Monsoon season started today. It started pouring rain this evening, the first of many rainy days for the next couple of weeks. The monsoon season is scheduled to last from June 25th until about July 15th. During this period it will rain, rain, and then rain some more. We enjoyed our last couple of dry days quietly relaxing close to home as I recuperated from my illness. I’ve heard that two or three monsoons will come through Seoul this year. Although Korea does not experience typhoons, monsoons here nonetheless appear quickly and can lead to extensive flooding. Fortunately, our home sits on higher ground. Many of my neighbors are not so fortunate and are bracing for pooling water in their homes. In contrast, today should be close to the end of Seattle’s rainy season. During July and August the weather in Seattle is typically gorgeous. The weather is cool and dry, making for one of most pleasant summer experiences anyone could want. Seoul is a different story. When I lived in Seattle, I took pride in never using an umbrella, because locals hardly ever use umbrellas when it rains (Seattle rain is more of a light drizzle). In Seoul, my umbrella is primed to get some good use.
I was tired and irritable on Saturday afternoon because of my lingering illness. However, I placated my wife and went out shopping on Saturday afternoon despite the muggy day (monsoon season is close, and the weather in Seoul has been warm and humid). We went shopping at Namdaemun Market. My wife really wanted to buy a decorative cherry wood wedding box. She had seen it earlier this week at a shop in Namdaemun Market and could have bought then for about $350. I wanted her to wait until I had a chance to see it for myself. I wanted to see this decorative item she wanted to buy for $350. When we went to the same shop on Saturday, the shop owner, who recognized my wife, refused to sell it to her for less than $380. The shop owner claimed that the box my wife wanted to buy was of superior quality than the one she previously saw. I think she thought that my wife was intent upon buying the box and didn’t need to drop the price again. Such is the nature of bargaining. If you look too interested, you can’t get a good deal. So we walked away from a deal. My wife was disappointed she walked away from buying the wedding box this weekend, but I reassured her that she could find another one to buy. Now that I’ve seen it I don’t mind so much spending so much for a 14” decorative item. As she points out, it’s easy to spend $350 in Seoul. One can spend that much in a week buying lunch everyday.
Today we went to the Costco warehouse in Yangjae (there are three Costco warehouses in Seoul, five in Korea). When we lived in Seattle, we loved visiting our neighborhood Costco frequently to stock up on necessities and to buy a few specialty items. I hadn’t visited Costco since we left the states. I haven’t really had any reason to go there now that I’m living in Seoul, but I was curious as to whether Korea’s Costco warehouses were anything like the Costco warehouses I know and love in the U.S. The answer is yes, Korea’s Costco warehouses very much like Costco’s in the U.S. You can find most of the popular items Costco sells in the states, notably rotisserie chicken, muffins, books and CDs. However, some items I miss back home aren’t available in Seoul. I especially miss the poppy seed muffins I used to buy in Seattle. I couldn’t even find poppy seed muffins in Washington, D.C. And I couldn’t find the Greek salad I like. Still, I took home a 12-pack of chocolate/banana nut/corn muffins and some ready-to-bake chimichangas. I haven’t eaten those in months. Perhaps the most notable difference between warehouses in Korea and the states is the prices. That, and the fact that you have to pay in Korean won or use your Samsung card (AmEx not accepted). We noticed that most Costco prices here are about one-third higher than in the U.S., with the exception of books published in Korea. It made me long for the day when I walk into Costco and walk out with a case of toilet paper feeling and feel like I’d gotten a good deal. I don’t think I’ll visit Costco too often in Seoul. If you have a Costco membership and are planning to relocate to Korea, you may want to keep it, although you may not use it as often.