Just when everything was going well in preparation for university in The Master’s College, CA, things went downhill upon applying for a visa. God knows how to play around, I guess, and he answered all my prayers of getting high scores for the SAT and of getting accepted into university and of getting a scholarship…blah blah blah…except for the visa. It’s like, “Sure, baby girl, I’ll answer all your prayers, but that’s definitely NOT where I want you to go! I’ll take you somewhere better than what you ask for.” Okay if it’s not the US, then where? Should I just stay here? Maybe God wants me to meet certain people or experience certain things I would otherwise not encounter if I were to go to the Master’s, even though it was definitely my dream school. ㅠㅠ
Last days of Wildfire and Fuel were especially emotional. There were lots of people to say goodbye to. I’ve seen people come and go in this abundant desert; I’ve said goodbye and hello so often but it still broke my heart every time. But this year it’s different. I won’t be saying 안녕히가세요, but instead it was my turn to say 안녕히계세요. I still don’t know where I’m going but I knew that maybe God will be sending me out there somewhere. My strongest hunches are usually right. Abu Dhabi has been a place of training for me. It was the place where I grew up in physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually. The past six years was filled with plenty of memories: first times, dreams fulfilled, lessons learned… Abu Dhabi has become my home when I thought six years ago that it was the most foreign and unknown place in the world. This is where God has taught me well through the my parents, church, AWANA teachers, my youth leaders, Godly friends, and home school materials.
Special Thanks to:
My parents for teaching me lots of things,
Pastor Cam for delivering powerful messages,
Jon (Shelby’s dad) for teaching us about God every Friday morning and being like a dad to us all,
Chris & Ronali for being such supportive youth leaders,
Pete for being such a cool youth leader and calling me a rock star (best compliment ever!), and for teaching us how to be a good worship team. We owe our teamwork to you.
Mackenzie, always being a transparent and true youth leader to all of us. You were really fun to chat with and I always enjoyed your stories.
The older kids in my youth group: Ethan, Jared, Nadia, Jerusha, Anthony. Each of you really helped me out a lot either musically or socially or both.
Preethi and Cheryl, for being my very first friends in this church ever. Also to Robin, for always helping me out when I didn’t know what to do during the AWANA days. Dami, for always being crazy and making me laugh and telling me you love me and you think I’m cute, even though I always thought you were weird. I also thank our AWANA teachers: Mrs. Sara, Mr. Tony, Tony, Phu, etc. for teaching us well and being really fun leaders. I also thank those nine-year-old kids I listened to at AWANA for being so adorable and sweet little things, even though I’m sure you all grew up already.
My Wildfire band mates: John, Ben, Drew, David, Aantuu, Tino, Tash, Elisheba, Vida, Shelby, Andrew, Nina Mets and (who could forget) Wura. You’re all talented and I loved playing music with you guys!! (Except for John and Wura, I just enjoyed hanging out with those guys. Hahaha just kidding)
Other wildfire friends like Samara and Moriah who always appreciated me, thank you as well. Also Ji Eun, for always hanging out with me while I wait for my dad to pick me up. Inez, Miss President! Krupa, even though I could never remember your name for weeks. Caitlin, for being such a good friend to me and being really crazy.
Aunts and Uncles in Dubai/Sharjah for always supporting me and for always praying for me.
Last but not least: My sister. Dude, you been my best friend since we moved here. I got no one but you, bruh, and I love you more than everyone mentioned in this list!
About June, my parents encouraged me to apply for a university here in the Emirates. Of course I absolutely hated the idea, mostly because I always thought of the low standard of education in this place despite the obnoxious tuition price. I applied anyway, but nobody ever replied. Just as I thought. I don’t know what will happen, but I was still ready for a goodbye.
My mother, who was worried about my future, encouraged me to try out Korea once again. I loved Korea and I always dreamt of staying there for at least a year to experience the culture. I even went to Seoul in my 18th birthday. Actually, I looked into Korean universities in the past but decided that it might not be for me. After all, it was my dream to attend a decent Christian university and I spent my high school days in an American curriculum. America is where it’s at. I also needed to get a TOPIK 3 score to enter university, and I definitely am not fluent in Korean at all. Besides, in the USA, all I need is a decent TOEFL score and English has always been easy to me. However, with the visa not being issued and all, my life is now opened to other possibilities. “Why don’t you study Korean Language in Korea for sometime and then enter a Korean university?”
And so it started out that way.
On my birthday week, my family and I went on a vacation to RAK. During those quiet and peaceful days of doing nothing, I had time to reflect on my life’s direction. I also thought a lot about my sister, who I knew I would miss a lot once we’re separated. We always do everything together. We sat in the porch just doing nothing together. We would stay up late just to talk about the stupidest things. We even woke up early just to see the sunrise by the beach. I might actually go to Korea and leave her, but who knows? Maybe yes, maybe no, but we’ll have to be separated at some point.
After a bit of trouble and a lot of praying, we finally got our Korean visas. At that moment, the feeling of separation started to grow stronger. There’s no turning back now. A few days later, we set off on a long plane ride to Korea. Everyone was excited, but for some reason, I didn’t even want to ride that limousine to the airport. My mom kept asking me if I was excited, but I had no idea how to reply without bursting into tears and crying out, “No, I don’t want to leave!” As spent my last few moments in Abu Dhabi, I knew that I would miss this place. I didn’t feel that way when I left the Philippines at the age of 13 at all. In fact, I was excited to leave all of it behind. But leaving Abu Dhabi was different. I felt like I was leaving behind a big part of me. I was leaving home.
Busan was fun, no doubt about that. It’s one of those beautiful and memorable places I’ve ever been to with my parents. It was just as fun as going on vacation to RAK, but more exhausting. When we had our meals together on the floor of our hostel room, I knew that I would miss being with my parents. That time in Busan threw me back to our time in Seoul, exploring, getting exhausted, and eating together. No, I didn’t want my time in Busan to end. I didn’t want to go to Daegu on that last day. I wanted to stay in Busan and explore Busan some more.
Unfortunately, time passed way too quickly. Before I knew it, I was on a train bound to Daegu. No, I wasn’t worried that I would not be able to live without them. I just didn’t want to say goodbye to them. I knew that God would take good care of me after all the “special God-sent people” helped us here in Korea. I was just sad that I had to live without them now. All my life I’ve always lived with them. I didn’t know of a world without them. I can’t explain that feeling–like a part of me was being painfully torn away from me. This was the first time I have ever felt this way. It was a different feeling from when Papa died. The next few days in that apartment in Suseong-gu was nothing memorable. The events of that week are a blur to me. All I remember was how I felt as the days slowly passed–how I wanted to cry every night, how I wanted my mother to take care of my aching body when what I actually wanted was for her to comfort my aching little heart, how I wanted to be close to my sister all the time, how I wanted to snuggle close to my father’s side. Even now as I write this, tears began to flow as I remember exactly how I felt. I couldn’t express my feelings to them because I wanted to show them that I can be strong and that I can do well. I didn’t want them to worry about me. I didn’t want them to think that I would be crying once I’m alone. They would be quite sad if they find out that I feel helpless most of the time.
In that last subway ride, they left me at Banwoldang Station in a train crowded with people. That moment they left, I couldn’t even see them anymore before the doors closed because of all the people. Throughout that longest 30-minute ride, I tried my best to hold back my tears. I wanted to break down and cry, but not in a subway filled with people. As I climbed the steps of the Yeungnam University Station, I kept whispering to myself, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, everything will be alright. You have to be strong.” Throughout the orientation, all I remember is that I tried so hard to keep my tears from falling. Even during campus tour, I just wished that my family could be there to see how pretty the campus was. When I came home to an empty dorm room, I cried my heart out for the rest of the day. I tried to eat the kimbap and bread they bought for me but I just swallowed and I didn’t enjoy any of it. I remember that it had absolutely no taste as if my taste buds had stopped working. I cried and I cried and I wanted someone to hold me, but there was no one there. This was the longest time I have ever cried and I had a very difficult time stopping. My heart was in so much pain. But I had to be strong. Here I am, Into the New World.