Banner design by Helena, portrait by Eva


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fed for nothing in Korea? Tested my hypothesis!

* Use your foreign bank card at HANA BANK.

I woke up late today and had to spend the late morning and early afternoon preparing workbooks for my classes. Needless to say, I didn't have time to take the Scotia Bank advice I got from a fellow Suwon blogger: Melodie.

I didn't eat a thing. The plain rice and pasta last night was enough to turn a girl's stomach twice. Looking at the clock, I knew I didn't have time to walk 40 minutes to the nearest Hana Bank: apparently the only bank that accepts Scotia cards, before teaching my first class. My stomach was crying for food.

I decided to test my hypothesis. I walked into a restaurant I go to fairly often- the place where I get the special: $2.00 kimchi noodle soup and kimbap. The waitress who once gave me a sweet potato to cure a cold wasn't there, but thankfully the other waitresses remembered me. As I explained myself, they waved a guy over to translate. The chef got to work, preparing a big hearty meal. Food never tasted so good. I slurped it down, smiling, thanking them profusely.

My last class ended at 10 P.M. and, figuring I couldn't subject my body to a 4th nutritionless day, I pulled up my hood, slipped on my mitts and began my trek to this "Hana Bank" I had heard good things about. It was quite an adventure. I got to the Home Plus/Galleria area and couldn't find it. The cold was biting at my fingers, my toes. I must have asked 17 people where the bank was but no one knew! I saw a drunken business man held up by the arms and I was followed by another, asking where I was going and who I was meeting there (the bank! the bank! just find me the bank!)

I was out in the cold for about an hour and had almost given up when I spotted a familiar storefront. The lettering was faint from my vantage point but YES YES it was indeed Hana bank. Oh the excitement! It was like finding gold, finding relief from my desperation in the form of food and a cab ride home. My coworkers had all become walking wallets. At work, I fantasized about borrowing money but I really didn't want to.

Inside, I found an ATM with English on it, pulled my frozen fingers from my mitts and began to press the buttons nervously. Why? I must have tried every other bank, in my month here, told again and again that my bank card was a credit card, invalid at that.

The relief was glorious. I almost didn't believe the cash in my hand. I decided to reward myself with a vegetable wrap from the Home Plus cafeteria so I waited at the cross section, sorely disappointed when it was closed. I was so happy to find myself in the back of a Taxi, headed home. He drove quickly and I only had to spend $2.00 on the ride.

I stopped at a convenient store across from my building, drank down two yogurt drinks and contemplated where I would go for food. I had a 30 minute talk with a guy behind the register as my toes and fingers came back to life. They burned as they thawed. He told me he had seen me around. He was sweet looking and I got a good vibe, so I agreed to go for dinner with him and his friends, sometime soon. To top off my evening, he offered to give me a treat- anything in the store! "Please, please, take something," he kept offering. I said, "why?" and he said because I was being so patient with his English!

What a country ; )


Melodie said...

Congratulations on getting money! I was worried for a moment that it was just the Hana Bank in Seoul that we went to that allowed you to get money out. I'm sorry I didn't give you more accurate directions...It's hard to remember the different buildings when you don't pay much attention to them! And when you can't read Korean!

Anonymous said...

I don't understand. Hana bank is everywhere in Korea. It's like the Royal Bank in Canada.

Eva said...

Well, no one knew where the one near Galleria was!

Greg said...

You can always depend on the kindness of strangers... in Korea anyway. :)

I'm glad you were able to get a nice, hot meal and take your money out in the end.

In New Haven, I go to alot of events and receptions and tend to get fed REALLY well by Yale. You just have to know where to look to get the free food.

Take care, Eva!

Josh said...

What an exciting story! I'm relived that it ended so well with hot food and new friends and everyone laughing and dancing while the credits rolled (the last part I'm making up).

I'm impressed that they gave you food for free but it really illustrates how you're learning the ropes over there. It sounds like such an incredible journey you're on.

Eva said...

Aww... The J.E.G. Miss you, Josh and Greg. My Yale/Columbia and website gurus.

Michael said...

I was in Suwon six times in 2005, generally three weeks at a time. I found that the "Buy The Way" convenience stores had ATMs called "MyCashZone" that take foreign cards and have instructions in english. I always bought something in appreciation of them sponsoring the atm. In the summer I would stop and buy frozen stuff all along my way.

Good Luck,


Eva said...

Hey Micheal! Thanks so much for bringing "convenience stores" to a whole new level of convenience! That's great.

Any more Suwon tips??

Edward said...

Not to sound skeptical, but I think you get a lot of help because you are obviously not a Korean and you are a foreigner or a guest in the country. Me? When I was in Korea I blended in and no one asked me if I needed help. But then again, I knew the language enough to get by and I didn't have that glazy helpless look... ;)

Anonymous said...

This is a great story, Eva. I'm proud of you. I'm not at all surpised though. Your looks, positive attitude and smile are a killer combination for anyone to refuse to give help.


Anonymous said...

I have heard a lot about Korean hospitality, being rather good looking also aided your adventures i'd assume!