Sunday, August 31, 2008

Don't want al qaeda; give me al cohol!

From 38,000 feet over Tennessee, possibly Kentucky; wherever it is, it sure looks fluffy.

It’s not easy being a terrorist.

I had a hard time checking in at the United desk at JAX at 5:30 this morning. I had my e-ticket and everything. (Fortunately, I am tall enough to ride this ride.) But it wasn’t going through, and a United rep had to call… somebody. United or the TSA or Korean Air. Possibly Commisoner Gordon.

Anyway, it turns out that the school rep in Daegu who booked my flight, in the seeming misapprehension that I’m Korean, entered CORNMAN as my first name and STEPHEN as my last. Since the computer’s looking for CORNMAN STEPHEN and my passport says STEPHEN CORNMAN, my boarding pass got stamped (in threatening-looking red) for special handling.

The small inconvenience is that I have to listen for announcements for “Mr. Steffen”; the rather bigger deal is that I had to go through a whole special level of scrutiny to get to the gate: shunted aside to the “look at that big bushy mustache, he’s probably a ay-rab” line, placing my feet on the printed prints in a little booth while little puffs of air blew me (maybe I should rephrase that), every item in my carry-ons gone over meticulously with a wand.

I get to do it again in Chicago, too. Happy happy joy joy.

Finally I was cleared by the alert and cheerful security people and here I am, cruising along toward O’Hare. The little drop-down monitors are showing The Office and some E! behind-the-scenes show (apparently Owen Wilson had some little emotional problem, but the sound doesn’t work at my seat, so I may never know), and The Big Bang Theory, a title that doesn’t really bear thinking about at this altitude.

I finished the Times Sunday puzzle, and then I got bored with reading Gore Vidal’s Lincoln and the Florida Times-Union (remember, you can’t spell “flatulent” without “Fla. T-U”) and playing Diner Dash and Mah Jongg Quest and Chess Titans on the laptop and, trying desperately to not just sit here thinking about how I’m going 38,000 miles per hour in a little metal tube 600 feet above the ground'

So I'm dedicating this time to entertaining you, my beloved readers. You know you’re my first priority. I hope that someday my readership rises to the double digits. In number, that is; in IQ, we’re already there, some of us higher.

At any rate, did you know that clouds are really, really bright on their tops? Maybe somebody should flip them over, then we’d have sunshine every day! Just a thought.

Later, dudes; I need to recharge my laptop. (Hey! I just thought of a good slogan for Viagra!)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ruh roh!

I have no idea where to start this; so much has happened, and in the next 80 hours I'll be traveling from Atlanta to St. Augustine to Jacksonville to Chicago to Seoul to Daegu.

To cut the story down considerably, I came to Atlanta to get my Korean work visa; I started driving from St. Augustine Tuesday evening, after the most triumphant Hogwarts team won at trivia, and stopped for the night in scenic Adel, Georgia. I drove the rest of the way to downtown Atlanta in the morning and had my one-minute interview with the Korean consul-- he had four of us in there, talked to me first, heard about my degree and experience, and told me I was cleared.

I had originally planned to drive back to St. Augustine today and wait for the passport to be mailed back to me, but the only way I can be in Daegu on time to train on Monday morning (September 1, the start of my contract) is to wait until tomorrow at 2 p.m. and pick it up at the consular office.

So I checked into an EconoLodge on the south edge of the city, where I sit even now, at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, and went to the Braves game... I kind of wanted to have my last big fun thing in the US to be something I really love, and I hadn't been to a major league game in nearly twenty years.

When I got back to my room, I found that Fred, the representative in Daegu, is booking me to fly out of Jax at 7:27 a.m. Saturday! So I'll have from 9 or so Thursday night, when I get home, through Friday to wrap everything up at home. It can't possibly be done, my friends.

I'm going to be flying out of Jax to O'Hare, where I'm supposed to sit from 8:57 to 1:00 p.m. central time, then have a lovely thirteen-hour-and-fifty-minute flight to Seoul, where I touch down at 4:50 p.m. Sunday Korean time, take off at 7:20, and touch down in Daegu at 8:15. (If you're scoring at home, according to my body clock Seoul arrival is at 3:50 a.m., departure at 6:10 a.m., Daegu arrival at 7:25 a.m. I expect to be tremendously alert during the layover in Seoul.) The entire trip from Jax to Daegu is theoretically 12 minutes short of 24 hours. Add on getting to JAX and from the airport in Daegu and it will total... uh, carry the three... exactly six weeks.

So I suppose I'll get to my new apartment at 8 or 9 Sunday night Korean time and start training at school the next day. At least, as I'm still under 80 years old, I shouldn't have any jet lag.

Actually, I already have jet lag just from driving to Atlanta. Ruh roh.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Yodaaiee kamja

It strikes me (a little late in the game) that one of the scariest things I'm letting myself in for is that I will be functionally illiterate for a long time. I'm bad at a lot of stuff, but I've always considered myself gifted with... what's the term I want? Oh, words.

I'm not too worried about oral communication; I'll just smile and shrug and play Cletus the slack-jawed yokel and maybe people will think I'm adorable. I already know about a dozen Korean words and can create such useful sentences as "Annyeounghaseyo, piyongyi" (Hello, cat) and "Yodaaiee kamja" (Girl potato). I admit that not knowing any verbs could be a drawback...

But it's the reading, stupid. I don't want to follow a sign I think is to the post office and end up in the women's room. It's been fifty years since I've been worried about my reading ability, and I'm not looking forward to it. 말을 하기!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Everyone knows it's windy

The wind and the rain just keep coming, the yard is littered with branches, and in the yard the frogs are... well, you see. The garage sale tomorrow is definitely off. The world is grayer and wetter than a gray nurse shark that won a gold medal in wet grayness.

On the brighter side, and it's nice that something is bright, the school in Daegu finally emailed me my visa registration number and I made an appointment for my short interview at the consulate in Atlanta: next Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. I'll need to leave the house by 5 or so, but if all goes well (which would be a first) I might make it to Korea by the time my contract starts on September 1.

'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished...

Friday, August 22, 2008

It was a dark and stormy day

Tropical Storm Fay is whipping by at up to 50 miles per hour and the forecast calls for half a foot or more of rain. Already, when I went out to the back yard to record the attached video, I sank up to the ankle.

I guess I'm being prepared for the monsoon season next summer in Korea. For now, I'm on a deserted island in a sea of uncertainty. (I'll try to avoid force-feeding you any more metaphors.) (Ah, crap, I did it again.)

I'm pretty isolated in the house, as the authorities are telling everyone to stay home. There's no place to go, anyway; I don't need anything from outside and it's dangerous to drive... even more dangerous than it usually is when I drive. As long as I have my Web and my tv, I'll manage, though it is a little lonely. I just hope that the power stays on and the plastic sheeting doesn't blow off the valuables waiting on the porch for the garage sale that will theoretically take place on Saturday.

As for the uncertainty, I'm waiting for email from Like School in Daegu giving me a visa registration number from the Korean government. Then I'll need to make an appointment with the Korean consulate in Atlanta: twelve hours of driving for a ten-minute interview to prove that I'm a native English speaker. Apparently a master's degree in teaching English isn't proof enough. Then the school will buy me a ticket. Oddly, there don't seem to be any direct flights from St. Augustine to Daegu.

I'm supposed to be working in Korea on September 1; if the timeline the school gave me is accurate, I'll hear from them sometime between today and Monday, unless of course it takes longer, as it sometimes does.

So the whole deal is up in the air, and I want things to move. I wish I were there now.

Thanks for reading... please keep checking back. I bet I get better at this. Maybe the next entry will be entertaining. You never know.