We live in Daejeon, so we are able to drive to Seoul in a few hours or take the KTX there which only takes 50 minutes, but that doesn’t mean we go often. Since Junkyu started his new company, he spends his weekends at the office a lot of the time.
However, I had to go to the U.S. Embassy to get an Affidavit of Eligibility for Marriage, which is the first step in getting married to a Korean citizen as an American. It wasn’t particularly hard, but it was very stressful and a little time-consuming. I did get to play in Seoul a little bit after I got my document, though, so here’s a recap of my Friday in the capital city!
I left the house about an hour before my train to Seoul, thinking it was enough time to get there, but I caught the subway that only left me about five minutes to get to the platform and board. I decided to run through the station, and I had about a minute to spare getting on my train. The train ride was about two hours long (since I took the Mugunghwa, which is slower but much cheaper – costing only ₩10,000) and I sat next to a really lovely lady who told me about the time she lived in America and about the books she likes to read.
When I finally got to Seoul station, I killed some time in a book store and found a book adaptation of the Disney movie Inside Out in Korean. I figured it would be a great way to practice reading a story in Korean, since I already know the plot. However, I didn’t buy it right away, as I figured I should get on the bus to the U.S. Embassy soon.
I walked up to the bus stop map to try to find which one my bus would arrive at, and a Korean man was standing there, offering information about the buses, and told me to stand at number 3. I went over and saw that my bus was arriving, the correct number and everything, so I happily boarded and took a seat. I watched the cityscapes go by and kept an eye on the stop names to make sure I could get off in time. But then some time passed, and it was almost 1:30pm, which was my appointment time, so I decided to look up where I was in relation to the embassy on my phone, and my eyes bulged. I was on the right bus, going the wrong way.
I didn’t have time to think, I just got off at the next stop and crossed the street. I thought about taking the subway, but thought it might make me late, and I saw a taxi, so I got in. Usually, taking a taxi for me takes less time, so I didn’t think I would be too late to my appointment. Then I remembered that I was in Seoul, the traffic capital of Korea. The ride took a long time and cost me almost ten times what the subway would have, so I really regretted not taking a train.
I called the U.S. Embassy and got a woman who spoke English. I told her my predicament and she transferred me to a man who worked at the gate. He didn’t speak English. I surprised myself by being able to communicate the fact that I was late but on my way, and he told me it was okay and that I could arrive around 2:30pm if I had to. I hoped that was a sign that I wasn’t going to be locked out even though I traveled all the way to Seoul.
The taxi driver let me out, and I eventually found my way toward a building surrounded by police men and guards. I went up to the front, but was told that the entrance was around the side. I saw a few non-Koreans on cell phones, probably hoping to get inside, and I walked straight up to the counter and showed the guard my appointment details. He asked me why I was late, but I explained that I called and informed them I would be, so he didn’t seem to mind. He crossed my name off a list and let me inside a heavy metal door.
I had to give up my phone, my Kindle, and my iPod before going in, but the guards were sweet and complimented me on my Korean skills. I went inside a room that almost exactly resembles the DMV, took a number, and sat down. About 20 people were ahead of me, and all that was available for entertainment were the kids running around and the TV, which was blasting news about Donald Trump. *shudder*
A few other guys seemed to be doing the same thing as I was, getting an Affidavit of Eligibility for Marriage. I thought it would be fun to talk to them, but thought better of it and sat in silence, looking all around at the people who were there getting passports for newborns, settling legal issues, and getting documents notarized.
Finally, it was my turn and the staff members who worked there were really helpful and efficient. They gave me my Affidavit and I filled it out, paid, and waited to be called back for an interview. At this point, the other two guys who were getting their Affidavits were sitting behind me, so I asked one what the time was, and then we started talking about getting married and that sort of thing. It was nice not to feel so alone anymore. I was the last one to be interviewed, and all I had to do was swear an oath that I was not legally married or anything like that that might prevent me from marriage in Korea.
I got my form and left, finally free and not so stressed. I had a few hours to kill before my friend could meet me, so I went to the shopping district around Ewha Women’s University and went back to Needle Story (바늘이야기) the yarn shop I visited a few months ago. Then, I went to Table A, the adorable cat cafe nearby, where I sat petting kitties and drinking strawberry lemonade. My friend started making her way to our meeting spot in Hongdae, but I was there a good while before her.
We decided to eat at a place called Lord Sandwich, which was a really cute English tea room-looking cafe. We ate salads and pizza bread, and I sipped on some tea as we discussed girly wedding planning details. Then we got ice cream waffles before I got on the subway back to Seoul station.
I passed the book store on the way to the train platform, so I went in and bought the Inside Out book, thinking I could read it on the train ride home. I was too exhausted, though, from all that walking and stressing out about forms and train times.
It was fun going to Seoul, and I definitely feel that the capital city has a different vibe than Daejeon, where we live. Even so, I love my city and I was very glad to be back home.