1.4 Spring 2020 (COVID Archives)

August 10, Immigration

Phone class lasted about a thousand years. This week I have fifth and sixth grade campers and 20% of students actually did the online work. When it came time for the practice phone call, the other 80% made time screech to a halt.

One student told me he didn’t have the worksheet even though C had confirmed with him twice before that he did, another was typing in the background in a desperate bid to translate answers quickly, and many more were shuffling around papers and had no idea what I was asking.

Why in the world did your parents sign you up for optional summer camp if you don’t have the intrinsic motivation or oversight to complete the work?

I aged a month in one morning and told C it’s going to be a long week. The students who are interested are really interested, so there’s a silver lining. The older sister to the girl last week told me she likes Linkin Park and wants to go to Texas to see Kelly Clarkson. Is she me?? I talked with her a few extra minutes because I knew she wanted to improve speaking and actually has interest in English.

We called one boy four times and by the last call, he finally picked up only to say “I’m eating lunch”. We rightly gave up on him.

Last week and this week shine a light on the gulf of experience that I not only have between grades but between my school and other schools. I’m in a low socioeconomic area which is mostly demonstrated by lack of parent involvement, whether intentional or not. The parents of the third graders seem to be very involved but by fifth and sixth grade, I’m right back to students who simply don’t do the work.

It makes my job very, very hard.

What if all my students, or even a majority, were like third grade?

A girl can dream.

I didn’t have any emotional room left as it was all taken by my impending immigration trip. I darted out of school at 12:25, withdrew the visa fee from my ATM, and hailed a cab. A small splurge during a stressful day.

As my worry mounted, the cab driver finally jerked to a stop in front of Seoul Immigration. Like many cab drivers trying to avoid taxes, he asked that I pay in cash which I refused this time– got to save it for the immigration official.

I entered the crowded office, no different than the DMV, where a comforting waft of foreign sweat greeted me. My people!

Since immigration randomly decided to make the day of my other appointment a holiday, I had to come in and show the cancellation message to a young man who said, “just go to any empty chair”.

“Uh, right now?” I asked in concern.

“Yeah,” he replied, already halfway back to his information booth.

I sat down in a chair where I couldn’t even see the immigration official due to strategic computer and paper placement. She said nothing so I gathered my documents and pushed them through the glass hole.

“You’re working until the 24th.” She said.

“Yes, but my visa ends on the 25th which only gives me one day to change visas so I wanted to come early.”

“You can’t apply early. You need to come back on the 25th,” she said so quietly that I had to stand halfway up in a crouch and put my ear to the glass air holes.

“Okay then… can you tell me if my documents are correct so when I come back I can be sure I’m ready?”

“You need to have a bank statement.”

“I have my bankbook right here.”

“No, you need a form from the bank,” she explained tonelessly. She seemed rather young to already be dead inside.

After I asked, she jotted down the form in Korean and the amount I should have to be approved. I stared at the paper, and she grudgingly rewrote her chicken scratch.

I still can’t read the document name but C later corrected for me.

For all that nothing had been done, I felt relieved that at least I had a practice run. Still, I was concerned that this magical bank document was never mentioned on any forum or even the immigration hotline.

I called the immigration hotline again after the 1.5 hour commute back to my apartment.

The woman, with an unexpected Indian accent, told me that particular bank document is not required but if the officer is asking for it I need to bring it.

Well okay then. Can you tell me any other secret documents they’ll reveal only the day of my appointment?

“Don’t worry, they’re not going to make you illegal,” she commented when I told her my concern about having a single day to switch visas.

“Uh…” I mumbled, as someone from a country where people are regularly and actively deported.

I asked about a student visa but I’ve already missed the deadline (needs to be more than two weeks in advance). Immigration seems incredibly nonchalant about my visa situation so I can only assume everything will turn out okay.

I texted C briefly to let her know and she said it was a sign I should come back to Seoul. She also gleefully reminded me that Gyeongnam doesn’t have subways– interesting take coming from someone who drives everywhere. I didn’t tell her l her that I prefer the bus.

I don’t think being held hostage by my visa is a sign to stay in Seoul but I appreciate her (in)attempts to reel me back. It’s always nice to feel wanted, even if the timing is a bit late.

There’s really nothing more to do but pack, get the document from the bank, and hope I get approved. Otherwise I’ll end up in… immigration jail? Is that a thing in Korea? To be determined.

Ah well, life is all about the journey. Or catastrophe.

2020 is about the same at this point.

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