Problem: My visa is running out before I plan to leave. Thus, this morning I paid I (successful) visit to the Incheon Immigration [Visa Control] Office. I asked to extend my visa and it was done. My Alien Registration Card got a new “expiration date” printed on it, 28 days later than the original. Phew; Another thing done, I thought.
The Incheon Immigration Office is inexplicably located very far away from anything. I managed to get there by train and then bus. I got off at the station inexplicably named “East-Incheon Train Station” (it is in the west of Incheon). I’d been here before with my friend CH. It is not far from Freedom Park, which features the giant MacArthur statue.
Very few of us got off at this station. One whom I noticed was a man, East-Asian in appearance but foreign-seeming to me. He seemed drawn from the ex-Soviet world, though this may be wrong. I base this on his walk [tough guy], his clothes [suit, not well-fitting; not in Korean fashion], his haircut [close-cut, nearly shaved-head], his shabby briefcase, and his build [big]. I didn’t even see his face. He got in a taxi outside the train station. I went to try to find a bus. Twenty minutes later, I saw him at the foreigner office, talking to a Visa Control agent. I was right. He was a foreigner. The agent spoke to him in Korean, and he nodded along. All I know for sure is that he was not Chinese. There are two wings at the Immigration Office, one for Chinese, one for others. He was in the “non-Chinese” section.
The process for me was easy. The woman wanted me to write down what I planned to do after I finished working to give me a “tourist” extension. She gave me a blank A4 paper. At first, I wrote a single sentence, but she wanted more. I listed some places. She asked me to sign it. I wondered why this would matter, and realized it’s possible that she did it out of personal interest. This is like the police in Kazakhstan in 2011. Living up to the ex-Soviet police stereotype, they demanded I produce ID or passport on the street for no apparent reason. I never had serious problems. The times they did this to me, or at least one of the times, I got the feeling the guy was just curious where I was from, but felt too awkward or lacking language-confidence to ask it in a jovial way, so he just used his position to impel me to show him my passport,which would give him the information he wanted.
Anyway, the agent did not comment on the list of destinations I wrote out. She disappeared and reaappared with the Alien Card within two minutes or so. The card had a new expiry date printed on the back. “That’s all. Bye!”, she said.
I emerged to find a bus going back to East-Incheon Train Station. The neighborhood was totally empty. I got on a #24 bus. It was unexpectedly packed with people, and suitcases. No seats were empty. It must’ve come from the airport, I figured. I heard a few Chinese voices. One of the signs on the bus was written in Chinese and Korean. I was confused about this, but I guess Incheon really does have a lot of Chinese. I rode the back to the train station and rode back to Songnae Station, the closest to my home/workplace. I ate a small lunch at Lotteria, a Korean knockoff of McDonald’s. It was only 11:00 AM. As I ate, I read the newspaper about Syria (somebody proposing a “No-Fly Zone“) and the shocking recent indictments against pro-North-Korean National Assembly members (for plotting “Underground Revolution”), and finally got another bus home. It was well before noon. I’d left home at about 9:15.
I’d call the morning genuinely pleasant.
Partly, it was pleasant because it all really felt like “travelling”. The core of “old” Incheon feels somewhat like Southeast-Asia to me (or what I imagine SE-Asia to be, having never been there): poorer, dirtier, less efficient, not-well-organized, lazier; but relaxed, unpretentious, authentic.