Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm going to Thailand!

Folks I gotta say I'm a bit surprised to be typing this but I am going to Thailand. There were many moments when I thought I wasn't gonna make it and the process of getting a passport caused me enough stress on its own to warrant me a vacation but it'll all be forgotten the second I make my first "whack-fuck".

I played pool Wednesday night. One game of singles. Lost to a chick. She was good! She almost ran me out off the break. I actually played well but while I was coming back from her tremendous break run I had it down to two balls to one for her. I made a bad shot on one of my balls, which hit her's into the pocket so all she had to do then was sink the eight.

Then, like an idiot, I stayed up all night drinking. I took the first subway home at 5:30, fell asleep and passed my stop, took the next subway back, fell asleep and passed my stop, got out to street level to stop the nonsense and take a taxi home. While walking in a sea of humanity to a bunch of waiting buses and taxis I stepped on a really dangerous 5 or 6 inch dip on the sidewalk that was hard to see in a crowd of people. I really hurt my ankle bad and taught the entire subway load of people a lesson in English expletives. Free of charge. I took an 11,000 won taxi ride home and slept from about 8 to noon then started the passport frustration again. With a hangover. And a twisted ankle.

The last instructions Mike gave to me were, "Call us Thursday to see if the temporary passport is ready." If that sounds like an easy thing to do you haven't dealt with any Canadian government agencies. I have about 10 numbers for the Canadian Embassy in Seoul on a page taped to my wall beside me and none of them work. However, Mike told me how to call and I tried that. The obligatory Canadian government answering service labyrinth. "If you know the extension of the person you are trying to reach press it now." Nobody has extensions you fucking assholes! If Mike had one I'm sure he would have told me.

Luckily, I was having this conversation with my friend Annaliese just a week earlier and she told me her friend had discovered that if you just press zero you get to a human being. I gave it a whirl. It WORKED! Sort of. I mean it wasn't really a human being, it was a Canadian government employee. In my hangover scratchy lowered voice I told her Mike had told me to call and see if my temp. passport was ready. She says, "Please hold I'll connect you." I get another answering machine. A woman saying she's not in, please leave a message. Oh I left a message.

I call back, press zero and get the same chick. "Please hold, I'll connect you." I say, "Wait. Please don't connect me. Last time I got an answering machine. Is there someone there I can talk to?" She tells me she thought my call was personal so she patched me through to Mike's wife. Mike's WIFE! I say, "No. I told you twice it's about my temporary passport." "Okay, please hold I'll connect you." ANOTHER answering machine. I left a message asking why Canadian gvt. SERVICES are so fucking unserviceable, told the person to call back, gave my number and a very long sigh then said, "I'm not expecting much."

Lo and behold, she DID call back! Not much later! Told me the passport was ready and to come get it by 4:30. I limped in to the embassy and got it by 3:30, had a classic Italian sub and broccoli cheese soup at Quiznos too. Why is it that when I get anything accomplished involving my country's government I feel like the intrepid Edmund Hillary reaching the summit of Everest? And I did it all alone. No Shirpas helping me. Schirpas? How do you spell that anyway?

Across the street from the embassy is a KB bank. It was only a little after 4 so I figured I'd go in and get some Thai cash. Talk about out of the frying pan into the fire. From a Canadian govt. agency to a bank! What a day!

I had also heard from April, who works at a bank, something about bank cards no longer working overseas. I thought I'd ask. I got to the teller on the second floor and he told me that foreigners were no longer allowed to withdraw funds from their accounts using their bankcards outside Korea. I said it was a really racist rule and that I doubted there were any "developed" countries other than Korea that had such a policy. I said it was pretty silly to have Cirrus or Maestro without overseas service. But he said what bankers always say, "It was the decision of the head of the company." In other words, "IT'S A RULE!" I also told him that last year my card worked fine in Thailand. He looked puzzled. I can understand because being a bank employee I'm sure he's not used to his company actually having provided helpful services like that.

I go downstairs to withdraw some money from the bank machine. You see, you can't use your card to get the money removed electronically even though they have all the necessary equipment to do so, you have to physically take money out of the machine, take it upstairs and physically put it back. Why? Cuz it's a rule. I knew this rule from before. So I get back to the guy with a fistfull of cash and he's on the phone. He asks me for my card which I foolishly give him. He reads the number into the phone over my protests and thwarts my attempts to take the card away from him. He hangs up the phone and tells me that since I got the card before April 14th, (my birthday), 2006, I can still use it overseas. Any cards acquired after that date can't be used by foreigners overseas. So despite his best efforts he couldn't deactivate my card. Little prick.

Incidentally, the guy who made the racist rule and the stupid musical cash machine rule, (and countless other jaw-droppingly vacuous such rules), qualifies to be a guarantor for my passport. This is the kind of person Passport Canada wants certifying our citizenship!

That my bankcard was gonna work came as especially good news to me since recently my Canadian account, (which I set up so that I would DEFINITELY have access to my cash overseas), has been frozen. The good people at TD bank have been forcing their protection onto their customers. There are few things I hate worse. I was told to choose not one, not two, not three, not four but FIVE extra passwords for my account. I don't want or need them so I had been bypassing the page where I was ordered by my bank to choose them. So they froze my account. Fascists!

So I went to the page that was supposed to reactivate my account. I picked my five new fucking passwords then pressed enter. I got a message that my session had timed out and I was to call the bank at this number...... No fucking way was I falling for THAT trick again. I ESPECIALLY hate doing the telephone gymnastics long distance. So I tried the page again and timed out again. So I can't do anything with my money in Canada. This trip might just end up being more adventurous than expected.

Next I had to go to work and return all the papers from the summer course I had taught. The students' exams, attendance, that sort of thing. I also had to input the syllabus for NEXT semester. I had tried the day before but after doing it THREE times most of it just kept mysteriously disappearing. So I sent an email to my supervisor saying that I couldn't meet the deadline, which was that day. I got an email this morning from her that said my syllabus had been entered and thanking me for doing a fine job. Wonders never cease.

So aside from a bit of a sore ankle and a frozen bank account I have no problems to think about in Thailand. I really need this vacation.

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