Korea giveth and Korea taketh away, part III.
Asia Time, as you know, works against you. But it can also work with you in the most surprising and sudden ways.
For the last several months I stressed over my sudden implosion of plans; Gyeongnam suddenly wasn’t hiring, other provinces used COVID as an excuse to cut contracts for fall, and the situation in my home country made returning more risky than less.
There’s nothing quite like finding out the “sure” plans I made were dust in the face of the COVID storm, two months before my visa expired.
Pending unemployment and loss of visa status fought to take up a lot of unconscious mental capacity along with the perceived lack of support from my employer.
But Asia Time can be a gift in its own right and in a single day I now have a visa plan, a potential residence, two language program applications, and an immigration status that will allow me to leave and return to Korea without sacrificing my national ID card.
Korea, since the Joseon age, has taken government positions seriously and with respect. You can feel the efficiency, albeit tinged with Asia Time, in every facet of public works. I called immigration three times yesterday and each time talked to someone within three minutes. In fact, I called last night at 9pm to excitedly ask about the seeking-work visa which my tutor mentioned might be more possible than I thought.
And it makes sense– I am looking for work, so a seeking-work visa is actually made for me. I told my tutor about the situation too and she suggested that staying in Korea is easier because Korea is much more forgiving and flexible about visas.
America most certainly is not.
Not that I need a visa to return to my home country, but the US has a lot to learn in how to fund and make public services a priority rather than an entity struggling to stay afloat as funding is cut year after year to fund projects that are much less citizen focused.
In any case, my excitement about this turn-around led me to stumbling across a room share post for a beautiful apartment overlooking the ocean and also a five minute walk from one school’s campus. The couple and their daughter speak English and the two flatmates are women; the daughter, coordinating for her parents, let me know that they are looking for someone now but if the room is still available in two months, they’re happy to rent to me for three months.
Asia Time has let me know that “easy come easy go” is an undercurrent and I don’t have high expectations, but I know this room is a possibility. And in general, there are several buildings by both universities I’m researching that have extremely cheap, dorm-like rooms for rent on a monthly basis.
As I’ll have my own visa, I can enroll in school programs without needing a student visa. I’m not allowed to work but I have enough money to cover six months and also a separate savings account in the US.
There will be a period of no visa between my working visa and seeking-work visa; I asked the immigration guy if I would be deported? He said no, that’s typical, just keep the “processing” paperwork.
I can’t apply for the seeking-work visa until my current visa expires or is almost expired. No, of course that doesn’t make me nervous.
I need to check again if I can apply for the seeking-work visa in advance because I do not want to travel an hour out there to Seoul Immigration Office just to be turned down.
There is a huge list of documents I need to fill out, including proof of residence. This is a bit sticky; I don’t have housing yet and probably won’t until a few days before, or when, I move. If I don’t, I can use a friend’s address for the paperwork along with a copy of their ID. I don’t want to burden any Korean friends with that if I don’t have to, but we’ll see.
So with a little visa magic and a huge stack of paperwork, I think I can make this work.