I needed to get some US documents notarized so I made an appointment at the American Embassy for today. I took no pics, while waiting outside, feeling anxious as the police watched me, thinking they might think I am casing the joint. It was a bleak, but warm day.
The building is as drab-as-drab-could-be. Plus ugly. In addition to a high cement wall with concertina wire and surveillance cameras, the complex is shielded on 2 sides by giant police buses, parked bumper-to-bumper, with Korean police stationed every half-a-bus. No suicide driver will ever get very deep here.
At 1:09 I entered early for my 1:30 appointment through a blast proof door, when prompted. I relinquished my phone, after told to turn it off.
Inside is a drab lobby that could be a shitty hospital in Anywhere USA, with drab hospital-blue walls, and a sagging, yellowed drop ceiling, some tiles replaced with shiny white new ones. The carpeting was hideous. You rarely see carpeting in public spaces in Korea. A faux colonial ceiling fan listed badly to the right. Shitty carpentry was to be found everywhere, if you are the kind of person that looks for that sort of thing. When my number was called and I waited in front of the blast proof teller’s window, I noticed clumsy attempts to cover up fuck-ups in the details. I noticed similar transgressions at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Grand Central Station in New York.
One of my documents needed to be signed by a witness of a witness, so I asked an American serviceman waiting with his wife and child, and he signed for me. As I was leaving I thanked him for the second time. I was anxious to get out of there and in my haste, as I was packing my bag, I accidentally yanked out a piece of fake plastic grass that hemmed in the waiting area in high boxes. I picked up the plastic ‘seedling’ and replanted it in the plastic bed as the Korean guard nervously watched me, and I got the hell out of there.
It’s as if a spaceship came and transplanted a slab of Americana in East Asia, and protected it well. The tellers behind that impenetrable glass were nice to me, and they felt familiar. I was on the outside of their bomb proof box, looking in at my own country, inside a bomb proof building in another country. And it felt like home.