Thursday, February 2, 2012

COSTCO... Where are you?

One upon a time in Korea, Jason and Jen set out to find the nearest Costco to replenish their lives with some western things such as cheese, frozen veggies, chips and, of course, ranch sauce/dressing.  Since arriving in Korea, Jason had been looking everywhere for ranch sauce.  In Canada, it had been an integral part of his "healthy" diet but he couldn't seem to find it anywhere now that he had left his motherland.  Even Subway did not offer ranch dressing as an option for their sandwiches.  They had been hoping to go for a while now, but had been busy on most weekends and just could not find the time.  On November 19th, 2011, the stars were finally aligned as they set out on their adventure through the mysterious land of Korean public transportation with the goal of consumerism on their mind.

"My co-teacher said it's real easy to find."  Jennifer said.  "You just go to Yangjae station, get out and grab a taxi to Costco.  So let's go!  You don't always need to check everything on a map before leaving the apartment!" she added.

"But how do we know which exit to take?  How will we know if we're heading in the right direction?"  Jason replied.

"Who cares?!?  We'll find it.  It can't be that hard.  Let's go, we need to go to the post office first to send these  packages home and I don't want to be gone all day."  she said to him.

It was true.  They had been putting off sending the packages home for a while since they didn't know where the nearest post office was located.  But that had also been determined after a quick online search revealed it was just a short walk away, in the next gu (neighborhood).  As they left the apartment, Jason had an uneasy feeling.  He didn't like to leave without knowing exactly where he was going but his wife seemed to be certain of how easy it would be so he had given in.  Yet, an awkward feeling still remained in his stomach and he had to force the smile that were on his lips.  "If we don't find it, we'll come back another day" he thought to himself yet hoping it would not have to come to that.  

The post office was a little farther than they had anticipated.  A 25 minute walk along the river had finally led them there.  This was their first attempt at sending something home.  Jason was sending a gift for his niece, Shoana, who's birthday had been a month ago while Jennifer was mailing their wedding thank you cards that were long overdue.  In a sense, this was also a trial run for sending home Christmas presents in less than a month's time.  It would give them an idea of the cost and, soon, they would know the length of time it takes for a parcel to arrive back home in Canada.  They were both content when their packages finally left their hands en route to their destinations.  It was finally time to turn their attention to the real goal of the day... Costco!

They both knew how to get to Yangjae station since they had passed by it a few times on their way to Seoul.  From Jukjeon station, they would take the Bundang line to Jeongja station, where they would transfer to the new DX Shinbundang line until they reached Yangjae.  That was the easy part.  Where would they go from there?  Even though he didn't get a chance to check the map online before leaving, Jason still had a pretty good idea where they were heading.  Planning the trips and knowing where to go was usually his job as Jennifer's sense of direction was so-so at best and she was known to have gotten "misplaced" from time to time.  As they emerged from the depths of the subway station, it took a few seconds to reorient themselves only to realize they had taken the wrong exit.  Jason's smartphone was always of assistance when it came down to this and this time was no different.  "My co-teacher said it's real easy to find. You just go to Yangjae station, get out and grab a taxi to Costco." Jennifer had said.  So that's what they attempted to do.  Only, the first taxi driver that stopped flatly refused to take them to Costco.  There had no more luck with the second and third drivers.  To their utter dismay, no other taxi driver even attempted to stop for them.  Has time passed by, Korean people were being picked up all around them, but it seemed as though the drivers couldn't see them... or maybe they wouldn't see them.  Either way, an alternative mode of transportation for the last leg of the journey would have to be sought.  

"I wish I would've checked out the map before leaving" Jason found himself thinking.  Thankfully, his smartphone proved handy once again and indicated which bus would take them the rest of the way.  There were several.  Jason and Jennifer agreed to jump on the first one to arrive at the bus stop nearest them.  Luckily, it was only a few minutes wait.  As the bus was making it's way through the streets of the city, Jason was monitoring his GPS device to make sure they were heading in the same direction.  "So far, so good" he said to his beautiful wife seated next to him.  As they drew near, Jason added "It's the next stop!  We should be able to see it after this set of lights".  The only problem was, this bus was not like all the other buses they had taken before.  While most city buses had a mechanism for requesting to stop, such as a button, this one did not.  Jason and Jen had simply assumed this bus must stop at all the stops since it had so far.  Bad assumption...  No sooner had they spotted Costco that they were looking at it from the rear view mirror.  "Oh no!" complained Jennifer. "What are we going to do now?"  The obvious thing was for them to get off at the next stop and walk back... only this was an intercity bus and it didn't stop again for another 10-15 minutes.  

When they finally stepped out, they found themselves into a completely unknown area.  Jason's GPS confirmed that they had traveled quite a distance away from their destination.  Flustered yet undeterred from the promise of a shopping wonderland, they crossed the street and attempted yet again to wave down a taxi.  They received the exact same result as they had a few hours before.  It seemed that foreigners were not welcomed to partake in the services of taxi drivers in this part of Korea.  For the first time since their arrival in this wonderful country, they felt discriminated against.  Others had told them it would happen, but they had always refused to believe it.  Everyone had been so nice to them from the onset that they just couldn't accept that it could happen.  But it did, and at the worst of times.  Already with a low morale, the intransigence of these drivers was like a slap in the face.  So when they saw the same intercity bus coming the other way from afar, they suddenly felt some relief.  When they hopped on, they found themselves hoping that it would be as simple as doubling back and this time stop right in front of the Costco.  It was not to be.

Unfortunately, this particular intercity bus had a circular route and did not backtrack all the way to Costco.  Instead, it turned North about ten kilometers before reaching it, taking Jason and Jennifer along for the ride.  "Oh crap!" thought Jason but he didn't have the backbone to admit it to his wife...  yet.  As far as she was concerned, they were still on the right path to consumer freedom.  And as far as she was concerned, this was all his fault anyway.  He didn't understand how it became so when she was the one who had urged them on. But he was not about to bring that up now.  Her look said it all.  As beautiful as she was, there was anger in her eyes.  Anger at him?  Jason had no idea but he wasn't about to find out.  Instead, he chose the path of silence until he could at least figure out where they were heading.  And suddenly, it dawned on him.  "We're getting off here" he said all of a sudden.  And they had.  Only, once off the bus, Jennifer realized they weren't anywhere near Costco.  "Why did we get off here?" she asked not so innocently.  Jason had no other recourse than to admit the truth.  But at least he knew where they were he told her.  And maybe he could even get them back on course to Costco...  "We are done trying to find Costco" she had snapped back.  "It's been a long day and we are lost.  I just want to go home."  Jason could tell her mood had turned sour.  There was no other option but to adhere to her request or suffer the wrath of her fury which was slowly boiling inside of her.  He imagined he could see the smoke coming out of her ears.  But of course, Jennifer did not let any signs of it show from her outer shell.  On the outside, she remained as beautiful as ever and a simple look from her still melted his heart.  Jason was still powerless to this kind and gentle sorceress who had stolen his heart some years ago.  So abort their Costco trip they did and they returned home to tell the tale of their failure to some friends while getting excessively intoxicated with life water.

But by the next weekend, Jason and Jennifer were giving their adventure a second go.  This time, Jason was prepared and knew exactly what bus to take once they alighted at Yangjae.  They even invited a friend to join in their Costco shopping spree madness.  And shopping they did!

The End
A little bit of cheese and some ranch sauce

Frozen Veggies

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