PLEASE SIGN HERE AND OTHER ALIEN RITUALS
When I arrived in Korea, more then a month ago, with an E-1 visa I was told I would need something called an Alien Registration Card. It all sounded pretty simple until I asked where and how I could obtain that coveted card. That’s when the Catch 22 began. I discovered that you couldn’t actually apply for an Alien Registration Card until you are officially employed and receive a letter of verification from the university. Kind of strange since you can’t get an E-1 visa unless you have a guaranteed job. I had about a week to wait for work to begin so in the meantime I thought I’d take care of some other things. I headed to the phone store to get a new sim card for my iPhone. I “simply” wanted to replace my AT&T sim card with an OLLEH sim card and pay the monthly fee for my new plan. That’s when I was asked for my Alien registration Card. Well, I don’t have one yet because I hadn’t started work. Sorry, no card, no phone. Once work began I received that letter saying I was in fact employed and Steve and I headed to immigration where I applied for my card. “Please sign here with both your English and Korean names,” said the lovely women waiting on me. MY KOREAN NAME? Was she serious? I have no idea what my name looks like in Korean. I know it’s pronounced MASHA GREENBERG. No “r”. It has a familiar ring. When Koreans pronounce my name they sound vaguely from Boston. But writing my name in Korean was a whole other thing. Luckily I had Steve with me and he stepped in for the Korean while I signed my name in English. I was told I would receive the card in 3 weeks. No problem, I thought. The next day the university informed me I needed to have a bank account so my first paycheck could be direct deposited. Since my first paycheck was scheduled to arrive before my Alien Registration Card I wondered how this would all work. No card, no bank account. However, since the university and the bank are somehow in cahoots, I received that same letter saying I was in fact employed. The bank opened an account for me that could only be used with permission from a bank employee until I had my Alien Registration Card, at which time I could get an ATM card and all would be wonderful. Three weeks passed and, sure enough, my card arrived with a picture that makes me look somewhere between a convict and an alien, the kind from outer space. I was so excited about getting my card, I raced over to the OLLEH phone store and proudly handed the clerk my new card along with my passport and my bankbook. I started feeling like a true alien, the travelling kind. The phone clerk started all the paper work and suddenly I saw a look come over his face. He explained to me that in order to have a phone, he needed to automatically withdraw the money from my bank account and somehow it wasn’t working. In my excitement I hadn’t gone back to the bank with my new Alien Registration Card. I gathered up all my paperwork and my phone and headed back to the bank to show them my newly printed card. The bank clerk drew up the necessary paperwork to make me official. “Sign here,” said the bank clerk, “Your Korean and English names.” He pointed to several places on the document requiring my Korean and English signatures. I starred at the man feeling an overwhelming sense of humility. The bank clerk pointed out my name in Korean on the document and I copied it over and over again signing my English name right along side while the bank clerk watched patiently. I completed all the necessary paperwork and left the bank with my freshly minted ATM card and my dose of humility and headed back to the phone store where I finally got my phone. I’m officially registered with the Korean government as an alien, one with a phone, a bank account and an ATM card. What more do I need?