Monthly Archives: November 2013

Black Friday and Brown Crickets

In Korea, we had disgustingly large spiders in our apartment.   On the back porch of my grandparents’ house, we have these horrible camelback crickets.  I’d never heard of them or seen them before, either.  I just assume that the US government imported them to eat the Japanese ladybug beetles, which were themselves brought over to destroy the aphids in the citrus and peach orchards down south. Wherever they came from, they’re awful, and they’re trying to come in for the winter.  Screw these camelback crickets, with their exceptionally freakish jumping power and overall loathsome appearance.

I’ve been sitting here this evening reading the leaked Black Friday ads and marveling over the fact that I now desire ownership of several items that I never gave a crap about before.  It’s amazing how seeing an item that’s supposed to be crazy-expensive for what appears to be a bargain basement price gives you an overwhelming desire to own it.   I’m fighting it.   I really am.  But they’re just.  So.  Tempting.

I used to fear Black Friday.  That was probably because I’d never been shopping at a Korean mart on Sunday.  Every weekend is like Black Friday: pushing, shoving, crammed parking lots with nary a space to be found, and obnoxious clerks hawking their wares.  Even at its very worst here, Americans look positively polite in comparison.

The thing about Korea was that I was so rarely compelled to buy anything that wasn’t a pair of socks with obscene language written across it.  It’s remarkable how quickly one falls back into the American consumer culture trap.  Keeping up with the Joneses.  They have it, I want it, I need, and I need it NOW.

No, it’s not as bad here as it is in Korea, but I think I’m more affected by it because it’s my own country, and I know what’s going on around me.  I’m lucid.  I was talking to my cousin last night, and he said it wasn’t uncommon among his friends to have a lease or loan on two brand-new cars, the monthly total of which equaled another mortgage payment.  I find that insane, but looking around, I believe it.  Even people who don’t seem to have shit else are pushing brand-new SUVs and sedans – cars that I frankly can’t afford and, even if I could, wouldn’t bother spending $300 per month in payments to drive around.  I’m fine driving a 2000 Chrysler of some sort, providing it has low miles and isn’t going to nickel-and-dime me in repairs.  But not everyone shares my lackadaisical attitude towards having a pimp ride.

Am I trying to act like I’m better than every indebted American out there?  Nah.  I’m awful with money.  My husband taught me the value of saving.  I have to actively reign in my desire to buy shit that I don’t need.  But I don’t care about having a Porsche because my neighbor does.  I have to keep reminding myself that time really is money.  Do you really want to work for three or four solid days just to buy a pair of Manolos?  Do I want to be tied to repaying a car loan for seven years?  Not so much.

But dammit, those Black Friday ads.  I don’t need a standing mixer that converts to a hand mixer, but for $15, how can I say no?   What I really need is camelback cricket repellent.

In spite of the American drive to participate in mindless orgies of acquisition every year, my husband and I were talking tonight, and there is something he has really noticed about this place: the standard of living is still pretty good.  Yeah, Americans spend too much, kind of like we eat too much and talk too much and get too friendly too fast.  But he was watching The Full Monty last night, which is highly underrated, if you haven’t seen it.   It paints a pretty realistic portrayal of Sheffield specifically and northern England generally.  It’s a place without a lot of job opportunity, a place where every pound coin counts, and a place where most people aren’t doing that well for themselves.

Yes, that obviously exists here, but what my husband has noticed is that, unlike England, America offers greater chances for escape from that life, that cycle of scratching and stretching and trying to make ends meet.  Yes, there are people here who aren’t doing well.  You can’t escape that, even in the best countries enjoying the best circumstances.  I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve been.  But if you play your hand right here, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel.  If you choose the right field, manage your finances responsibly (probably the hardest part), and work hard, you can still come out a winner in the game of life.

I think it really hit home when I told him what my starting salary will be at my new job.  I think it took some time to sink in.  He said that some of the best-paid jobs in his home area – managers, nurses, and government employees who had been a long time in their posts – wouldn’t be making such a sum.  You have to remember, what a dollar buys here, a pound buys in England, and the salaries generally don’t allow for the disposable income that we have here.  Also, the cost of living is higher, in many ways.

I think after watching The Full Monty and then looking around today and realizing what we have and what we’re going to have and what it’s possible to get, should we play our cards right, he felt better about the decision to come here.  He still hates the healthcare system, quite rightly, but the other benefits still outweigh the risks.  We’re actually going to go out on Black Friday and be able to buy Christmas gifts for the family this year.  We had one gift last year, not including some things that we needed for the baby.  One.

No, gifts aren’t the meaning of Christmas.  But it feels good to know that you can do nice things for your family, that you can afford to treat yourself from time to time, and that you can afford to buy the groceries to help contribute to a nice family dinner.  It feels good to know that it’s possible to do better and that there’s hope for enjoyment of a reasonably full life.

So yeah.  I’m giving in a little bit to the Black Friday spending spree.  We’re going to get some things that we legitimately need and a few things that we’d just like to put under the tree.  We’re going to try and keep a lid on the spending, though.  We don’t need a standing mixer or another Android tablet.  Our kid doesn’t need 20 pounds of new toys.  She prefers to shred paper and climb on us, anyway.

But it sure is nice to know that the options are there.  So nice.  Now if only Wal-Mart was having a special on sticky paper that catches camelback crickets…



Well, I am thrilled to announce that I am no longer one of the unemployed masses waiting for her turn on the breadline.  I got a job offer late this afternoon, and yes, it was from the company that I was tailing so hard.  Looks like reading all the government handbooks for the job really paid off!

I will be leaving my Domestic Goddess position to work as a crop insurance underwriter for CGB Diversified Services right around the corner from the old homestead.  Seriously, I could walk to work.  The job pays very well – far better than any salary I’ve ever made previously – and the company is going great guns.  The managers seem awesome, the benefits are A-plus, and there is some occasional travel (in a company car, no less!) involved, which should satisfy my wandering heart.  Seriously.  I am thrilled.  Thrilled.

I know how lucky I am.   A lot of people I know who have come home have looked and looked for work and found almost nothing.  In fairness, this was the biggest and best bite that I had, but to paraphrase Amy in Little Women, all it has to be is the right one.  I believe now, more than ever, that leaving Korea was for the good.  Better job, better accommodations, family close by, and traffic that doesn’t make me criminally insane.

Alright, I’m on a library computer and feel the need to evacuate now.  Using public computers makes me feel homeless.  It’s mostly just that I haven’t gotten around to getting Interwebs for the house yet.  Must do tomorrow, along with several other things.   I have a Korea-related post that I wrote a week ago, so I guess I better get around to getting that up.  Until next time, goodnight and good luck!