Friday, May 3, 2013

My Korean Driver's License

I told you that I finally managed to get my driver's license a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I didn't take pictures along the way, like a good blogger would, but I don't think most of my regular audience cares to see pictures of Seoul Global Center or the eye clinic, so instead I have more pictures of our walk through Namsan the other day. And, yes, a picture of my Korean driver's license (minus the numbers and full name) because I am just that proud of it.

Remember how this story started? That first day when we got our passport pictures, and made it to the Seoul Global Center only to find that they had just moved that day? Fun times. (They're now outside Jonggak station exit 6 in Jongno gu, in case you're looking.) Take two was during spring break when we went attempting to get an international driver's license because our apostille hadn't arrived yet. (An apostille is similar to a notarization, but it is observed by international governments.) Apparently, I was way off on that one--and the girl was horrifically rude about it. The reminder that the staff in the US DOL offices aren't any better didn't help my mood.

Our apostilles finally arrived a couple of weeks ago, so I was determined to try it one more time. I had the day off, so Cade and I ventured out. I realized even before we left that this trip was bound to be better, simply because I was bringing my cute little blond-haired boy. That being said, I still wasn't confident that I would come home with a driver's license.

Thankfully, on the last trip we figured out a quick way to get to the Seoul Global Center; it's just a short bus trip. We found it easily, and while the office was empty early on a Tuesday morning (much emptier than the streets!), someone had beat me to the driver's licensing desk. We were greeted by the same woman who had been so rude the last time. I handed her my apostille, and she told me, in her nasty tone, that it wasn't the correct one. (Are you kidding me?!) I showed her where it had all of the information that the KoRoad website says it must have. This was the part I was worried about. Don't get me started on the process to get that apostille--I don't know where the woman working at the Secretary of State apostille office is from, but she could barely communicate through email. Her writing was nearly indecipherable. I had emailed them asking what I needed to do to get the particular apostille that Korea needs, and it seemed easy enough. I sent off the two different sets of forms and three different checks (don't ask!), and was feeling good. But the emails got more and more difficult to understand. After having spent over $60 to get the apostille, I was pretty sure that it wasn't going to work at all.

Thankfully, I was able to show the woman the dates and such that the website said were required. She called someone and had a long conversation in Korean where I'm pretty sure she was making fun of me, but she hung up and said it would work. So, I don't really care what she had to say about me! From that point on, her tone was completely different. Apparently, she deals with too many stupid people--and I had been one of them up to that point.

She filled out some forms; I wrote my name and numbers in about 8 places. Then she was nice enough to let me email her my June flight informatio , so that she could print it out and put it in my file. So, I even got to keep my US driver's license. Then, she gave me some forms and sent me down to the eye clinic to be checked out. She gave me a little map of where to find the place, but I was so turned around I couldn't even figure out which direction I was supposed to be going. I'm not sure why north was not on the map. I eventually figured out which direction to head. Then I was faced with a very large building, unsure of whether it was the right one. We headed in and managed to find the clinic on the fourth floor.

That was yet another interesting experience--a lot of sitting in different places, entering different rooms, and doing different things with my eyes. Sometimes it is amazing to me how much can be communicated even without a common language. The whole trip to the eye clinic probably took less than half an hour--one of the joys of Korea! Then, we were headed back to the office with more forms. I was certain I was going to have to take a written driver's test--many of the sites I read alluded to it. I'd heard that the most difficult part of taking the test is deciphering the poor translation into English, so I wasn't looking forward to it. Thankfully, I had nothing to fear.

I handed off all of my forms, IDs, and passports, signed my name a few more times, paid about $10, and finally walked out of there successful! I had finally done it. In a period of about three hours, I finally managed to get my Korean driver's license. I'll admit, I was pretty proud of my accomplishment. Still am. Now we have to get a car. And then learn how to drive here. Baby steps...

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