Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Convenience Store That Rips You Off & The Convenience Store That Saved Me

Okay. Let me tell you about my day. From 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, I sat at the library. From 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm, I went to TA my tutorial. From 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm, I sat at the library. Again. So, let's review. That's about nine long hours spent at the library today.

This Elections essay is taking over my life.

My knee is numb from sitting too long, and I'm so exhausted. Plus, as I stumbled out the library this evening, I realized that the last time I ate was at 12:00 pm today.

Yeah. I forgot to eat.

So, obviously, after trudging out the library, I was both tired and starving. But since I've been living at the library the past two weeks, I've barely had time to go to the grocery store. However, though I toyed with the idea of walking to Metro tonight, I was just too tired (read: lazy) to head all the way there.

So what's a tired grad student going to do for food? I thought I'd, you know, pick up something quick to cook at the local convenience store near the library, promising myself I'd start eating healthier next week.


So have you guys been there? That Campus Variety Store at the corner of Earl Street and Albert Street? You haven't? Oh, that's okay. Don't go there. No, believe me, don't go there.

I hadn't checked out this convenience store all year, but resigned and tired, I fully expected items to be slightly overpriced because, well, it's a convenience store located right at the heart of the Student Ghetto. But, for the reasons outlined above, I couldn't go to a real grocery store. So I thought I'd suck it up, and get something to eat quick, as I didn't think prices would be that unreasonable.

I guessed wrong.

I walked down the first aisle, and the first indication of beyond overpriced food came when I glanced at a package of Catelli Smart pasta and saw it priced at $5.99.

What?!? That's $1.99 at Food Basics, yo!

I walked to the meat section to see how much their chicken was.

Yeah. A box of, like 10 chicken strips was priced at $12.99.

What?!? That's $7.99 at Food Basics!

I can't even.... yeah. No. I left. Right away. Why are you ripping students off, Campus Variety? Why?! I was indignant. I couldn't believe how overpriced the items were. And for students?! Who will inevitably need this food the most?

I cannot comprehend the absurdity.


Yet as I down Johnson Street, I realized my indignation still left me starving. Hungry. I was so very, very exhausted and hungry. I needed to cook and eat something, quick.

Then I remembered a convenience store that my housemates had mentioned earlier in the year. One that they said was relatively cheap because it was situated beyond the Ghetto. I wasn't too far away, so, off I walked, to the tiny little convenience store at the corner of Brock Street and Nelson Street.

It is, aptly, named Convenience Store.

I walked in, surprised to see how absolutely tiny it was. I'd never been inside. Looking around, I spotted an older Asian man waving at me, calling out a cheerful, "Good evening!"

Except. It was weird. He said "good evening" like a song. I mean, he said it like, "Good EEEV-neeeng!" Dragging out the syllables in a sing-songy manner, complete with high and low octaves. I can't even explain how weird and funny it was.

No, seriously. It was hilarious. Convenience Store is owned by the most quirky Singing Korean Man.

So, in a hurry, I headed down the meat aisle and found fresh sausages at an extremely reasonable price. My housemates were right about this place, I was so pleased.

And here, came the best part of my convenience store quest.

Because, well, Singing Korean Man kept singing as he rang up my purchase.

"ArEE yoUU ChiNEESEE?" he sang, jumping from higher and lower octaves.

Confused, yet amused, I replied I wasn't.

Pointing to himself, he sang, "I aMMMM KorEEEEEan!"

Nodding in excitement, I replied, "Really?! I watch your dramas all the time!"

"YoUUU watCHHH KorEEEEan drAAAmas?" Singing his heart out, he paused from putting my sausages in a bag and lifted his laptop from under the cash counter.

Oh, it was epic. Because, well, Singing Korean Man was, hilariously, watching a Korean drama on his laptop while he waited for customers. He was, of course, singing along with the Korean pop song blaring out of his speakers.

"Wow!" I enthused, "That's a good drama you're watching!"

"Thank Youuuuuu!" he handed me my sausages, "Gooood NIIIIGHT!"

Oh, my gosh. He was hilarious.

1. Don't forget to eat.
2. Campus College Variety is overpriced.
3. And Singing Korean Man who owns the Convenience Store on Brock Street is too awesome beyond words.

Go buy something and listen to him sing you a conversation! Go do it! It will be epic.

He will make your life. Just like he made my day.

Thanks for the cheap food and entertainment after a long, long, tiring day, Singing Korean Man! I will be back!

"Friendship is the glue that keeps our lives together, especially when it feels as if everything is falling apart."

"If there is ever a tomorrow when we are not together, there is something you must always remember: you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think, but most important of all, even if we are apart, I'll always be with you."
- Christopher Robin to Winnie The Pooh


  1. Hi there! Long time lurker finally commenting... I came across your blog while googling for Asian grocery stores in Kingston, lol, and got hooked on periodically checking while waiting to see if I was accepted for a MSc at Queen's. I am finally accepted and was wondering if you could tell me a) how hard it is to find off-campus housing starting in September that isn't dumpy (is everything good taken early?), and b) where do most grad student live? I'm looking for roomies who are grad students too and not sure where to look since I'm from the GTA too. Thanks! I really appreciate your blog.

  2. Hi Angie!

    Congratulations on your acceptance at Queen's! :) And thanks for reading!

    First, have you looked into Grad Residence? There are 6 floors of rooms located in a building called the JDUC (across from the library), specifically just for graduate students. A number of people in my program live at Grad Res this year, along with Masters students in the Sciences, MBAs, Law, etc. And I have to tell you that it's REALLY REALLY convenient. It's located right at the heart of campus, and you can get to basically anywhere in a matter of minutes. So if you're looking for convenience, and at a place that houses ALL grad students, this is it. The only con is that it's a bit expensive: almost $7000 a year (I think). The pros: convenience and you get your own bathroom and shower? haha. Anyway, rooms at Grad Res are on a first-come-first-serve basis, so apply early if you're interested in living there. Here's a link:

    Second, it isn't too hard to find off-campus housing, although if you wait until September, you'll probably find there are slim pickings. A lot of places around here have a May to April lease, meaning a lot of grad students this year on a two-year program already have places for next year. Granted, though, most of them chose apartments instead of shared accomodation though. When I searched for places last year, I drove to Kingston for a day in late June/early July, lined up about 7-8 appointments, and found a place just fine, so you may want to start looking a little earlier than September.

    There are a lot of off-campus houses that are strictly for graduate students, though, if you're specifically looking for shared accomodation with other grad students (vs. an apartment of your own). You'll find a lot of landlords prefer graduate students because they think they are more "reliable." I actually found my place (with Masters students in the MPA, Engineering, and Teachers College programs) through Craigslist Kingston, where my landlord specifically requested grad student tenants. Besides Grad Res, grad students live all over the place, but you'll find that very few (if any) live in the Student Ghetto. Many live at the apartments on top of the stores on Princess Street (the "downtown," though these are really expensive apartments), others live East of Barrie Street or just a tad West of Albert Street. Whatever you do, though, avoid avoid avoid University Avenue from Union Street to Princess Street. It's full of undergrads.

    Here are some search databases you might find helpful:

    1. Queen's University Housing (Search button on the left):
    and this too:

    2. Varsity Properties:

    3. Keystone Properties:

    4. Craigslist Kingston/Kijiji Kingston
    (a lot of landlords advertise here, so

    5. Here's a map that outlines where everything is in Kingston. Wait for all the markers to load! The Blue Square in the middle shows where the "Student Ghetto" is, meaning really expensive/bad housing for undergrads. Don't live there!! Here's the map:,-76.491194&spn=0.017282,0.035963&z=15

    Sorry for such a long reply! Haha, I just know how stressful it can be to find a place around here. My main advice, though, is to start looking a bit earlier than September, mid-August at the latest (though that's already pretty late). And, when you're searching, specifically look for "grad student shared accomodation."

    Let me know if you have any other questions. And congrats again! :)


  3. Oh, I just realized that links don't show up properly in this comment section. Oops, haha, sorry.

  4. Hi again! Thank you so much for all the information! It has been SUPER helpful in figuring out where I want to live and where to look. It explains why some areas are cheaper for no apparent reason too. Sorry, I should have been clearer that I wanted to look for a place with a lease that *starts* in September, not to start *looking* in September (a September start would coincide with the start of my program). It's really important to me to be able to room with grad students and not undergrads since I'm hoping to be able to talk to people going through the same thing. Anyway, I would love to be able to give you a gift card to Starbucks or something. Let me know if there's a way I can do that.