I wake up a few minutes after 8 to the less than soothing sounds of my asthmatic poodle. I hate 8 am. I always have. In my sleepy stupor I decide that this is the day I’m going to go pick up my new alien registration card. After all, it has been ready for two weeks. I spend a few minutes checking email and then I start to get ready. I still hate 8 am.
When I head to the bathroom to brush my teeth the poodle joins me. He’s been here long enough that he’s learned my routines and the last few weeks he’s been resorting to emotional blackmail every time I get ready to leave. He begs to be picked up, buries his head in my neck and breaths heavily. He’s like a congested, grief stricken toddler. He has not yet learned that I am immune to puppy blackmail. I carry him around as I finish getting ready and slide into my flip flops. Then I leave him at the door. He’ll be fine.
In the elevator, I am greeted by a Korean man. He asks if I am going to work. I say, no, just running a few quick errands. He understands and asks why I don’t have an umbrella, after all, it is raining outside. Darn it. In an effort to conserve energy I have been keeping my curtains closed. I fail daily in remembering that we have entered Korea’s rainy season. “Is it raining hard,” I ask. “No, just a sprinkle,. But you know rain, it can pick up at any time. Are you going to the grocery store?” He is unaware of the absurdity of asking me that question… “No, I’m going to the Immigration Office.” Our conversation continues until we hit the first floor and we decide I should take a taxi because of the rain.
I walk outside in the misty rain and jump almost instantly in a taxi. “안녕하세요! (Hello!)” He ignores my greeting. “어디? (where?)” To save us both time and frustration, I hand him my phone where I have already pulled up the term 입국 관리국, which means Immigration Office. “Ok,” he says. And off we go. 4100 won later (about $3.70) we pull up to my destination.
I walk into a Korean filled Immigration Office and all eyes are on me. This culture has no shame in staring. As instructed when I requested my new card, I forgo the “pick a number” queue and I walk straight up to the attendant furthest away. The questioning stares transform into a “who the hell does she think she is” gawk. I swear I was just doing what I was told! I hand the young gentleman my receipt and he swaggers back to grab my card. He is a child. I can’t imagine that he’s out of high school but he must be. He swaggers back in my direction carrying my card in one hand while the other hand is up his shirt scratching his chest, revealing his abs to the world. I believe his title is “card fetcher.” He’s clearly not trained in the way the other attendants are. The looks of contempt are clearly not warranted, yet they continue. Then again, perhaps they have shifted their gaze from the arrogant foreigner to the inappropriately exposed teenager behind the counter. Korean culture is ultra conservative and ultra professional. Who knows. I grab my card from him and head towards the door.
It’s still misty, rainy outside. I head out towards the main road to grab a taxi back home. In my typical unaware fashion, I am completely oblivious to the world going on around me and happily wait in the rain. The professional crossing guard walks up closer to share his umbrella. He stands next to me as cars fly by us. “감사합니다 (Thank you)”, I smile. When the little green man appears it’s time for me to walk. He offers to cross the street with me as I head towards the taxi queue. “괜찮아요! (it’s okay!)”, I tell him. Random acts of kindness. I love those.
I hop in a taxi. “안녕하세요! (Hello!)” Again, I’m ignored. “어디? (where?)” “둔산동 현대아이텔,” I say. That’s where I live. Off we go again. I ask him to stop just short so I can go to the bank. Yesterday was payday, time for the monthly ritual of sending half my check home. Seems the conversion rate jumped back up a point or two. That was a nice surprise. On my drizzly walk back home, I pass a couple of foreign girls. I smile and say hello. They muster out a soft hi and awkwardly look away. Foreigners in my specific neighborhood have the stereotype of being a little less than friendly. There is a bit of elitism that goes along with living in the nicest building in town. These two did not disappoint.
I get home and I am immediately attacked by doggie love. Bringing in the poodle has brought a little something back for the wiener dog. That’s partly why I got him. I think I over humanized Charlie over the years and he needs to be able to enjoy being a dog. It’s nice to see him so playful again. I give them both a morning treat and sit down to pay bills. My alarm goes off.
It’s 10am. Time to wake up.