Saturday, August 21, 2010

Interviewing at the Consulate

Yesterday I spent eleven hours in the car. Jealous?

I had to interview with the Korean Consulate in Chicago to get my visa. Before I go much further in this story, I should explain that I don't know whether the Consulate is the person with whom I interviewed or the office as a whole. In my imagination, the word Consulate is a title, akin to "the wonderful Wizard of Oz", and that is how I will refer to my interviewer for the remainder of this post.

Grandma Pat and I left at 3:45 yesterday morning. Five AM and I hardly get along; 3:45 is my arch nemesis. If I could rid the world of 3:45, I'd feel a whole lot like Spiderman blowing up the Finisher, and I don't doubt that I'd have a day recognized in my honor. Anyway, so we left at 3:45 and drove to Chicago.

I didn't bother to look at the route beforehand since my trusty GPS always gets me where I need to be. Somewhere in my twenty-plus years, I'd been told that it takes six hours to get to Chicago, so that's what I counted on. Five hours later - at 8 AM local time - we pulled into the Windy City. My appointment with the Wizard wasn't until 10:50, and we had nearly three hours to kill. Normally, this would be quite an adventure, but significantly less than half a night's sleep had left me exhausted and cranky. We wandered around the city, but I was far from being a bundle of fun. My grandma, on the other hand, seemed to be energized by lack of sleep, and trotted around that city like it was her only vacation in a decade. At least she had fun :)

At 10:30, we trudged up the stairs to the Wizard's office. By the time I got to the counter to check in, my hands were shaking so much I had to set my papers down. I knew the interview was really a series of questions like "Do you want to go to Korea?" and "What continent is Korea on?", so I had no legitimate reason to be nervous. But the tiny woman on the other side of the window held the key to whether I get to move to Asia next week, and that made me all kinds of anxious.

I sat down on a couch to wait next to my new friend Billy. He wasn't my friend when I sat down, but once we discovered our mutual adoration for euchre and he told me the one thing he needs in his suitcase is his George Forman grill, I knew we'd get along just fine. We chatted about living abroad, etc (you don't really want to know the specifics of small talk, do you?) until we were called back together along with another girl for our interview, leaving Grandma Pat with Billy's mom on the purple couches.

The Wizard was incredibly friendly. Billy and I admired the view while we waited for the Wizard to be ready. When he sat down, he pointed out the window and said something about a foot and Lake Michigan before laughing hysterically. Either Korean jokes are very different than American ones or something did not get translated properly, but Billy, Angelica, and I just chuckled awkwardly. He asked some very basic questions ("What will you be doing to make money in Korea?"), but he quickly abandoned those for standard chitchat. We discussed Angelica's college (Northwestern - wow) and the fact that Billy and I are rivals (I claimed to care more about THE Ohio State University than I actually do for the sake of animosity. I think I even scooted away from him on the couch to make a point.) Then the Wizard started asking me questions.

I should note that he didn't ask anyone else individualized questions. The three of us would each answer in turn to all the previous questions, but he suddenly decided he only wanted to talk to me. He asked if I was fifteen (thanks, Wiz) then laughed at his own joke. When I told him I am almost 24, he launched into a story about his 24-year-old daughter who is studying to get her PhD. Suffice it to say, I didn't connect much with that story, seeing as I am abandoning all educational responsibility for the sake of teaching some first graders their numbers. I've never had any desire to get a PhD, but I nodded along politely while he bragged about his daughter. (He was so proud of her; it was adorable).

He proceeded to ask me more questions - just me - while Angelica and Billy watched. I included them in conversation as best I could, but when discussing my younger sisters and what they do (no joke), the other two in the room had little to say. He then asked if Billy and I were dating. No, he didn't ask; he stated it, then asked why we were teaching in different cities. We tried to explain that we were not dating and that we had actually just met in the waiting room, but the Wizard would hear nothing of the sort. He finally finished by telling me that if I don't want to date Billy, he's certain I'll find someone I do want to date in Seoul. Um, alright?

As we walked out the door, he pointed at me and said, "This one is very bubbly! She will have fun in Korea." - as if the other two were destined to sob pathetically in their rooms every day. The three of us left the Wizard's office, exchanged email addresses, and headed off to our respective cities.

Now is more waiting. I left my passport and a nineteen-dollar envelope at the office, and once they process my application, my passport will be overnighted back to me. The principal of the school (who seems to be the most precious woman ever) had already emailed me twice asking if I can leave on Wednesday. Assuming my paperwork gets processed first thing Monday, the earliest I can leave is Tuesday, and I don't have any guarantee that it will be processed on Monday. It's weird and a little irritating to not have any set details, but this means that I will FOR SURE be able to get Mockingjay before I leave so I can read it on the plane. I won't even notice the flight with that book in my hands! Hooray!

My principal told me that they are all anxious to meet the "beautiful and talented new teacher" next week. I can't help but laugh as I imagine any boss I've ever had referring to me as either "beautiful" or "talented." Korea's going to be hilarious.


  1. Hey Nikki,

    Found your blog. I enjoy information from bloggers like you since it help ease the process for a noobie like me. I have a question though, if you can answer... Do you remember how many days in advance you scheduled your appointment with the consulate? I don't have my visa insurance number yet, but I don't want to delay my process any longer. Thanks ahead of time!


  2. Hi Katie! I scheduled my interview the day I got my visa number. They get you in pretty quickly, but they're not very friendly, so I wouldn't recommend scheduling until you're sure you're ready to go. I wouldn't want to have to call back to reschedule :)