Absolutely Temporary

Absolutes are superlatives; temporaries are ephemeral. Add the two together, I have created the most paradoxical name for this season of seeming drought.

As I quarantined for fourteen days in the middle of absolute Nowhere in Korea, I woke up one morning and opened up my Bible at random. Psalms or Proverbs are the usual candidates but the pages landed on Ruth. The very first verse goes like this: “In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him.”

When I read of this father figure and famine, I was reminded of my appa. Our family didn’t move because of a famine but nonetheless, a move to a foreign land entails similar challenges. Then suddenly, I became this character, moved by a famine. Tears were rolling down as I reread this familiar story. For the first time, I saw the story through Naomi’s eyes — the gentle lady who has lost it all despite a move for survival.

Then the famous words of Ruth to Naomi drummed on my heart once again: “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

It felt like a meditation that I needed to repeat to God. Yet, somehow He has said it already before I could even fathom how faithful He always is. With my already swollen eyes from some terrible allergy from the place I was staying, I weeped as I let Ruth’s life become a testimony for me. Maybe famines are a sign of provision.

In this famine of 2020, where travels are scarce and disasters roar, God has sent me to a place where I thought I could never call home. Stepping outside of the quarantine house felt absolutely bizarre. My lungs felt rejuvenated, my feet found itself stepping further than the confines of walls. I smiled at the drizzling sky.

Traveling to Seoul from Nowhere was another stepping stone into a frazzling reality. The four hour long drive in my cousin’s car felt surreal. Somewhere in the twilight-zone feel of it all, I knew there will be familiar motions. Here is where I fake a smile paired with a nodding bow. There’s where I hand her my debit card. Say thank you in the most polite way possible. Walk faster than your legs will ever allow. Seoul speed isn’t a joke.

My almost two months in Seoul has consisted mostly of waiting around. The first two weeks was waiting for a Taiwan working permit that eventually couldn’t get through. The next few weeks consisted of getting my dental health back on track (I have genetically weak teeth?). Then a miracle rolled around the corner.

One of my parent’s mission supporters invited me to dinner. She was a kind grandma with the most generous heart. We had a conversation where I explained the pauses in my life. In return, she asked if there was anything I would like to do during this pause. I said I thought about getting a driver’s license but my parents and I discussed it would be too expensive. Upon hearing this, the gentle lady was absolutely outraged at the fact a grown-ass person couldn’t drive. She declared it was a basic skill and that I must learn it while I have the chance. By the end of the evening, she handed me an envelope full of cash, enough to pay for driver’s ed cram school. Baffled and grateful, I went to sign up the very next day.

If that wasn’t enough, I was asked to babysit her granddaughter (COVID madness = no daycare/kindergarten) with a generous pay. Instead of waiting around, my days were packed with entertaining a four year old, visiting the dentist, attending driving school, and trying to adult my way through Seoulite days living in a small one room on a hill.

In midst of these signs of life, I still had to answer questions for future Amie. Where do I want to be? After a massive confusion following yet again another visa rejection, I told my parents I’m just tired. Giving up felt ok — emotional exhaustion felt like a valid excuse. Then they had to remind me that each land will bring its own challenges. Homes are built, not magicked.

Then my parents and I took it upon ourselves to get myself my own Taiwanese visa. It’s been a recurring idea that appa and I would create our own company. He’s always had business interests and I’ve always wanted to do something unique. I’ve been turning down this idea partly because of fear and mostly because I’m terrified. I just couldn’t wrap my head around being absolutely responsible for my own income, strategies, management, and just life. Then it hit me that I’d be home with family and friends and I could do all things creative. Sounds simple, executing not so much.

With a trembling voice, I told my parents I’m exhausted so why not. Appa was rolling out all sorts of applications the very next day. Half excited, half anxious, I kept reevaluating whether my choice was based on fear or love. Looking back at this few-weeks-old decision, I remember telling myself “just do it scared.”

Staying in Korea didn’t seem like a terrible idea now that the twilight-zone hours were over. I met up with old friends, and made some new ones. Apparently, there was a girl all my Bread of Life Young Adult Ministry friends knew about but I haven’t met. We got connected, met up and had a picnic. She told me of her wild ride of how she came to be in Korea. I haven’t spoken Chinese for so long it almost felt therapeutic. Fortunately, the church she was plugged into was small enough to resume service the following Sunday. I’ve visited the last two weeks and felt extremely at home. It felt like I could take root.

However, dilemmas are not solved in a day. My heart is still a pendulum, swaying back and forth between wanting to be near my loved ones and diving into spanking new adventures. My parents told me not to worry. They said they’ll support me through either choices. Umma was even glad that I was beginning to see Korea as an option. Korean nationalism is weird, but I’m glad that she’s glad.

Maybe you thought by the end of this narrative, I’d have an answer. I really don’t. I feel like the next one I write, might. Maybe.

Slowly is my word of this month. Taking one step at a time with all I’ve given — driver’s license, wisdom teeth removal, running errands for parents, building connections, and grooming my little room.

Lastly, a little plug. The Ko Family business is launching regardless of my residency on this globe. We’re definitely looking for investors and a lot of prayers. I’m excited. There’s a lot to do but as I mentioned, slowly. I’ve named it Border Trotters (跨界人). As a family of multicultural abilities, it made sense.

I look forward to whatever is in store for these unforeseeable futures. After all, my God is good and I do dare disturb the universe.

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