Yesterday was filled with a whole lot of waiting around. After breakfast, I headed over to the ACS building to take my USFK driver’s license test at 9:00. The test was fairly straightforward, though I kept looking for trick answers after my experience with the College for Financial Planning’s devious tests. I may have missed one or two questions, but overall it was fairly obvious. If you’re taking it, just make sure you read through the USFK pamphlet a few times, and take note of the differences between U.S. and Korean laws. A few key things:
- All POVs (Privately Owned Vehicles) must stop for shuttle buses on post when they are picking up or dropping off passengers (as well as school buses, of course)
- Overall, the speed limits are lower; be comfortable with kilometers or with doing the conversion in your head (1.6 x miles = approximate kilometers; 0.6 x km = approximate miles)
- Unprotected left turns in Korea can only be made where there is a sign allowing you to do so
- Know how far you need to place warning signs behind your car if it’s disabled both during the day and at night
- The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) is lower in Korea than in the U.S.
- Read up on the consequences of being at fault for an accident – they can be pretty severe
The first section of the test covered the laws and some of the things I mentioned above. The second section was on road signs, and most of them were pretty easy to figure out. Again, just read through that section of the pamphlet and take mental note of any unusual or unfamiliar signs.
After I finished the test (and passed, thankfully!), it was around 9:15, and I had to wait around until 10:00 so that the entire group of test takers could watch a couple of videos together. The first video was on safe driving in Korea, and it reinforced my desire to never drive off post unless I absolutely have to! The second video was shorter, on winter driving. Then we were given our new licenses and were free to go! The woman next to me was given a license that listed her height as 6 feet, which was pretty amusing as she was a little shorter than me (I’m 5’4″). They redid her license for her in just a few minutes.
I stopped by the ACS office on the first floor of the building to sign up for the free monthly bus that takes you to get your A3 Visa and SOFA stamp – I’m going in November for that, unless I decide to go on my own earlier. Then I grabbed the shuttle bus outside the Dragon Hill Lodge and took it one stop up the road onto Main Post (it stops right by the band building!). I walked down the road past the PX, and out the gate to get to Camp Kim, where the VPC (Vehicle Processing Center) is located. Warning: if you’re walking to Camp Kim, wait for the pedestrian crossing right outside of Yongsan; there isn’t another one across from the Camp Kim gate, which is a ways further up the road.
Camp Kim was small but confusing. I told the man at the gate that I needed to pick up my car, and he directed me to the USO building! Not very helpful! I eventually found my way to the back corner of the complex where the VPC is. There was no one else around, and I felt like I was in a completely deserted area. Here’s a scene from my walk:
In the building (trailer), there was no one waiting ahead of me, and I was helped right away by a man that I could not get a smile out of to save my life. He didn’t ask for almost any of the paperwork that I had with me, including the power of attorney. I inspected the Ford, deemed it fine, and he gave me a map with the Car Care center and the Registration Office circled on it and sent me on my way. Luckily, both those places are also on Camp Kim, since you have an almost-empty gas tank when picking your car up (it has to have less than ¼ tank when you ship it). I went to the Car Care center to get the car inspected, and I had to wait about an hour and a half because there was someone in front of me. I had a nice chat with him and his wife while we all waited, and then finally my car was done and had passed inspection. I went over to register it, where I only had to wait about 15 minutes. There, I did need all of my paperwork, and the specialist helping me seemed to keep expecting me to be missing something. Not me! I did my homework thoroughly! He handed me my new plates ($6.50, what a bargain), and directed me to a tool box on the counter so that I could put them on myself. I asked him for directions back to Yongsan, already terrified at the thought of driving on the Seoul streets for less than half a mile.
As I was waiting to exit Camp Kim, the specialist came running up to me. He had forgotten to give me the bar code that will allow my car on post! I was really glad traffic was heavy, or else I would have already been out of there. Let me just say I would have been super, super pissed off if I had had to make all those stupid left turns to get back to Camp Kim after being denied access to Yongsan. So I turned right out of Camp Kim, and took a left at the second light. I was all turned around at that point, and of course I couldn’t consult my map while driving, so I chose the furthest left turn lane out of three. Gate #1 was pretty soon on my right after turning, so I wasn’t able to get over to take it in time. Oops! I went up the road to a place that I could make a left turn, and turned in what apparently was Gate #3, but at that point I was fixated on Gate #1, because I knew exactly where it was and where it would take me, so I got back on the road, turned left into Gate #1 (thank goodness there was a left turn arrow there!) and finally, finally made it back on post! My harrowing adventure was over! Really, though, it was not a big deal, and I think it was only stressful for me because we have been off post exactly once since arriving 5 days ago. I need to stress that most people do not get their cars this quickly – we were lucky that we were able to send our car so far ahead. One spouse I spoke with had moved here from Germany, and her car was first sent back to the U.S., then on to Korea!
After recovering at the hotel with lunch, I headed back out to fill up the car. The gas station is way far away on post, tucked away in a back corner, but I found it, showed my ID card and ration card, and filled up the tank. I also took that opportunity to put the floor mats back down, screw in the antenna, and flatten the box they had been stored in.
In other news, we went to see a house in Itaewon Acres housing village and decided to take it. The other house we were going to see was exactly the same layout, but in Eagle Grove village, and we wanted to be nearer to a gate so that we can walk out and be right in the Itaewon district. I didn’t take pictures – it was a quick in-and-out – but it was pretty much what we expected. The rooms are very small, but the kitchen is bigger than where we last lived, so that’s nice. I’ll find out this afternoon what day we’re moving in, but it looks like our household goods won’t arrive until at least the 15th. I expect we’ll be leaving the hotel within the next day or two.