I don’t want to breath a sigh of relief, at least not until I’m standing on Korean soil, but the work part of my journey to Korea is just about over. Today I went with my dad to DC to apply for my E-2 Visa and take care of a few other things. The day started off a little rocky, but luckily it ended very smoothly… so I should be hopeful for the flight, right?

The metro stop closest to my house is Branch Avenue on the end of the green line. Unfortunately, Branch Avenue’s parking is… limited… When we got there all the parking lots were full except for the meter spots and the (many) spaces that were reserved before 10am. We got there at 9am and drove around looking for a parking space for 30 minutes, so I don’t know why we didn’t just wait until 10 to park because those spaces were set at $4.25. Instead, my dad decided to park at a meter spot and we ended up with a meter that ate a bunch of our quarters. Also, after putting all the quarters in, we saw that sign that said you can only park there until 3:30pm. Yeah… my Visa interview was at 2:30. There would be no way get back in time. It ended up being fine, we didn’t get a ticket or anything and a bunch of other people were still parked there, but still – why wouldn’t they let us park there after 3:30?

Also, a mini-rant about metro – What is up with the ticket prices? Seriously. When I was in Berlin I got a day pass for the U-Bahn for around 2 Euro. Between me, my dad and our parking spot, it would have been cheaper to just park in DC and we could have walked to all our destinations from a parking garage. So Metro: Shape up. You are not worth $15.

There was a major delay on the red line, but we were there so early to do other things it didn’t matter. We went to a company called Travelex to exchange my money for Korean won. Before I left the house, I thought about bringing my debit card but decided not to. A bit of a mistake. I haven’t personally exchanged money before, so I didn’t realize that if you use a credit card to get the money, there’s a chance they’ll charge you fees BUT if you use a debit card, they don’t charge you any additional fees (other than the ones you’d get anyway – which I bypassed because of the amount I was exchanging). Oops… I hope I fall under the case of ‘no fees’.

Another mini-rant about money exchanges. I do not like them or their fees. I can maybe understand a fee for using a credit card, because they have to forward you the money, I guess.  But when my dad asked if there would be extra fees if I just waited to get the money at the airport the employee said there would be… which is just silly… I don’t know. I just don’t think you should charge people to switch to another currency but then I guess it is a service and they have expenses and stuff. Plus, everything at the airport’s more expensive anyway. On an amusing note, my dad walked around for the rest of the day joking about being a millionaire because he had a million or so won in his pocket. I think his souvenir that I’m going to bring back for him will be a T-shirt that says “In Korea, I’m a millionaire”. I hope they exist.

We stopped at Borders to warm up (because it was freezing for a lot of the morning) and I tried looking for a good Korean dictionary or phrase book. They did not have one. I probably should have gotten those before now but I haven’t been able to find one I think is good. And since the Borders in Washington DC, the capital with diplomats galore, didn’t have a good selection, I don’t know that many other bookstores would. Also, I was disappointed to find that the 1,000 Place to Go Before You Die book did not have any sites from South Korea (or North Korea for that matter). Yet I saw pages for China, Japan, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Vietnam, Cambodia… Azerbijan… How does South Korea not have ONE place you should go see before you die? Seriously, they had 1,000 spaces. There should be at least one from every country in there… There were at least FIVE German castle in there. I think one of those castles could give up its space. Neuschwanstein can pretty much represent them all.

At the Korean Consulate, things finally started going very smoothly. I had to fill out a bunch of forms that were pretty much exactly what I had already filled out on other forms but whatever. At least I knew what to put. But then I spoke to the guy at the check-in window about getting my Visa early. I had talked to him when I called to set up the interview, and he said that the earliest I could get the Visa would be Thursday at 4pm. (Normally you pick it up on Friday) HE said that. When I asked him about that again today, he just kind of nodded and then wrote down on my receit that I could pick it up on Friday… So I asked him again, if I could get it on Thursday because Friday is too late. I would miss my ONLY flight that can get me there on time and I would miss the LAST TRAINING DATE OF THE YEAR for Chung Dahm and that would really suck. And he said Thursday would be fine and didn’t change the date on the ticket… I don’t know if he didn’t understand that I was worried about the date he was putting down or he just wanted to get me out of there or what but… I was pretty worried.

I had to wait about 45 mins for the interview, which wasn’t that bad since they did let me start filling out the forms at 2pm. There were actually a bunch of other people there interviewing for an E-2 Visa. I should have asked them where they were teaching (I knew they had to be going to be English teachers because the E-2 Visa, for teaching, is the only Visa that requires an interview for Korea – lucky us). The interview went really smoothly. She asked me pretty basic questions: why do I want to go to Korea (because experiencing news cultures is AWESOME), what experience do I have as a teacher (BOAT LOADS… but seriously, I’ve worked with kids A LOT and taught A BUNCH – not as a formal teacher though), do I have a place to stay (NO! Okay, I didn’t shout that, but I explained Chung Dahm would help me with it).

Then she asked me when I would be leaving. So I brought up the conflict with getting my Visa and my flight time. She seemed very surprised and was not at all expecting me to need it by 4pm on Thursday. Needless to say, I am glad brought that up. She wrote down on my receipt and her receipt that I need with the passport with a Visa sticker (Oh yeah, if you don’t know, you need to turn in your passport to get a Visa, or at least the E-2) on Thursday at 4pm. Actually,  it said AFTER 4pm… surely it means the same thing… right? I’m still a little nervous it won’t be ready on time, but I’m planning on getting there early on Thursday to remind them in case they’re taking their time or something. Ah, bureacracy…

After that, I called up the travel agent that was holding my flight and I officially booked it. I’m leaving for Korea on Thursday at 8:25pm (Yay!). Provided there is no bad weather. That’s the one problem with my flight. It and the connection at JFK in New York are the last ones of the night to Seoul so if I miss them… I’m stuck here ’til January. FINGERS CROSSED! If all goes well, I will be arriving in Seoul on Saturday at the horrible hour of 5:20am. It won’t really be horrible for me, but I have to call a representative from Chung Dahm as soon as I land and I feel a little bad about that… If I were him, I’d be sleeping.

Tomorrow will be my last post from America!