Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Oh, Korea

Today is one of Korea's national holidays (what they call a "red day"). It's sort of like a bank holiday. Schools are closed, but pretty much everything else is open. Our school doesn't observe all of the red days, but Cade's school sure does, which means I had to take the day off to hang out with him. I decided that since we've been so busy every weekend and every evening that I would try to drive to Costco by myself. "Try" being the key word. (The pictures in this post are totally unrelated to today!)

I did start my day off right with a homemade pumpkin spice latte!
Our trip began fairly uneventfully. We pulled out of our complex and drove up the hill. There we were stopped by a guy with an orange wand, who told me, in his broken English, that they were "shooting." No surprise. It's rare that I can drive a road here without seeing someone out with a camera. It was a little more serious than that this time, though. By the time they let me drive up the hill there were five or six cars behind me, too. Just stopped. In the middle of the road. Oh, Korea.

I had my map on my phone open next to me. I knew about the first mile. And I knew that shortly after that was where we had gone wrong the last time, so I was on the lookout. I nearly made the same mistake again because there are two signs that say "Yangjae" and that's all I knew to look for. This time, I made the right decision, though. I was confident. It was going to be easy from here.

I was wrong. Like I said, all I knew was "Yangjae," so when I saw the sign for Yangjae station, I figured that must be it. I remembered that we weren't exactly sure where the exit was the last time, but there was a long line, so we just got in it. We're always headed where everyone else is. There was no line this time, but I figured it was just because it was earlier in the day.

I could tell immediately when I got off the exit that it was the wrong one, and I figured I had probably gone too far. Of course, I wasn't sure how to get back on. On and off ramps are not as easy to find here as we're used to in the States. I thought maybe I should glance down at the map. As it turned out I was able to see that I hadn't gone far enough, and it was easy enough for me to get back on the highway (thank you, Lord).

A few moments of peace before Kennedy's birthday party. Grading quizzes while I waited for Cade's bus.
Now I would recognize the exit for sure, I thought. Except that every time I refreshed my "place" in my iPhone maps, it said I wasn't to the exit yet. Then, all of a sudden, it said that I had past the exit. They say that Yangjae is just outside the city, but it's kind of like how University Village is just outside Seattle. You are definitely not outside the city. By this point, though, I had passed a rest area (remember those shopping malls along side the freeway?), so I knew I had gone too far. Back to the iPhone maps I went. Thankfully, it told me that I could take the next exit, do a little u-turn, and get back on again. The only problem was that I was going to have to pay tolls going both directions. Whatever. It was worth it at that point. The alternate route without tolls was much longer. As it turned out, the toll booths weren't in operation. I was able to get through and turn around easily without having to pay for it. Thank you, Lord!

As we headed back, I asked Cade what he wanted to do. After all of this craziness, I would have been content to give up, but he didn't want to. I was not confident in the directions that the phone gave me, and I was even less confident as I got the highway driving over pink and green lines that I had never seen before. Nor did I understand why it was having me get on another highway, but I did it anyway. Things got interesting when the highway split because of course, I wasn't able to read the directions very closely while driving. I made a decision that took me through a tunnel and shortly after we left it, Cade announced that he saw Costco. I couldn't see it, and I didn't believe him, but eventually he explained to me where it was. I knew where I needed to go to get there now, but of course, I couldn't. I couldn't go straight. I couldn't make the left I needed to. It was ridiculous the alleyways I ended up driving through to get in line to park. Oh, Korea.

my Friday evenings have been spent at soccer practice down by the Han River
We finally made it, having to park on the roof because it was so busy. Oh well. We got our groceries. We ate our lunch. I was only slightly worried about having enough cash to pay for everything and knowing how to get home.

this is the last week of soccer, thankfully!
I had plenty of cash and we made it all the way back up seven stories of escalators and ramps pushing a heavy cart. We found the car again. We had room (unlike last time when the trunk was full of stuff and we completely forgot about it!) for everything. Somehow, I spilled my entire Pepsi all over my foot as I was unloading the cart. I needed new Toms, anyway, but it was still pretty gross. I guess I could do that in any country.

The problem began when it came time to actually leave the parking space. I thought that I had been so brilliant earlier. I had actually remembered how impossible it is to load your groceries when you back into the parking space, so I had pulled in forward. The parking spaces here are SO incredibly small that I would have had to carry my Costco bags over the car in order to put them in the trunk. Obviously, they were really heavy (how else would I have managed to spill an entire drink?!), so I couldn't have done it. I parked in a spot where I could back up as far as I thought I would need to in order to get out of the spot. Seriously. I was planning ahead. What I did not plan on was the person who decided to create his own space behind me. Not right behind me; he did leave some room for me to back out, but you should have seen it. What a joke. It must have been a 22-point turn. (And did I mention it was at least 80 degrees up there? I was sweating. And angry.) I finally made it out, though.

We made it home uneventfully. I gave up on iPhone directions because I didn't like either of the routes that it wanted me to take. Apparently, my confidence had built back up by then. Must have been my ability to back out of that space. Seriously, give me parallel parking any day. I can handle the world's smallest spot on the first try.

I am extremely grateful for our car, in spite of the stress today. If you had told me two years ago that I would still be telling stories about our trips to Costco, though, I may have cried. How can it still be so eventful?! Oh, Korea.

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