Tuesday, April 10, 2007

immigration, shame, and vindication

Having gotten my renewal paperwork from our department's main office late last week, I made plans to visit the dreaded Seoul Immigration Office in Mokdong, where I would renew my E2 visa for another year and sign up for a multiple reentry permit. I didn't sign up for a reentry permit last time around because I knew that, cash-strapped as I was, I wouldn't be making it to the States at any point in 2006. Seemed like a waste of $50. This year, however, I'm planning both a US trip (for June) and a Europe trip (for December), so the permit is necessary.

The entire process took only thirty minutes today. As I recall, the process didn't take long last year, either. I suspect that the system works more smoothly for those of us who are merely renewing our visas with the same sponsor and not seeking to change anything about the status of our sojourn.

There's really nothing more to say about the Immigration experience except: See you next year, if not sooner. Here's hoping the process is just as smooth later on.

This morning, my alarm rang at 5am, just as it did yesterday... but today I couldn't get out of bed for the morning hike. As a result, I'm tucking in my "Namsan-ing" early this evening, possibly with a trip to the campus gym, for which I dumped W130,000 (about $130) on a one-year membership. The gym is pretty tiny; the bare-bones facilities are simple, which partly explains why the registration fee is so cheap (about W11,000, or $11, per month). There's a device tucked in one corner; it measures some of your bodily stats, including body fat. I'm pretty sure my body is around 95% fat with little left over for actual functioning tissue, so the only reason for me to use the machine is morbid curiosity. The tried-and-true metrics of (1) resting heart rate and (2) clothing fit are more my speed. I also have a bathroom scale (which reminds me: I need to stick up my Monday Weighing pic), which I'll be consulting weekly to check on progress.

Earlier today, one of my Korean colleagues walked in with a look on her face that made me ask how her students had treated her. My colleague teaches Level 1 Korean to foreigners. In response to my question, she smiled and said, "I usually have thirteen students in the class I just taught, but today five of them were absent." She saw my eyes narrow as a sly expression stole over my face. Realizing what this meant, she said, rather sheepishly, "Yes, now I know how you felt back then."

This teacher, who used to work in the department's main office, sometimes sat in on English courses taught by us foreigners. In my class, her attendance tended to be spotty at best, and the last time she was in my class, she simply disappeared without a word after about five weeks. I had told her, back when she was an office staffer, that I didn't appreciate it when students vanished without notice, and now that she's a teacher herself, she understands how it feels when students cheese on you.

So, HA!


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