Tuesday, March 20, 2007

VISA Run to Fukuoka, Japan... part I: March 10th

I went to Japan last week for 3.5 days (I left on the 10th and came back on the 13th). It is the most common place for foreigners in Korea to go for a VISA run.
Leaving on the 10th was quite stressful, as I didn't know that I was leaving then, until the afternoon of the 9th. My VISA expired on the 9th. Everyone (my boss, my friends, my recruiter, etc) had heard/said that I had a 2 weeks grace period after my VISA expiry date in which to leave the country. I had no choice in the matter, as my school didn't get my VISA confirmation letter until, I thiink, the 8th or 9th, and I wasn't the one that was booking tickets and such. The original plan, thinking about the 2 weeks grace, had me leaving on the 23rd to spend an entire weekend in Japan and then doing the run. Then on the 9th, they were informed that my last school handed in my release forms to immigration on February 28th, which would mean that my VISA probably ended on that day (so they were thinking), and so the 2 weeks grace would end on the 14th. The other teacher was going then, so I had to go ASAP.
And, they emailed me my e-ticket and such the evening of the 9th, but I don't have a printer. I was busy from other plans on the 9th so that only left the Saturday morning to get everything done (find somewhere to print out my tickets and such, pack, etc). Luckily Revo was able to come to feed Tokki while I was away. If not, I would have been even busier that morning, as I would have had to take Tokki to the vet for "hotelling", IF they had space, that is. I got to the airport around 2 hours ahead of time. I checked in in an express lane for those that aren't checking bags, and then went and had some lunch (I hadn't even had breakfast that morning from all that I had to do). My flight was to leave at 6:10 PM. At a little before 5, I went through security without any problems... they had to check my bag, though, and put all of my 'liquids' and such into a small ziplock bag (you are allowed what will fit into a sealable 1L bag). Then at Immigration I had a problem. My VISA expired on the 9th and it was the 10th. BIG PROBLEM. There is a bit of a grace period in terms of not having to pay any fines, but it is still a problem, and paperwork and such still had to be done. I had to sit around and wait for them to do who knows what. Then, a girl working at the airport literally ran with me to the little immigration office out in the public area (before security) where I had to draw a number and wait some more. Then, we had to sprint all the way back across the airport, where I had to go through security once again. I had to wait for a couple of people go to through infront of me, before they let me go. It was already take-off time for my flight!!!! And then they stopped me and wanted to check in my bag, to see the liquids. They said one of my containers was too big. It was 115 mL but they only allow a maximum size of 100mL. It was ONE OF THEM that took it from my other bag and PUT IT IN THE PLASTIC BAG BEFORE!!!!! The airport girl that was with me had gone though to take my passport to the immigration past security to get the rest of the stuff done there. She came back and told security that I had already gone through and such, so then they said they would let the extra 115 mL pass that time only. Then I had to go to get my passport stamped and run to the gate, which was, luckily, straight ahead. I was exhausted from running with my pack on my back, and my feet and legs were killing me (I've been having other problems and the doctor has told me several times I shouldn't even be walking much, let alone running with extra weight).
They had held the flight for me, and so they welcomed me by name when I finally got on. I only wanted to sit down in my seat. When I finally got there, I could do nothing to prevent a few tears from going running down my cheeks (if I weren't in such a public place it would have been a lot more). So much stress.
The food on the flight was disappointing. No choice. Just a dish of rice with some sort of seafood and slices of ginger and some sort of strange shredded fluorescent pink stuff all over it.
Once I was actually in Japan, everything was fine. I didn't have a hotel booked for that night, only for my last night (my school was only paying for one night and so would only book one for me). My plan was to go to that hotel and hope they had rooms available when I got there. The hotel was easy to find. The subway system goes right to the airport, and my hotel was right beside the main train station, only 2 stops from the airport. That night all I did was relax and go go sleep early, as I hadn't slept much the night before and had an extremely stressful day.

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