I'm planning on taking the GRE sometime in May/June, and I just found out that it is considerably less convenient to schedule a test date here in Seoul than it was in Japan. This is feeding into my id's transparent attempts to talk my conscious mind into booking a trip to Japan this spring.
I last took the GRE in 2004 in Japan, and I remember the whole process as being very efficient and almost enjoyable. I registered online and was able to choose almost any date I wanted. There were no test centers in my city, which meant an excuse to take the train down to Tokyo for a weekend. The test itself was entirely on computer and entirely self-directed, which for some reason I found to be less stressful than a paper test. For the multiple-choice sections, the computer spit out my scores instantly as soon as I finished the test. The essay section score and percentage rankings came in the mail a few months later.
In Korea, the situation is not so great. They only allow computerized testing for the analytical writing (the essay) section, and you have to take the rest of the test on paper at a later date. To make matters worse, the paper part of the test is only offered twice (!) a year. A co-worker informs me that this has something to do with the high incidence of test-fraud and cheating in Korea. Also, apparently you can't register online; you have to dial a phone number and talk to an icky human.
Okay, actually the next available test dates are not so bad for me. If I do this in Seoul, I can take the essay test anytime between now and May 7th, and then I have to take the rest of the test on June 11th. This is pretty much within the time frame I had in mind, and I suppose there are advantages to taking the test in parts over a stretch of time. That is, there would be advantages for a normal person; in my case, it would just mean two sleepless nights and two terrible churning stomachaches instead of one. The knowledge that I can only take the tests on those particular days, and the thought of sitting in an uncomfortable desk in a big lecture hall with a stack of #2 pencils and a scantron sheet, somehow fills me with a deep sense of unease.
Meanwhile, a little voice inside my subconscious that I had not really acknowledged until now is getting louder. It says "Go on, go to Japan, you know you want to. You can take the test in Osaka and then spend the weekend hanging out with old friends or relaxing in some lodge in the mountains. You need to refresh your Japanese anyway..." This subconscious voice knows that I deeply miss certain aspects of life in Japan, and it wouldn't take much to convince me to go back. Especially now that spring is coming, and I know that in Kyoto the air will be fresh and sweet and everything will be turning that brilliant shade of green that you just don't see here in Korea. I've acknowledged before that it's unfair to compare Kyoto and Seoul, but there it is. The main thing that's holding me back is that I need to conserve my vacation days for a big grad-school scouting tour in the fall.
So I wrestled with this all yesterday afternoon, my rational thoughts inexorably getting taken over by my gut desire to see Japan again. When Unni came home around 10pm we sat together watching TV for a while and I told her what I was thinking about. She immediately responded with enthusiasm, "Sounds great! When do you think we should go?" I hadn't even thought about Unni coming along, but if she wants to it would be so much fun to show her Kyoto in June. There's a 3-day weekend then and I wouldn't even necessarily have to take any time off work. I warned her that on the day of the test I would most likely be sleep-deprived and vomiting and not any fun at all to be around, but she remained unfazed. So what started out 24 hours ago as "I think I'll go see about registering for the GRE now" has become "Unni and Changmi's Big Adventure in Japan."
*Update: At lunch today I was talking with two of my co-workers about my current plans, and both of them also expressed a half-serious interest in tagging along. Wouldn't it be hilarious if I showed up at the test center with a small army of Korean groupies cheering me on?