The day I went to interview at the Korean Consulate in Newton, I almost lost my roommate's dog. When The Veganess came home, she greeted by enthusiastic yipping from the back porch, The Puppy sticking her head between the railings and yelping, "I'm so glad that you're home!"
I was standing in the kitchen, stacking the dishwasher, completely oblivious to the fact that I had locked The Puppy out. I had been distracted in the morning, leaving the door carelessly open. I dressed myself carefully, taking the time to make sure I didn't look like the vacationing ragamuffin that I currently am. I had just enough presence of mind to brush my teeth and put in my pearl earrings, and I didn't bother to check when I closed the back door to see if The Puppy was lingering in the sunshine.
This interview is a pretty big deal. In order to get and E-2 visa, I had to meet with the Korean Consul. This is, I am sure, to make sure that I'm not a psycho-drug-dealing floozy masquerading as an English teacher. I know that's what they would check for, because the interview tips sent to me by recruiter included helpful nuggets like "deny all drug use". After skimming the list of questions, I realized that I needed to put on my ultra "goody-goody" gear to make the right impression.
Yes, I said skim just now.
It was not until I was halfway down Mt. Auburn Street on the 71 bus that I really took a good look at the prep sheet. That's when I saw "They may ask you questions about your generally knowledge of Korea."
My knowledge, such as it is, was taken mostly from the Insight Guides book that I'm not yet done with. And unfortunately, the only name that I seem to be able to remember is Kim Jong-il, and I'm pretty sure that's the one name I definitely should not mention within spitting distance of the South Korean Consulate.
Now I'm sweating, despite the air conditioned bus.
I showed up 30 minutes early to the interview, which was just enough time for me to plop down in the waiting area and watch Korean TV, hoping to gain some last minute insight.
Of course, I don't speak any Korean, so it's not helping.
Then again, even if I did speak Korean, most of the stuff on the TV is adds about toothpaste, tooth gel, healing tooth pain, and cooking frozen dinners.
Interesting, but not helpful.
"This way!" The door into the office opens, and the small man who took my papers waves me inside. "The Consul" he says, "is gibbity elle gibbity".
" EE ELLE EE."
" E L E?"
He shakes his head, "EE ELLLE EE"
I smile and nod. Ok, welp, pronouncing the Consul's name (or was that how you say "Consul" in Korean?" just went out the window.
An office door opens, and there is the Consul. A smiling, friendly, neat looking man. He says hello, and bows. My hand twitches back from almost reaching out to shake his when I see he's not going for it. No hand shaking in this culture, I guess?
I should have known that. That how it goes in the movies.
Not that I make a habit of taking any cultural clues from movies.
I hustle onto the plush leather couch before I can embarrass myself too badly.
"So," says the Consul, flipping through my documents which have magically be transferred to the thick leather folder on his coffee table, "what do you expect from your experience in Korea?"
"Well," I said, "I expect to teach. But also to learn," I start grinning, "I was watching the TV in the lobby. I would love to learn Korean."
He smiles, so I continue.
"Actually, I know one phrase." So I lied early. I know a little Korean.
"I know how to say my name," I put my hands out for balance, "here we go."
"An yong ma seyo*" I say.
"Oh," he chuckles, "An yong ma seyo" (It sounds so much more legit when he says it)
"Chan yun, Mishi, Imnida" I grin, wide. I am truly proud of myself. I kind of can't help the grin.
He laughs, surprised, "Perfect!"
I felt like I had just been given an official pat on the head for saying "Hello, my name is Mishi." I decide I really like this Consul.
We chatted for 5 more minutes - seriously, only 5 - about whether or not I had in Korean friends, and when I was expecting to arrive in Korea. Then it was over.
"Really?" I said, "You don't have any more questions for me?"
"Nope" he smiled again, totally reserved.
We said our goodbyes, and that was that. After all that worrying.
Oh, there was one more thing. When I was on my way out, he said,
"Enjoy your time in Korea!", and I saw myself out.
At home, The Puppy was waiting patiently on the porch. "Did you let her out?" The Veganness asked me, but I couldn't remember. Why would I have opened the door? What was I doing out there?
Oh yeah, opening up an old container I'd found while packing that was full of...
scratch that. It's really gross.
Thankfully, The Puppy stayed put and didn't run away. She is such a good doggy.
*Please excuse the transliteration. I don't know how to write Korean at all yet, so if I got it all wrong, just forgive my lack of knowledge.