Monday, February 11, 2008

She Called it Murphy's Visa

The entire process at this point has been dubbed by Skimmel, Murphy's Visa. I think this is fairly appropriate considering all the difficulties that I have had with it.

To begin with I first had to go through getting all the documents mailed to Korea without making a trip home. Then my hold up at immigration in Korea to get out. Then the interminable wait for my Master's degree transcripts to show up (they forgot I ordered transcripts and didn't sent them until I called again a month later). Then submitting all documents to my school and waiting for the president's approval. Then waiting for that to go to immigration. Then finally to get my number. Then to realize I did not have any visa pages in my passport requiring an exorbitant fee to cut through bureaucratic red tape. Then finding out I would have to have a consular interview at the last minute.

Lucky for me they had an opening for the following day. So I went back up the way to my home base in the city. While I was walking to catch the bus the rain from earlier had turned into hail that was being blown by sharp wind into my face, rendering my umbrella stupid at best. I walked first across the street to get passport pictures and cancel and rearrange time for the volunteer work I'm doing. Then I got the bus.

As fate, or Murphy, would have it, my bus stopped about ten blocks from my destination forcing me to walk down the icy city streets towards home base. The snow was melting and everywhere was a deluge of ice water which quickly permeated the shoes and the socks leaving me chill, shivering, wet, and pissed by the time I got to home base. With a looming interview on the following day.

I spent the next three hours trying to figure out what to wear. I needed something understated, business worthy, and Korean style. Fortunately I'd been buying work clothing and had a few things but kept changing my mind and could not settle on anything. I raided Skimmel's closet and stressed and stressed some more. Finally I crashed going to sleep making two wishes for the following day.

For my interview I wanted two things. That my interviewer be a man, and that if it was possible, he be from Daegu.

To prepare for the interview I had to collect and print out all the documents I could find on my computer and packed these up in a bag. Of course the weather in Chicago, which had been schizophrenic for days, turned worse and I found that I was slated to hit Loop rush hour morning traffic in the middle of a blizzard. Lucky me.

I left adding an extra hour to my anticipated commute time which turned out to be a good idea, I was only mildly early for my appointment and walking into the consulate office looking less like a drowned rate and more like a professional teacher. I handed over all my papers to the official from the previous day, who needless to say remembered me, and had a seat.

My interview was for 10:45 a.m. I waited. As the time passed more waygooks came in and went through the same process of handing over papers and finally settling back to sit like me. I talked up the nice young girl who would be entering Korea to teach at a University, her first stint in education and Korea. I gave her my card and tired to give her some helpful preparatory information. We chatted and waited. I asked when she was scheduled to go in and she answered 10:30. I asked for the time and it was 11:00. Of course, we are on Korean time now.

After a while more of sitting and chatting up the group of hopeful teachers I was called first since I had arrived first. In my hand I took a folder that included photos of me in class, a resume, and copies of some papers and things I had written. While it was impromptu decided in the end to treat it like a job interview, and so did my best to be completely prepared for anything.

I walked in to see the consul a nice young man who smiled while the official rattled off quickly in Korea about my needing and interview and that I had been in Korea before and was confused about the rules. I smiled and pretended that I didn't know what she was saying.

The consul smiled at me.

I smiled back.

"So you have been in Korea a long time?" he asked.

"Oh yes, seven years almost."

"So you speak Korean?"

"Cho-gum. Hang-ul-ma, has-e-go-ita."

"Where did you teach?"

"Daegu."

"Kie-ri-yo? Daegu. Daegu is my hometown." Score two points for the various gods who have finally decided to give me a break.

"Where did you teach in Daegu," he asks politely.

I answered in Korean because I'm better at it then in English, and his eye practically popped out of his head.

"That is my school. That was my middle school. Ah jinja, jinja." He smiles and shakes his head. He says in Korean that it is too much. I laugh.

After that we talked about Daegu, where we like to go, the things we like to do in Daegu, where the best food is, the best view, the best shopping. My interview was finished. It turns out that he lived about five minutes from where I had been working for two years, and I know that area like the back of my hand. With each landmark that I spouted he would smile and exclaim and add something else.

In other words, I charmed the papers out of him.

I shook his hand as I left and wished him happy New Year in Korean, as it was the exact date of Sul-nul when I went to interview. I thought he was going to have a heart attack. It took him only a second and he bowed deeply and returned the New Year's cheer.

The official who I had worked with told me to come back on Friday and pick up my visa. Finally, at long last, the whole thing was over. I went back out into the blustery Chicago winter which had decided to hold off on the scheduled blizzard. I managed to make it all the way back to home base before the snow really started to come down in a serious way. Apparently somebody finally liked me.

1 comment:

Tony said...

I knew it would all work out. Good for you!