum, see famous graves of Korea’s first international power couple, and go to a nice café.

If I come in the afternoon the day before, I can meet her family and also pick potatoes at their farm. Yes, they get free labor but how could I pass up the experience?

Busan tutor and I are alike in the way we adopt foreign friends and take them home.

“My family is really big. And they tend to nag… They even nag my Japanese friends. And they like to ask a lot of questions. They’ll talk to you a lot. Is that OK?” She asked with a tone of shame.

“That sounds exactly like my family! Count me in. I like when people are talkative.”

I think you know by now that me pretending to be a part of other people’s families is my favorite pastime.

Now, not only do I get a whole family but also a sleepover? Will the fun ever end?

C told me earlier this week that Busan people are considered to be rude which is strange because all the stereotypes I have heard is that they are much warmer than Seoul people. I think what she meant is that Busan people are more abrupt.

I can agree.

But also, that’s not so different from the southern US where people are friendly and also in your business. It’s the best kind of way to live.

Since everyone in this house tends to be night owls, I ran into my Brazilian roommate in the kitchen while I was making dinner at 10 PM. He told me while he was filling his water bottle “I heard you on the phone. You’re really good at Korean”.

I thought about how I didn’t understand anything the Costco membership service people said to me and how I can’t get past the title of a news article.

“I’m not, really, but thanks.”

I’m kind of fluent in certain situations which involve me discussing plans, gossip, and feelings. I can’t talk academically and I am basically illiterate so. You win some you lose some?

Fluency feels farther out of reach than ever.

Class is going well otherwise and while gazing on the disappointment that was orange Oreos, Halloween themed but quite literally flavored to be orange, I had a great idea.

Wow, orange colored Oreos. Cue nostalgia! Hey, wait a minute…

How about a Halloween party? Nothing crazy, maybe a barbecue on the rooftop. I don’t have an oven so I can’t make Halloween treats but I do have a Costco membership and access to pumpkin themed candy.

Plus I have so many baby Chinese classmates to adopt! What better way to coerce them into friendship than food.

It was a nice day even if I did what people everywhere in the world do.

Anything can be an adventure if you have imagination and a short attention span.

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