Farewell, 2018

One more repetitious yet eventful year in Nebraska, a momentous one for sure, has sprinted to an end that prompts me to think, “Where has the time gone?” I thank the Lord for another year of good health and protection, as always.

Most significantly, after seventeen years in the United States, I have finally become a permanent resident, once again allowing me the freedom to leave the country and come back whenever I please and for the first time ever gifting me the flexibility to work wherever and for whichever employer in these fifty states I choose. Though culturally American for as long as I can remember, I felt my confidence rise with this green card that proves I earned my permanent place in America. My family and I have believed God brought me to Nebraska, name that had never exited my mouth prior to discovering my current position as an international recruitment specialist in the summer of 2015, primarily to provide me with this freedom in the smoothest and swiftest way possible for a reason I have yet to experience but am certain will soon enough; I am convinced His plan for my life requires my possession of this permanent resident status.

Following the monumental racing year that included a 102-mile finish in the Texas heat and humidity in 2017, I continued in 2018 actively fueling my passion for running by participating in eleven more races, comprising a 50K, eight half marathons, and two 10K’s, setting many personal bests along the way and surpassing 1,000 kilometers in race mileage since my first 5K race, as a sergeant in the Republic of Korea Army, on March 1, 2012. Just several weeks ago, I was accepted to run in the Chicago Marathon, my first and hopefully not last World Marathon Major, taking place on October 13, 2019, wherever I will be then.

For several years I had longed for a small spiritual group and friends who serve my Father, and a Texan youth pastor’s family’s arrival in the summer gave me an easy route to find these and become more involved in the church community.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” says King Solomon in Proverbs 19:21. Desperate to move to a bigger place with more global people of closer backgrounds, I have continued to set my own timing of when I will leave this tiny city of 33,000, which did not consist of returning to the same office in 2019. I ask every day, “When? How much longer?” I hope to be more grateful in my current situation, learn to live in the moment, and focus on following His will rather than my own desires and consequently glorifying His Name in 2019.

Hola, Spain!

With my green card in hand and freedom to leave the United States and return without an issue, I decided to travel to Europe for the first time in almost two years, this time Spain, from December 18 to 23, 2018; I chose Spain because the sun sets too early for my liking in December in all the other European countries I considered. By the grace of God, I located a bundle deal on Expedia impossible to pass up, one KLM and the rest Delta flights and a four-star hotel for five nights for only $1,085.06. Though I considered adding Portugal for a day to the trip, my hotel being in Madrid would have lost me over half a day simply going to Portugal and coming back, which felt foolish for my already limited time to adventure. Instead, I focused solely on Spain, covering Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, and Seville in these five full days.

Many travelers prefer otherwise, but I, especially when only journeying for a few days, prioritize seeing as many tourist attractions as I can and move about at a pace with which many would not be able to keep up. I checked off the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Royal Palace of Madrid, Almudena Cathedral, Plaza Mayor, Museo del Prado, San Jeronimo el Real, Buen Retiro Park and its art gallery, Palacio de Cristal, and San Anton Market in Madrid, Toledo Cathedral in Toledo, Alcazar of Segovia and Segovia Cathedral in Segovia, and Seville Cathedral, Alcazar of Seville, Torre del Oro, and Plaza de Espana in Seville. (This list does not include the meticulous city tour of Toledo and Segovia led by Amigo Tours, Madrid in the Spanish Civil War tour with an Airbnb hostess, and Torre del Oro cruise tour in Seville.)

I appreciate history and find it awe-inspiring I can easily spot objects hundreds and thousands of years old anywhere in Europe, unlike in America where anything several decades old qualifies as monumental. The ornateness and immensity of gothic cathedrals mesmerize me but at the same time make me wonder, “How can anyone worship God here without being distracted by the extravagant setting and never-ending tourists?” As expected, I struggled substantially with the normalcy of public smoking in Europe. I, practically allergic to cigarette smoke, despise the sheer ignorance and selfishness of smoking in public and could not bear observing hawkers smoking as they sold their handmade materials and artworks, a mother smoking in her infant’s face, and a young woman even smoking in the garden of the Alcazar of Seville, to whom I said, “You know you’re not supposed to smoke here,” but I doubt she understood or even heard me. Linguistically, I was humbled. I have traveled to more countries than I can count off the top of my head, and not once had I experienced prior to this trip an overwhelming majority of natives speaking to me in their mother tongue, in spite of their knowing I speak English and zero Spanish. Up to this point, I had assumed I could survive anywhere in the world as long as I spoke English, but here I thought, “Maybe I should have learned several useful phrases in Spanish.”

Traveling expands horizons and perspectives on the diversity of the world, one of the main reasons I enjoy doing so whenever I have the chance; I do not view traveling as solely vacation but also education. Physically, my traveling could never be categorized as vacation; according to my health app, unsurprisingly, I walked (and occasionally ran) more than 51 miles and climbed 124 floors in these five days. I am grateful to Jesus for granting me yet another opportunity to explore a gorgeous unfamiliar historic territory and soak up His beautiful Creation.