Thanks, TieUpYourCamel. This was a great suggestion. I have to use CAST instead since my employer's Oracle DB doesn't recognize convert, but it seems to fix the issue.
CAST(note as CHAR(30)) as note
Looking at all the unique values, the country is always contained in the first 30 characters anyway, so I'm throwing away the other junk this way and it doesn't seem to ever hang anymore. :-)