Saturday, January 10, 2009

Almost being deported, Round 2

One of those days became one of those weeks. I give you the aftermath:

Ramen and chocolate. Gets me every time. Considering I told my coworkers Friday I wish I drank because I would have me a stiff drink after work, this isn't that bad. Both of those piles are from more than one sitting, so not bad at all. :)
Okay, story time.
I told my boss Tuesday that I was planning on leaving at six months, since it seemed relevant since they could be potentially firing me and all and I figured it would be pretty bitchy to spring it on them in a month after all of this.

So they said that I could maybe go home February. That's the end of the school year here and parents expect new teachers in March, so it works out better for them. They said I wouldn't have to pay back my plane ticket here, which is the only reason why I was saying March myself. I'm not complaining.

Well, Thursday I get a call from Mr. Park, the hubby of the lady I worked for. He said that immigration would like to talk to him and all the foreign teachers at 10. This really confused me because he had woken me up and it was 10:15, but it turns out he meant the next day, on Friday. He asked if I would come and I said I had to ask my boss, and he just said okay. The whole thing seemed like an optional request.

I told my boss about it when I got in to work and she said I didn't have to go. At the end of work she told me I did have to go and to meet her at 9 the next morning. -sigh-

I hear from my American boss that night that Tina (my Korean boss) told her that not only was it not optional, but if I didn't go I would be arrested. If I went without Tina, I would be deported, as it shows the school doesn't want me anymore, so I should grovel a bit the next day. (Why are they giving her more details than me, is what I want to know.)

I leave my apartment and get a call from Tina that she's having car issues and will pick me up at 9:30, so I got to kill a half hour at school. We get to immigration at 10:15 and this time got to go to the adjudication unit. There's one other foreign guy in the waiting room, and so we wait. (As a side note, I would expect to see a lot more foreigners in the immigration building. I see more when I go to Itaewon, but then again there could be foreigners from other Asian countries I suppose and I wouldn't know the difference in passing. They don't quite have the beacon the rest of us do.)

The guy goes back first, and it's in this cubicle so I can overhear a good amount of what is being said. He was alone, and I heard him tell them that he didn't have a job right now. He also worked for them a month or longer - I couldn't quite make out how long but much longer than me. I then hear them talking about his exit order and how he has to leave within a week. They call us back while he is getting his stuff together and the guy hands him his penalty fee, that he has to pay today before he can leave the building, of which he said he didn't have the money for. I'm not sure what's going to happen to him, but his total punishment? Deportment and a ₩2.4 million fine. (Current exchange rate has that at $1,783, but to give you an idea my original monthly salary was ₩2.1 million, and is currently ₩1.4 million. After all the bills and stuff are taken out, I get almost exactly ₩1 million a month. Which is about $750. Sadness).

So then it is my turn. Tina has to fill out a statement saying that the school still wants to keep me as a teacher, which I believe is the only thing that kept them from deporting my ass. My penalty is much smaller, since I worked a whopping six hours. My fine? ₩1 million. Yup, a month pay for my ₩200,000 I earned.

Same deal as the other guy - I have to pay before I can leave the building. After I do though, the whole thing is done with and it is expunged from my record. I asked my boss if I could get an advance on my paycheck, which we were getting paid the next day (or maybe Monday because it's a weekend, but close enough) since I took all my cash out of my bank account Monday in case Immigration decided to seize all my assets. She called her boss to see if they could, and then gave me an odd answer.

She pointed out that I was leaving in February (of which I had to provide a letter to the school that morning saying I would be leaving then and I'm wondering if they would have hung me out to dry if I hadn't planned on leaving soon, since she asked me if I had the letter when she was writing out her statement). The penalty is a whole paycheck, and then I wouldn't really have any money left and I have to pay my flight home. Yes Tina, I know and doesn't my life suck? Then she told me that I had an option of not paying the penalty and instead choosing to be deported, in which I would only have to pay my airfare. I would not be able to leave the building and she would have to go home and pack my stuff for me, but that was an option.

Which required pondering. The plane ticket is a paycheck unto itself (why are one-way flights nearly the same as a round trip???) so the difference of staying and working the extra two months would be one additional pitiful paycheck. I called my American boss and my mom (can't wait to see that phone bill this month from that). The thing that bothered me the most was that I wouldn't be able to pack my own stuff, and the fact that my money was very well hidden in my apartment...and Tina's English is not the best in the world.

Obviously, I decided to stay, but there was a few moments of serious debate. It probably didn't help that I was low on sleep and then after all this still had to go teach for six hours. :)

So that's it. The fine is paid, I'm not getting a paycheck, or at least nothing worth noting, this month, and Immigration and I should be over and done with.

On a plus side, my mom spent her panicking hours waiting for me to get home from work and give her a call looking for plane tickets, and found me ones cheaper than I had found myself. Congratulations Mom, you have now officially become a full internet user. May I recommend, where I have booked a ticket home for the grand total of $409. (My best previous was over $900). That helps a lot.

So I officially leave on March 1st. The really funny part? I leave at 6:45pm and get in at 9:15pm, with two layovers. Gotta love the time difference. :)

Sadly, this officially means no Japan though - that was going to be a whole paycheck at least. Actually, the yen is over the dollar right now so closer to two paychecks. Which is probably a good thing because I really want to see Japan, so I'll go when I can really see it instead of a week of an uber-budget trip. I do still get to do my overnight stay at a Buddhist temple, so that's cool. Plus with not budgeting for Japan means I don't have to live like a pauper for the next month and a half...and get to buy cool souvenirs too. :)

So, there is my interesting experience. I've now worked in a foreign country, been questioned by Immigration in a set-up similar to a bad cop movie, and almost been deported two times in a week. It may not have been exactly what I was expecting, but coming to work here has definitely been an experience.


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