…and 7 things I still want.

Part of the soy sauce display in the grocery store down the street.

Part of the soy sauce display in the grocery store down the street.

Christmas is a pretty big deal in my family. When you combine gift-giving with a family of nine, it becomes quite the ordeal. Consequently, we all share a wish list with each other to make the process a bit easier. I couldn’t come up with much, since anything I need costs as much to get here as the item itself. I’m sure you can get whatever you want in Seoul as long as you have the money and know how. The latter is definitely the biggest concern with the language barrier. So I’ll share with you the things that are either too difficult or expensive to justify buying or having them shipped. A wish list, of sorts.

I’ll do seven “wants”, as it seems to complement my previous post‘s attitude of thankfulness for what I already have by complaining about my lack.

7. Paprika, Cayenne, Vanilla, etc.
While even small grocery stores have a staggering array of soy sauces and sesame oils, the spice aisle is lacking. I’d love to cook with what I know, but instead I’m left with a variety of oils and sauces with Korean labels that I have no chance of reading, and a further shot of being able to use them. I’ve heard that I might find what I need in Itaewon (Foreigner Central) or on base, but so far my searches in Lotte Mart, Costco, and neighborhood grocery stores has been unsuccessful.

6. Netflix
Sites like Hulu and Netflix are unavailable in many countries outside of the US due to licensing issues. This is obviously incredibly distressing, but I fortunately found a way around it. It took me a while to weed through sketchy free television websites and free VPN providers until I finally settled on paying for a decent VPN that allows me to enjoy Sherlock, Monk, and a variety of other venues to kill time. In retrospect, maybe I could be more productive if I never bothered…

More than enough cheap beer at any corner convenience store.

More than enough cheap beer at any corner convenience store.

5. Tasty beer
I had a reeaaally good beer two weeks ago at Thanksgiving. While that’s usually nothing to write home about, it’s nearly worth it’s own blog post when contrasted to the rest of the beer here in Seoul. There’s a lot of cheap lite beer. I’ve also found some decent imports if you’re willing to pay $8-9 for what might even end up flat. But so far I’ve only had one great beer; it was a pumpkin ale that still makes me regret brushing my teeth that night. I’m in love.

4. Towels that work
Before coming here I heard rumors of Korea being a bath towel-less country. Thankfully my coworker supplied me with the wonderful Canadian flag towel you saw in my housewarming party. Problem solved. However, my needs extended beyond a bath towel, and I need something to dry my hands and dishes. You’d think a towel’s one job, to absorb liquid, would be easy, but for some reason the three different types of towels I’ve bought all leave me wondering why my dishes and and hands still remain moist even after a thorough rubdown. I’ve found solutions at Costco, but I’m not sure I should have to buy my towels in packs of ten to have them work better than my jeans.

3. Good clothes
In my experience so far I’ve only seen the extremes of clothe quality and price. A walk through Dongdaemun shows you plenty of fashionable and super cheap clothes that will likely be as durable as they are comfortable (ie, not very). A walk through any department store displays high end brands where a “cheap” pair of shoes from Diesel or Lacoste puts you out $300+. Fortunately I stumbled upon a Uniqlo yesterday, and stores like that will occasionally have decent sales (though on average the prices are marked up ~20% from home). Still, this teacher’s salary would love a Nordstrom’s Rack in my neighborhood.

2. Central Heating
Many apartments here have heated floors rather than central heating. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Sort of, but it really doesn’t quite do the job like heating vents do, and I’ll often find dead spots in my room. Add to that a window that may as well be a hole in my wall, and I wake up in the morning with the temperature around my bed being 14 degrees Celsius. It’s a little better when I think to lay my clothes out on the floor before getting ready for bed. That’s always a great warm start to my night.

1. Family and friends
Easily number one, but all this talk of Holidays makes me miss family and friends. Sure, skype and letters are great, they really are (if you doubt me, it’s not hard to find my contact information), but I’d love nothing more than to spend time with my family. If anyone wants to come visit or get me time off and a plane ticket, that’s all I could ever ask for.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. If you’re starting a new life, whether it’s life outside of college, or life in a new home, what’s on your list that you wouldn’t have expected?