29 May 2014

the visa is here!

Well, ladies and gentlemen...it turns out I got my visa today. Only I thought I had gotten ripped off.

It went a little something like this...

After my 4 hour wait at the immigration office last Monday, I was hoping my visa would arrive this week so I can finally start teaching this coming Monday. Today was the day, apparently. Of course the day I had planned to go to Seoul for a quick trip. The plan was to leave at 10:30 to get on a bus to Seoul at 10:50, however, a Korean called and in very poor English informed me he would be delivering my visa between 11am-12pm. I asked if he could come earlier, and he said one of his very few known English words, "impossible". I asked if he could come later, and again, "impossible". I knew someone had to be at the receiving end of this because of my experience getting my ARC delivered a month and a half ago. So in my mind I would be cancelling my trip to Seoul. I received two more phone calls from different people and they all said that my visa would be delivered today, between 11-12. Until finally, a phone call came at 10:05 and that person said he would be at the house at 10:30. How perfect! And then I could leave immediately and make it in time for the bus. To my utter shock and amazement, this Korean was on time right at 10:30, something that is almost unheard of. I quickly grabbed the rest of my stuff and my certified mail envelope and ran out the door to meet Jamie, who had already bought me a bus ticket and was waiting. Of course I opened the envelope at a stop light. Inside was just my passport (which I had to leave with the immigration office). No visa. OF COURSE this would happen. I made it on base in record time and pulled into the parking lot just as Jamie was speaking and motioning to the bus driver that I was coming. Whew! Sat down, calmed myself and told Jamie that I waited for nothing.

It wasn't until I got a phone call from my sweet and super helpful recruiter, Ciena, on the bus ride home that I realized I had, actually gotten my visa. She had me take a picture with my phone and email it to her (something we have done a lot of) I told her about the valid until date, and how that didn't make any sense since I was going to be teaching until May 2015. She promised to get to the bottom of it, and would call back with the results. A little while later I heard back from her, with good news and bad news. The sticker on my passport is my visa. (cue dumbfounded laughter inside my head) (seriously? I did ALL THAT WORK for a STICKER??) But unfortunately, it does expire in February. I have never gotten a visa before-how was I supposed to know it would be in my passport? Duh.

When Tyler got his assignment to Korea, it was just for 12 months. However, when we got here his commander asked if he'd like to extend to 18 months, keeping us here until August. We were hoping this would happen, as moving in just 12 months again seemed less than ideal. Unfortunately, since his original paperwork said "10 Feb 2014", (when we arrived in Korea) that is what I had to get put on my SOFA stamp in my passport (what I got when I got to base, saying that I don't have to leave the country every 90 days) but his official paperwork to extend literally JUST cleared LAST week (when my passport was at the immigration office) so because my SOFA stamp is my primary "visa" (or what I received first), my work (E2) visa is my secondary and instead of being based off my work contract, is based off of my SOFA stamp, which is only good until 10 Feb 2015.

Does this confuse you? It confuses the heck out of me. This is what I've had to deal with during this entire process. Hey Tyler, remember the last week of February when I first heard about this job? Neither one of us were sure if it's what I wanted because it's full time (I maybe just wanted to work part time), the school is 20 minutes by car (versus the numerous schools that are down the street from our house), and it would require getting a work visa. Remember when we said, "well it certainly won't hurt to send them my resume" ?? Remember that? Well here we are. The longest process of my life-I think I was engaged to Tyler in a shorter amount of time than it has taken to start teaching here.

It's like I have had no brain for this entire thing. Case in point: when Ciena found a company in Seoul that could process my apostille (the thing from the US government that tells the Korean government I am who I say I am) in a fraction of the time, I was so excited that I got my pages and pages of paperwork finished in literally one day, including two separate trips to get fingerprinted. I went to the post office on base (which is a US post office) and put everything in a "Priority Express" envelope. The guy stamped it, swiped my credit card, and sent it off without a single word. When Mr. Kim hadn't received it two weeks later, I went back to the post office and asked how long a priority express envelope should take to reach Seoul. "Seoul?!?" They asked, incredulous. (I had of course gotten the attention of all 4 people behind the counter, even though I had just asked the one in front of me) "If you're sending something to Seoul, you should definitely go to a Korean post office because anything that gets sent here goes to the US first and then out to it's destination" Of course, any rationally-minded person not in an extreme hurry would have thought of this. Nope, not me...

Or maybe when I needed to wire Mr. Kim 280,000 Korean won for using his "expedited" apostille service. Not only did it take two different days to call USAA (our bank back home, whose international wire transfer hours are only 8am-4pm central time), staying up past my bedtime to wait for 8am central time and 6 people later, (of course I had to use my precious skype credit to call an international phone number) but she finally realized that I needed to transfer it in won, which is not a currency that they can transfer. So then I withdrew money from the ATM (in USD), went to the US post office to buy a money order and pick up yet another express envelope (this was before I realized I needed to use a Korean post office) to mail the money order off immediately. There I was, standing with the $280 money order in my hand when I read on the bottom, "NEGOTIABLE ONLY IN THE US". So how did I think Mr. Kim would be able to cash this money order? I walked to the food court down the hall to think and wrap by brain around what it is that I had just done, and how to fix it. I googled "can you return a money order" on my phone (seriously-thank the good Lord for iphones!) and figured out that yes, you can, or you can just go to a bank and make the money order out to yourself and cash it. (again, dumbfounded laughter) So I walked to the bank in the BX (everything I have done this day has all been in the same building, mind you, so here I am walking back and forth like an idiot) and tried to explain to the very nice tellers what I had done and what I needed to do. They were all so helpful I wanted to reach over and hug them all. We cashed in my money order and he gave me very clear directions to a Korean bank which is just past the money changer just outside the gate. The Korean bank graciously wired my 280,000 won to Mr. Kim's account and he confirmed that he did, in fact, receive the money. And I felt like I needed to find the nearest bar.

But you're all saying, "it's going to be sooooooo worth it" And right now, I'm just thankful I'm starting next Monday, when I will just work the first two days of the week and then get Wednesday through Friday off for a paid holiday. Whew!

I promise this saga is almost over and you'll be reading about my teaching mishaps soon enough.

1 comment:

Holly Stavness said...

OH MY GOODNESS BUDDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would have just quit right then and there! You are a trouper!!!