Saturday, May 29, 2010

What You Missed in May

As I said in my last post, I've been failing to blog much this month. I've been on two road trips with Min Gi, which I plan to post about each separately over the next couple days, but also other stuff's been going on while I was preparing all these papers and dealing with Min Gi's injured back...

--After a night in the hospital, Min Gi took about two weeks to recover. This was the hardest part of our married life to date (although not nearly so trying as my two-week long hospitalization and several month recovery of last year). It's harder on us if Min Gi is sick because he is the natural extrovert. Usually he deals with this by going out with his friends a couple nights a week, but during this time he was pretty confined to the house with me (introverted me who works at an extrovert's job and needs my downtime) as his only social outlet. Also, paying for the hospital bill made us deal with the fact that we haven't yet fully combined our resources (we're kind of waiting until the U.S. to do this for several reasons) which made us have our first two money fights--ew! Thankfully, we've figured out that we were fighting mostly because each of us thought the other needed money and we were worried because we each only have enough for ourselves until America. However, as he now fondly declares, his "back is back!"

Look--I'm a real 아줌마 now--I've made cucumber kimchi (오이 소박이)!

--I continue learning new Korean recipes. And now, I've made my first kimchi! I followed this recipe, mostly (I like fresher kimchi, so I only let it sit out for two hours and I used 4 large cucumbers cut into quarters, instead of 10 small pickling ones), with some help from online youtube videos.

--We took the cats to the vet for their rabies vaccine as part of the preparation for their journey to America. Saja was fine, but Princess took quite ill from the stress and the shot and threw up for three hours, even some blood during the last bit. We were very worried, but she turned out just fine.

Cousin waves from Gomo's headquarters in Sangju

--It's election season. Everywhere we look, there are women dancing on cars with loudspeakers blaring the virtues of their particular candidate. Min Gi and I took a trip to visit Gomo, who is running for office in the small town of Sangju, to offer our support.

--All the stress from stuff this month has made me go WAAAAY off my health goals, but I'm finding my way back. My new thing is being a vegan every other day. So far, I like it.

--Julian, who took our wedding photos at the temple, sent us his photos from the wedding and the party that followed. Check out the album, if you like:
Wedding Ceremony & Party at Asurajang (Julian)

Immigration Saga Part 2 (Or... Why I Haven't Been Blogging)

Min Gi's interview for a CR-1 at the U.S. embassy in Seoul was on Thursday, May 27 at 8 a.m. I posted about our first round of filing (the I-130 form) a couple months ago. Since then, we've been gathering documents like some long drawn-out scavenger hunt. When I had the final packet assembled and ready to go before our trip up to Seoul, I felt like I did when I'd completed my final paper for grad school last year. It was almost as much work!

To sum up: Interview: Pass; Documents: One Fail. We were blue-paper-ed. I'll explain it all below. Generally, it's a good outcome, but we have to re-file the erroneous document, which means one more trip to Seoul for Min Gi.

What happened: We arrived at about 7:40 and sat on the chairs outside the embassy. However, at about 8:10 we realized they were for non-immigrant visa applicants, so we went into the building.

They did a document intake and told us to wait (the document intake lady was not so nice, but the interviewer was very nice). We were called up again, they took Min Gi's fingerprints (no ink!). They sent us to the cashier to pay ($400-- or 480,000 won that day, you do need exact change if using won). We waited for the interviewer to call us up. We got to watch other couples/families interview at the glass window.

Although the consular interview is designed to be done by just the applying immigrant spouse (because the U.S. citizen or permanent resident already lives in the U.S.), you can do it together if you plan to travel at a later date, you just need to prove future domicile instead of current, which is a bit tricky. Our interview itself was three questions long and the interviewer cut Min Gi off in the middle of answering the question about what he would do in the U.S. saying she wasn't "going to pry any further into our personal lives." We were out of the building by 10:15 a.m.

We followed the checklist provided by the embassy, which included the following documents (with copies of everything because otherwise they might keep the originals):

--Min Gi's passport (valid for at least 8 months)
--two recent passport-style photos
--a receipt for delivery of the visa and passport (you pay cash on delivery; the forms are available at the embassy)
--another set of identification papers (Certificate of Kinship, Certificate of Marriage, and Certificate of Personal Records and photocopies and translations) for Min Gi
--A medical test (this test is very specific and only 4-5 hospitals in Korea are able to perform it; however, the instructions are pretty clear--don't forget your passport and passport photos and $150, though or you'll have to make more trips than you want to; oh yeah, and this is the exception to the copies--DO NOT OPEN THIS ENVELOPE!!!)
--A Criminal History Record for Min Gi from Korea (if you've lived in other countries, you need those records, too) and a translation with a signed statement from the translator
--An Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) filled out by me along with IRS transcripts of my income taxes for the last 3 years and proof of my citizenship (passport and birth certificate), hopefully proving I can support Min Gi financially in the U.S. However, the U.S. gov't does not count my foreign income. This is nice for saving money on taxes, but it means I have essentially earned $0 since August 2007. The gov't does not cotton to poor folk joining them (the Statue of Liberty--she's a-lying). Therefore my dad agreed to help me out--this is where we made a mistake!!!
--Proof of Domicile in the U.S. To prove I was moving to the U.S., I included my contract showing the end date in August, a document I signed for work announcing my intention not to renew, my one-way plane ticket, some e-mail receipts for counties where I've submitted job apps as well as correspondence with another job opportunity I'm pursuing, a letter from my mom saying that we will live with them until we can move into our own place and that my belongings in the U.S. are currently stored there, my Maryland state driver's license showing my parents' address, and highlighting the IRS transcripts had been received at that same address. The interviewer complimented me on this stuff, so I think it would be a good model to follow.
--Because I need a joint sponsor (my dad), I had to write a letter explaining why (in case my $0 income was not obvious evidence enough)
--Joint Sponsor's Affidavit of Support. Here is where we made the mistake. I assumed that since I'd had to go through all of those hoops above to PROVE that I'd be living with my parents that dad should fill out the form I-864 A for an adult member of my household. However, they wanted him to fill out form I-864 (as if he were an Independent Joint Sponsor). We also submitted proof of his citizen status (a copy of his passport) and the last three years' IRS transcripts. We have to submit the correct form in order for the visa process to finish. We were given a blue paper listing the document to submit and told that we can show up any Wednesday 8:30-10, sans appointment.

I also had a stack of proofs that we're a real couple prepared. The interviewer didn't even glance at them. There was a lot of wasted energy! (I do recommend you do this as if they are suspicious of your relationship, they could ask you for documentation. We didn't see it happen to anyone, though.)

Lessons Learned:
--Have anyone helping you out fill out both possible forms in case you assume the wrong one--GRR!
--Over-prepare, but don't stress. If you're missing something it's not that hard to fix (being blue-paper-ed is not the end of the world). You don't have to interview again or anything, just visit the embassy on a Wednesday morning.
--VERY IMPORTANT: You must enter the U.S. within six months of the MEDICAL TEST. I thought (because it says so on the embassy site) that you have six months from the visa approval date. As a result Min Gi has to travel before September 11 and will miss Chuseok this year. This is very annoying. However, we now have bought his plane ticket (September 9) which is a load off my mind.

P.S. Thanks Dad for running around and re-doing your part. You've been awesome!

P.P.S. Thanks Kristin who put us up in Seoul the night before. I hope this helps you not get blue-paper-ed.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Calling All Teacher Dorks.

Since I will be leaving the country in less than three months, my school is looking to replace me. It's a great place to work with amazing students and co-teachers, although a lot more demanding (both intellectually and in terms of work load) so we're looking for someone who really enjoys teaching. Actually my job is one of the reasons I'm most reluctant to leave Korea.

It's through EPIK, so it's on the EPIK pay scale. Since we have two teachers at the school, the school would prefer a female candidate (the other teacher is William who is signing on again). Feel free to contact me with questions and for more info.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Do Over / Vicarious Sailing Adventure

I'm calling a "do over" on all of last week. I spent most of the week either angry or worried and doing severely unhealthy things as a result. So I'm starting anew from today. Went for a hike first thing this morning and it feels nice.

Min Gi also was feeling up to joining me. He keeps saying, "My back is back!" It's very silly. But I am quite happy that he's feeling better. It's been a bad week.


In other news, my father, brother, dad's co-worker, and brother's friend drove up to Connecticut last week to retrieve the sailboat my dad bought in anticipation of his retirement and sailed it back to Maryland. He has renamed the boat the Katherine Marie in honor of my grandmother. I almost begged to take a week off school to fly back and join them on the three-day trip.

Here's what I missed (written by Dad's co-worker):

No need to hum the tune of Gilligan’s Island… this was a fun adventure…

Lady Beatrice – 2006 Catalina 310

Ernie – boat owner & captain
Ernie’s son – Brian
Brian’s friend – John


April 30: Friday – left Old Bay Marina in Baltimore around 8am and drove to Branford CT, 'Bruce and Johnson Marina' arriving around 3:30pm. Ernie had the Surveyor (Adrian) and a boat delivery captain (Dave) there to verify the boat was “good to go” and to help us with the planning for the journey (particularly – catching the tides correctly). Took the boat out, gave her a ‘sea trial’ to complete the survey, came back in, and Ernie had Dave and Adrian adjust the motor alignment, and we were all set. Ate some dinner at the marina restaurant – which serves excellent lobster bisque. Brian and John returned the rental van and we all spent the night on the boat…

May 1: Saturday morning @ 5:30 – left the marina and motor-sailed down Long Island Sound in the company of a J30. Passed Execution Rock around 1:30pm and arrived at Hell Gate a little after 2:30 – caught the tide just right and zipped through the East River at 11knots racing the J30 the whole way… Saw the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty (from the water of course) and made our way into NY Harbor – avoiding the shipping traffic. Motor-sailed down NY Harbor (leaving the J30 in our wake) and entered the Atlantic Ocean around 4:30pm.

Motored through the night - rough ride, howling wind coming from the south, 8ft seas..... Don't know how fast the wind was - boat doesn't have wind instruments - but we were motoring about 5 knots dead into the wind (slowing considerably at the bottom of each trough)…

May 2: Sunday – Saw the sunrise over the Atlantic. We were bouncing around so much it was hard to tell how much fuel we really had – the needle went anywhere from nothing to half full, so we did the smart thing and decided to pull into Atlantic City for some diesel. Tied up at Trump Marina @ 8:30am Sunday morning.

BTW - did you know that cigarettes cost $12 in a casino..... Brian found that out!

After fueling, trash disposal, and ice purchase, motored back out. Wind was still on our nose.....made it to Cape May @ 4pm and were tied-up at Utsch's Marina by 4:40pm. Hot showers, cold beer, and hot dinner. Spent the night at the marina sitting out a thunder storm that never came.... The Lucky Bones restaurant in Cape May has good food, but their seafood bisque isn't anywhere near as good as the lobster bisque we had in Branford. While at the marina, we met some guys delivering a Hunter PassageMaker 42 to Norfolk. They too were out in the Atlantic battling the waves – headed to Ocean City MD for a stopover on the way south – but decided to pull into Cape May for a respite (and a change of course – now they were going to go up the Delaware Bay, through the C&D canal, and down the Chesapeake to Norfolk). Two of their crew (Doug & Tom) helped us put on the dodger and bimini – which was much appreciated… The Hunter crew told us they were leaving at 7:30am the next morning and we decided to go out with them.

May 3: Monday – As I was walking back from buying coffee around 6:30am, I saw the Hunter pulling out… so much for leaving together. We left the marina @ 7:45am, exiting via the Cape May canal. Hit the bottom twice in the canal (and the boat only draws 4'10" - not marked very well!) but got off the mud just fine. There was dredge in the middle of the canal – I think they need to do the sides….

Caught the flood tide in the Delaware Bay and motored along between 6 - 7 knots. The wind was howling again, this time on our beam - according the radio, it was 25knots with gusts over 30, so the sails didn't come out.... At some point, the wind died down enough and we rolled out the jib and motor sailed some more, reaching 8.7 knots (woo hoo). We saw a boat motor-sailing coming up behind us (so of course we were now racing). We beat the boat to the C&D entrance… it was the Hunter (that left 1hr 15mins ahead of us). Once we were in the canal, they scooted on by (11 ft more waterline). It was 3:13pm when we entered the C&D. Nice peaceful ride through the C&D – motoring along over 6 knots…

We exited the C&D @ 5:50pm and decided to keep going as fast as we could. Followed the shipping channel down to Poole’s Island, turned right and followed another shipping channel over to Baltimore. Entered Jones Creek around 11pm and were tied up at Old Bay Marina, where Ernie will dock the ‘Lady Beatrice’ (soon to be renamed to ‘Catherine Marie’), by 11:30pm.

Adventure over… I got home a little after 2am Tuesday morning…

STARTED: 5:30am May 1
ENDED: 11:30pm May 3
Non motor-sailing time: approx 1.0 hr in Atlantic City and 15hrs in Cape May

Total time = 66 hrs
Total motor-sailing time = 50 hrs

Brian also took some video of the voyage, including crew interviews. There are four parts on YouTube, but here's the second one:

Well, at least now I have one more good, solid reason to go back to the U.S.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Today did not go as I planned.

This morning, I thought I would go to school, have an easy day of watching my students take midterm exams, and then join my co-workers for a pleasant spring hike at Biseulsan. But that's not what fate had in store for me.

Well, the backache that Min Gi had on Sunday morning turned into a full-blown, crippling spasm that left him unable to move (or stand or sit or lie down for that matter) without excruciating pain. So I spent most of this afternoon and early evening watching my husband curled up in pain in a hospital waiting room (sometimes massaging his aching back to relieve some of the pain) while sick old people watched us wondering what the hell was the deal with the white girl and the young, doubled over Korean guy. The nurses played rock paper scissors so the loser would have to stammer progress updates at me in English (um... did the fact that I responded to you in Korean clue you in that it might be ok to talk to me in Korean?). So, yeah... that was fun.

He seems to be doing better now (mostly thanks to deep breathing and NOT to the hospital's refusal to dispense pain meds, despite the CT scan and x-ray showing that there is no apparent problem in his back so the doctor prescribed "rest" which one cannot get if they are unable to sleep due to the extreme pain). His brother drove me home and took some of his things back to the hospital.

I thought I might assuage my anger at the Korean medical community by watching Michael Moore's Sicko, but instead now I'm just mad at both America and Korea.

When I stop being mad at everyone and everything, I will post about the fabulous road trip we took to Jeollanam-do this weekend. It just might take a few days to cool off... In the meantime, I apologize for my negativity.


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