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Diary entry: TUESDAY
I’m riding in the school van to Incheon. Mr. Chae is driving with white gloves. I got in early, and everyone else got in late. Surfed the internet for a while. Mrs. Sue got in and made sure that I knew that I was going to immigration this morning. I said yes, but I needed to get some pictures for my ID card.

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“You don’t have any?”

(No, I normally don’t carry extra passport photos with me.)

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She got this panicked look then made some phone calls. She told me that a photographer around the corner would take my picture and that she told him to make it snappy. I went over to this place to a guy who spoke no English. He sat me down and shifted my head and shoulders with so much precision, I thought I was being set up for a Presidential portrait rather than a passport photo. “One, twos, tree…” Snapped the picture. We walked to the counter and he wrote “12” and something else in hangul. Good. Twelve minutes. I went back to the school and waited. Came back twelve minutes later. He was serving a couple when I entered and looked up with his fingers indicating “two” and something to the effect of “two seconds.”

“Okay.”

I took a walk around the block. Then it occurred to me. I think the Korean word for “hour” is “shigan.” Did he just tell me it would be two hours? I went back and asked, “Dul shigan?”

He smiled and wrote down “10:30.” Oh, good. Not two hours. Just fifteen minutes. Anyway, I ended up getting my pictures. Most places that take your passport photo give you two photos. This guy gave me ten really nice looking pictures of me. I think he even erased the zit that was developing on my nose.

Anyway, Mr. Chae is driving me to Incheon, an hour away.

Are there U-Turn lanes in the U.S.?

(later)

Okay. We went up to the immigration office and waited. Mr. Chae, who doesn’t speak much English, did his best to communicate with me. The foreigners and Koreans I work with say he isn’t too bright. He was really interested in my big shoes. We tried to figure out what a 10 1/2 was in millimeters. Big. He pointed out a Chinese family talking to someone at the desk.

“Joe. Chinese. Choi, choi, choi, choi, choi, choi.”

Yeah, he was making fun of how the Chinese talked. That was funny. After he talked to this girl, he told me that the wait was one hour.

“Lunch-a?”

“Sure.”

We went across the street to the Korean Air building. Downstairs to the office cafeteria. This was not a tourist site. Nothing in English anywhere. Mr. Chae looked at the menu and was at a loss in trying to explain what they served so I could tell him what I wanted. I asked him, “What do you like?”

“I like all.”

“Me too.”

So we paid around $4 and got our trays, chopsticks and spoons. I followed his lead as the lunch ladies put rice, two types of kimchi, some sweet honey Chinese chicken, soup, and some chewy noodles with beef. Also a dab of hot soybean paste. Don’t come to Korea if you don’t like exotic spicy food. The kimchi was very hot but oh so good. Crunchy, tangy, cool and garlicky. The soup was, well, the best description would be Octopus Noodle Soup. It didn’t have much flavor, but it was fun eating a soup with glass noodles and octopus legs floating in it. Four dollars, and it was more than I could eat. Funny that all my Korean food so far has been institutional food. I was the only foreigner in the cafeteria. One of the lunch ladies was methodically serving the trays when she looked up at me and got spooked. I watched the other Koreans eat to see what they considered to be table manners. Everyone ate differently. One guy was gingerly eating his rice with a spoon while his buddy stuffed huge wads of rice in his mouth with chopsticks. To each his own.

We went back to immigration, where I found the Alien Registration sheet. I filled it out while Mr. Chae stood in line for me. An Irish kid was filling one out too, and we helped each other in trying to figure out what went where. So that’s all done. Mr. Chae will pick up my registration card and passport on Feb. 20.

Brant is waiting for me to take me out for dinner. So I’ll continue this later.

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