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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/17/20

Coronavirus Missives from the US and Vietnam

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Coming to South Korea on a 90-day tourist visa, I never thought I would need to renew it, but thanks to the coronavirus, I had to, just last week.

Encountering bureaucracy anywhere is usually stressful, but thankfully, the process here was quick and straightforward. Koreans know how to be efficient. Buses and trains always run on time, and my dealings with a Busan bank has also been extremely smooth.

Setting up an appointment online, I filled out a brief form, then added, on my own initiative, a letter in English, which I also had translated into Korean. I stated that although I was an American citizen, I had been living in Vietnam, so needed to return there. I had no US home. With my situation clearly stated, the officer took less than five minutes to stamp 30 more days onto my passport.

My guesthouse is filled with people who are stuck. There's Javier from Spain, who needs to go back to his home in Thailand, but since this doesn't seem possible soon, he may have to fly to Spain. Twenty-four-year-old Gustavo from Brazil got a visa extension, then, just days ago, managed to book a flight home. Gustavo came here to improve his Korean, which he had studied in Brazil. His English is excellent.

"You're going to miss this place!" I said to Gustavo.

"I know. I will."

"So when are you going to return?"

"I need to save money first. I want to go to graduate school here. I will apply back in Brazil."

"What will you study?"

"Linguistics."

"Wow, that's great. You're gifted."

"Thank you."

Short of cash, Gustavo has been exchanging labor for room and board at the guesthouse. Several others are doing the same.

Just as in Seoul, Busan's main train station is a hub for the homeless. Each evening, more than a hundred line up to receive a hot dinner ladled up by a Christian charity. It also dishes out sermons and songs, heartily belted out, accompanied by a guitar. At night, several homeless sleep within sight of my guesthouse's front door, and once, a drunk one pissed right outside it. This door is never locked, however, for there's no danger of anyone coming in to steal the computer, printer, coffee machine or food, and female guests have no fear of encountering an intruder at 3 in the morning.

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Linh Dinh's Postcards from the End of America has just been published by Seven Stories Press. Tracking our deteriorating socialscape, he maintains a photo blog.


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