Monday, March 12, 2007

Care Packages; or; 'Hey Mom, Send Money!"

Really. Due to a strange concatenation of circumstances - not that there are ever any other kind of concatenations - we are won-less. Despite having money in two North American banks, literal hundreds in traveller's cheques, and our first paystub coming in fifteen days, we cannot buy groceries today.

Under normal conditions, one requires no more than a presigned traveller's cheque and a passport, correct? Not at the bank on campus. No, no: 'if you do not have an account with us we cannot possibly give you so much money...'. "But it's a TRAVELLER'S cheque!" I protest to no avail, "it is the SAME as money!". They refuse to believe this, insularly insecure. 'You must set up an account,' they keep repeating, 'before we can give you money.'

In tones of frustrated patience I explain the following: I need an Alien Resident Card to set up an account - correct? Correct, they assure me. I continue: My Alien Resident Card is currently being processed in Suwon, about a 40 minute bus ride from Yongin. They nod. I do not, I point out with teeth politely clenched, at the moment have even enough money to buy a bus ticket to GET to Suwon to pick up that card. They look at my twice-signed traveller's cheque and confer for a while. Then they make me a counter-offer, beaming benevolently. They will LEND me ninety thousand won - roughly the amount of the hundred US dollars to which the cheque should entitle me. When I get my card I will come back and set up an account with them, yes? And THEN I can cash the cheque. And THEN I can PAY THEM BACK their ninety thousand won loan!

Alas, this sucessfully-concluded transaction took place about ten days ago, so that ninety has been spent. Our Alien Cards will be ready for pick-up on the fifteenth - two days from now. But none of the bank machines on campus, for some reason, are willing to let us access our Canadian accounts (which was our mainstay while shopping in Seoul last weekend! And by the way, we have our own computer now... more on that later...), even with the hefty surcharge - the administration seems to have removed all the Cirrus-capable machines. The upshot is that I don't have three bucks to pay for lunch at the cafeteria today, let alone go grocery shopping (much needed eggs, milk, bread, etc.) and far less run into Seoul for some few creature comforts for the house. Did I mention we are still sleeping on T-shirt pillowcases? And Katherine's daycare wants me to take my turn at sending in 'parched beans' and 'immature anchovies' (as translated by our ever-helpful Korean assistant Jisu) for a 'morning snack' for the students...

Oh, and today was our day off, but we're stranded on campus - no bus or taxi funds. Thankfully Bry paid for the laundry on Friday when he dropped it off, so we will have clean clothes today when he picks them up on his way home from the student laundromat - washed, dried, and folded neatly in a big blue plastic bag. And there was enough food in the house for a healthy breakfast for us all and a packed lunch for Katherine.

Anyhow, enough whining - our fellow teachers won't let us starve. I'm sure Dev or one of the others will spot us a short-term loan, but I'm just very tired of having to ask - yet again. Let's change the subject!

Sooooooooooooooooo - if someone wanted to send us a care package, say of things that weren't readily available here, and was interested in knowing just what items we'd have on our wish list... here's the list:

1 plastic shower curtain (Dollarama) - off-white, aqua, or white, in that order of preference.
1 large-size jar of Cheez Whiz - the one I brought is about half-gone despite hoarding.
Several bags of Ruffles potato chips - Sour Cream and Onion for me, Regular for Bry. If you poke a little hole with a pin, squeeze out excess air, and tape the hole up with scotch tape, you can pack two in the space of one. And they make great padding, even if the chips crush down.
1 large bottle of tar shampoo (in the brown plastic bottle, available at the pharmacy. Double-wrapped because it reeks and a leak would be disastrous! It's expensive but lasts Bry about six months...)
A lamp. No, just kidding. I do long for Canadian Tire, where I could just buy all the pieces and make my own lighting fixture for about ten dollars. Here the cheapest, flimsiest little bedside lamp with a ruffly shade and impractically tiny stem costs thirty thousand won - while something like a standing sconce would be over a hundred thousand (about ninety to a hundred dollars)
Home and decor magazines - something to read in English! Bry treated me to an imported decorator mag at the bookstore in Suwon the other day and it was 12 thousand won... (looks guilty)

Interestingly enough, some of the things I thought wouldn't be available, ARE now. Spices, for example. Cinnamon and garlic powder! Deodorant. Broccoli. Salads! Real lettuce and mache salads, not just chopped cabbage. Ready-to-go food like fried chicken, dumplings, spaghetti. Most of this is due to the new presence of a big shopping chain called E-Mart - which actually bought out Wal-Mart in Korea - now with stores throughout the country. Our E-Mart is walking distance, about five hundred meters from the Myongji front gates, so that is a real treat.

Now, if only I could go grocery shopping.....

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

PLease verify the phone nunber you gave us . Ihave beentying many times but can't get through.

March 13, 2007 at 2:29 a.m.  
Anonymous Audrey said...

How frustrating to have money you can't access! Are you showering without any curtain? Or is it an ugly green or mustard colour? We will look for an off-white one. Our kids are on March break, and they love to go to Dollarama!
Keep smiling!
Audrey & family

March 13, 2007 at 7:57 a.m.  
Anonymous Thea said...

That's more than frustrating! Next time you will surely look for new money before you are running out - without assuming that the local bank-machine works or that you get money for your traveller check. I was in a similar situation (by far not so terrible though) when I wanted to buy a bigger amount of cheese and sausage to take home to Germany in a small Italian village several years ago. I wanted to pay with an eurocheck and the woman in this shop had never seen one before. This village was not so far away from the next major town and it was not an old granny.. But we could take the good stuff with us because she phoned with her bank and the people there assured her that it was safe to take this piece of paper. I had bigger problems to get rid of my American Express traveller checks in Japan last year - they didn‘t want to take them in the first bank probably because they were too old - and therefore not listed in their books and without the newer security items. But finally I got rid of them - out of goodwill of their side..

March 13, 2007 at 9:40 a.m.  
Blogger Mike said...

Ooooookay, then...

We will work on getting a care package together for you ASAP. Since we're getting together for Dad's birthday soon, we should be able to co-ordinate things so that you don't get 3 shower curtains and no Cheez Whiz, for example. What about Nutella, or canned meat such as ham and turkey? Is there anything else on your wish list that we can get for you?


Liese and Co.

March 13, 2007 at 1:37 p.m.  
Anonymous Judy said...

It is so wonderful that the comments function seems to be working now and we can 'talk'! Great to get comments from all of you...

I went into Seoul yesterday on some borrowed cash (thanks so much Dev!) and was able to get to a Cirrus-capable machine and access our North American account. So the shopping trip happened after all, with a few treats for Katherine as well.

Several teachers also offered as soon as they knew - even people who have only known us for two weeks! - so their generosity and trust is no less appreciated for not having been taken advantage of.

And you're right, Talia - we won't let it get down that low again. It's like not buying toilet paper when you know you're on your next-to-last roll!

Audrey, the shower curtain is baby blue and white - in a pale aqua and off=white bathroom. Ah well, at least it's tasteful and not eight different shades of blue like our last one!

Liese - that's thoughtful. We can actually get Nutella here now (and dark chocolate is a fad because of its 'newly discovered health benefits'...) but some canned ham and turkey would indeed be a treat!

Oddly enough, bathmats are also frightfully expensive by my standards: a little heart-shaped fuzzy thing about a foot across costs about eight dollars, while a regular-size thin rectangle is about ten. Ah well, for now we're using a small bath towel...

Mom, check your email and try again! Can't wait to hear from you....

March 13, 2007 at 3:49 p.m.  
Anonymous nancy wood said...

Is this the box.

March 14, 2007 at 1:34 p.m.  
Anonymous nancy Wood said...

Bryan and Judy...I have just read all your news and had a great chuckle as I imagined the three of you there. good for you!!!!! Judy thank-you so much for your gift, Susan passed it along to me today and I will certainly cherish it. take loads of care and ENJOY the amazing abundance of your lives....Nancy

March 14, 2007 at 1:40 p.m.  
Anonymous Mom said...

Hi Bryan, Judy & Katherine: I hope some of your friends have come through for you and issued you some loans to keep you in food and transportation money.
Did you actually read my letter to Katherine to her and did she like the idea of a letter just for her?
As you can see I've not yet mastered the skill of replying to your letters on my own. Audrey has tried to talk me through it, but it just didn't work. I do know how to read yours though and enjoy them very much. Hope you had a good day today and a restful weekend or at least a weekend in which you could do some shopping (providing you managed to get some money). Can't you pay with Visa for groceries? Just a thought. You've probably thought about that too already.
Love to all of you, and hugs and kisses, Mom and Dad.

March 18, 2007 at 1:28 p.m.  

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