Different Side of the World

After recruiting students from Nepal and India for the University of Nebraska at Kearney for over a year, I finally traveled on business to these two destinations for the first time ever from August 22 to 25, 2017, before flying into Korea to wrap up my trip. A colleague who has explored India for a month almost a decade ago informed me on the economic and social difference between the country and the places to which I am accustomed, that I would experience an underdeveloped country. I had assumed Nepal would be similar to India due to the two countries’ physical proximity.

Waiting for my Uber by the Delhi Airport, I sweated profusely as if in the sauna due to the humidity level at what I assume to be nearly 100%. I had believed drivers in South Korea to be the absolute worst in every sense of the word until I heard honking every second and saw zero drivers sticking to their lanes and every driver impatiently cutting. The original Uber driver who was connected to me canceled after making me wait twenty minutes, and the replaced driver was immediately stopped by the police for “not wearing a uniform,” or a formal attire; the latter driver was allowed to proceed after paying a fine of Indian rupee’s equivalent of just over $1. Line simply does not exist in India. As I waited to ask about my boarding ticket to Chandigarh at the Delhi Airport, one clumsy man cut me as if I had become invisible, and I asked, “Are you with these two?” pointing at the pair of men next to him. I then said, “I am in line,” at which the cutter looked confused and to which a tourist from a different country said, “That doesn’t exist here.” A couple more individuals cut me seconds following, and I had to almost push others away for my turn. As I presented my boarding pass to Kathmandu to a security officer and he examined it, a man behind me reached for the officer over my right arm with his own boarding pass. Each time I went through security, a group of Indians tried to cut and/or stayed so close to me I could feel their bodies touching me. However, just like honking, cutting is deeply ingrained and the norm in Indian culture that no resident considers that to be rude. I cannot even attempt to count how many times I instinctively said in frustration and disbelief, “Excuse me.”

In Kathmandu, I noticed drivers did not honk as much, as doing so “is illegal in Nepal”; nevertheless, their hazardously cutting and staying out of their lanes felt similar to India. Each time I opened my eyes and looked straight, they were struck by dust and I had trouble opening my eyes.

My first time in India and Nepal, I felt I was observing the Republic of Korea of 50 years ago. The majority of buildings in Chandigarh remained under construction to the point I wonder where the city will be in two or three years. I could see why entrepreneurial-minded individuals say India, especially with its immense population of 1.345 billion, offers many business opportunities. Rather than complaining about the discomfort as I might sound like I am in this post, I was humbled and realized how much God has blessed Korea, the United States, and virtually every nation in which I had ever set foot.

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Beat the Heat with a PR

Having run four races in sum of roughly 142 miles already this year, I registered for a fifth at the Beat the Heat Half Marathon, with Freedom Running Company that supports wounded warriors’ families, in Bellevue, Nebraska, on August 12, 2017. Minor soreness in my left hip and right wing for weeks leading up to the event told me my body is finally asking me for some rest, but, aside from God, nothing distracts me from loneliness more effectively than running.

I did not put too much thought into my finish time, unless well past the two-hour mark, because I knew nothing about the course other than being on a trail. However, when the race commenced and I began my mile pace in the six-minute range and maintained the seven-minute for a while, I shifted my focus to securing my first official (and second technical) sub-2:00:00 half marathon. (Something about race day always makes me overperform drastically compared to training.) I sprinkled my throat with Powerade from my hydration pack every three to four miles to stay hydrated and “beat the heat.” I tried not to look at my Garmin for distance, as thinking about how much farther I have to cover drains my mentality and somewhat defeats the purpose of running; I should be running because I enjoy running rather than simply to finish. I did consistently check my mile pace, and I knew around mile 9, as long as I did not bonk substantially, I would finally break two hours in the half marathon.

My body abruptly felt the overwhelming pace and slowed down significantly with 1.5 miles to go, around when the finish line became visible. Half a mile left, in my 25th race, I finally experienced what “hitting the wall” meant. My entire body went numb, and I had to pour every ounce of my energy to keep running. I completed the 13.1 miles in 1:56:55, 8:55 per mile, and I consider this my most impressive running performance to date in terms of time. Speaking to the race community after, I arbitrarily and repeatedly had trouble inhaling and talking, but, hilariously, I found this amusing rather than being intimidated by this unprecedented reaction. With a nearly four-week business trip to India, Nepal, and Korea coming up, I will finally have an excuse to give running a break, but will I? Honestly, I don’t know.