Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I'm not illegal anymore!

Recently I had to do what we foreigners call a visa run. I came into Korea with a tourist visa, which basically let me be in the country for 90 days. Once I got a job I had to apply for an E-2 visa, which lets me work here legally. If you work without an E-2 visa and somebody of importance finds out, your employer can get in a lot of trouble and I think you can get deported. Not so good. 

This is the tough part about wanting to live and work in a foreign country - the paperwork. And the inconsistencies. You look at the website and it tells you one thing, you call and the person who answers the phone tells you a different thing, and then you ask your friends what their experience was like and you get another different answer. It really all comes down to who you get when you walk in the door and what kind of a mood they're in at that moment, and that is something you cannot prepare for. 

So I gathered all my papers (which is a process of its own) and went to the immigration office. They kept them, took about a week to give me a visa number, and then I had to take that visa number to a Korean consulate in a foreign country and apply for the visa. 

I hopped on a plane and flew to Fukuoka, Japan. I was told to get off the plane and go straight to the consulate because I had to be there by 1:30. So I made my way to the subway station - still carrying all my luggage, bought a ticket, looked at the map, and figured out where I needed to get off. The directions I had said this: go out of exit 1, walk towards the stoplight, and turn. With directions like that I figured I was going to some small area of the city that had very few streets and stoplights. But no. There were very many stoplights and intersections and choices. And I am not exactly what you call good at getting places. If I have detailed instructions that include landmarks I'm golden. You tell me to turn right at the McDonalds and I can do that. Tell me to walk past the tall green building and turn left, and I can do that too. Tell me to walk north for 10 blocks and I will ask you which way is north? How is that something that people just know? Tell me to "walk towards the stoplight and turn" and I'll end up wandering around Fukuoka in 100 degree weather for quite some time. Luckily I found a nice old man in a bike shop who spoke some English and he pointed me in the general direction of the consulate. I still couldn't find it after about 10 minutes so I said screw it and got in a cab. I assumed the cab drivers wouldn't understand where I was trying to go, but I found one that did. That cab ride ended up lasting about 30 seconds and cost wayyyy more than it was worth. No wonder that driver was so happy. 

I signed in with the unpleasant guard and walked into the consulate at 11:40. Not bad considering I had been lost pretty much since I stepped out of the subway. I walked up to the woman and told her I was there to apply for my E-2 visa, and she pointed at the clock and told me I was too late and I should have been there by 11:30. I don't even know what my face must have looked like, but on the inside I was thinking no, the website said 1:30, I'm not staying here an extra day because I was apparently 10 minutes late, just do it anyways, please please please and before I even said anything she said "Ok, it is very hot today, come back after 1:30." Strange logic, but ok! Thank you kind lady. There was a Hard Rock Cafe down the street so I sat there listening to some 80s music and eating a club sandwich until it was time to go back. 

After that I was free until the next afternoon when I had to pick up my visa. I had a list of things the internet said was good to do in Fukuoka, but I was afraid of getting lost in the heat again so I did the stuff that was close and easy. I went to a park and walked around a little, which was fun because we don't have a ton of nature in Korea. And somebody had the bright idea of putting a Starbucks in the park. To him I say, job well done. 

Later on that night I went to a mall called Canal City. It's this indoor/outdoor monstrosity with a canal (hence the name) running through the middle of it, and plants growing up the side of the buildings. Every half hour they had a fountain show, and there was this big area where kids could play and adults could squirt water at them.

 I liked their traditional clothes

Alex I took your face to Japan! You were my bookmark.

The next day I went back to the consulate to pick up my visa. I was so relieved to finally see that sticker in my passport, I could have skipped out of there singing a song. But I didn't because that would have been weird. I put that expensive, important document in my purse and made my way back to Korea. And when the immigration lady at the airport stamped it I felt such relief. I am official, I am legal, and they cannot make me leave for at least 13 months :) 

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