My latest adventure...
On Saturday, I took the Foreign Service exam, which is the first step in getting a job with the State Department. The only problem was that the test was in Seoul. On Saturday. At 8 am. Maybe I should have asked for the religious exemption and taken it on Sunday. Anyways, I ended up heading to the Pohang bus station late Friday night. Caught the next to last bus to Seoul, which left at 12:15 am. The nice thing about Korea is that the country can be crossed relatively quickly. The bad news is, there are no "overnight" buses. So a bus leaving Pohang at 12:15 in the morning arrives in Seoul at 4:15 in the morning. Not enough time to get much sleep, that's for sure. Fortunately, they keep the bus station open, so I was able to hang out there for a while, until the subway started running. Then, it was off to Seoul Station, where I caught breakfast. Not really breakfast, per se, but a Whopper Value Meal from Burger King. Since the burgers down where I live are Korean "bugas" (the Hongulized version of "burger") - a little meat patty, with a square egg, slice of ham, shredded lettuce, and some funky Korean sauce, all on toasted bread - aren't quite the same, getting some semi-real western food is always a treat (although I've found some decent pizza places around my apartment). I then head out to find my test locale. By 7 am, I'm one of the first few people to arrive at the US Embassy extension. By 8 am, there were over 50 people there to take the test. Which is the most Americans I've seen gathered in one place, at one time, during my entire time here.
The test itself wasn't too hard. The first section was General Knowledge and Job Knowledge. A variety of US history, government, economic, and cultural questions. The second section was an essay. Considering that I've been teaching essay writing to one of my students for the last several weeks, I better have done well. Third was a biographical section, which I have no way to judge if I answered "correctly" or not. Lastly, there was an English section. By this time, I was starting to drift off, but I was able to get through everything, and double check most of my answers. It seemed like the English questions were a little easier then the standard standardized test English questions. Or at least the SAT II practice tests that I had been practicing on all of last week. But of course, this test is the relatively easy hurdle. If I pass it (something like the top 20% of the test takers pass it) I'll have to go to the US to take the oral exam. That is supposed to be even more selective. That would then be followed by security and medical clearence. At which point, I would be placed on the hiring list. All in all, a much more daunting and cumbersome process then the Peace Corps. But at this point, all I've lost is a night's sleep.
After the test was completed, I was too exhausted to do much. Adding to my misery were the massive haze of "yellow dust" covering the city, and the massive hordes of people everywhere I went. I managed to make it up to Kyobo book store, which has a massive English book selection, and bought On the Road for my boss, whose birthday was Saturday. Then, off to the subway, back to the bus station, and back home. All before the end of the day.
So that's about the most exciting thing that has happened to me lately. I did get my Alien Registration Card (ARC), which pretty much finalizes my legal paperwork. Got a bank account, and got some won converted to dollars, since the won is at the highest it has been since before the currency crisis in, um, 1997 or so. Up almost 10 percent against the dollar since the beginning of the year (which means my salary in US$ has gone up almost 10%), and up almost 20 percent against the yen.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
My latest adventure...