How did I change?
April 13, 2020 Blog #4 : US National Parks
In this “Lock Down” state during the COVID-19 in California, I find myself enjoying the time to reflect, quieting the mind, prioritizing and recognizing what is really important in my life, and “truly living in the moment”. To top it off in my selfish and delectable enjoyment, it comes with a guilt-free package and no obligations to please others by socializing and being hospitable. It is a safe-haven for an introvert like myself. Recent news tells me that a lot of folks are experiencing “cabin fever” but I am secretly experiencing such a pleasure staying home, and found myself so busy that I had to regulate my schedule into some routines to discipline my time to include exercises, piano practice, cooking new recipes and watching Netflix for entertainment. During quieting of the mind, my thoughts are in traffic jams and I have to discipline myself to tell one story at a time in this blog. And today, I decided to share about our two US National Parks trips which are one of my “bucket list” activities.
The first US National Parks trip took place on 9/30-11/7/2016, a total of 39 days through the northern routes of America. We drove 7,223 miles from Los Angeles to Washington D.C., slept in 23 different hotels with no reservations and saw 11 National Parks, a few state parks, waterfalls and national monuments. I saw how beautiful and blessed this country was. Large cities with bright lights, proud tall buildings with bustling people busy minding their own business, practicing their constitutional rights in the pursuit of happiness, to the endless grasslands with perfectly arranged piles of hay without a single person in sight for miles. Small farm houses with red roof barns, cattle roaming around peacefully in the green grass fields punctuated by scattered scenic lakes, ponds and rivers adding to the richness in beauty. Philadelphia and Washington D.C. showed our proud constitution based on the faith of God who we trust with the founding fathers who formulated our government based on human rights, values and equality. We had an extra bonus in seeing colorful foliage during the fall season. This northern route was mostly middle class income houses with Trump supporters displaying their signs in the front yards and it was easy to predict who might be the next president.
The southern route of the National Parks trip was on 1/4 to 2/19/2020, a total of 45 days. We drove 7,477 miles from Los Angeles to Florida, saw 11 National Parks and stayed at 23 different hotels and vacation rentals. I was saying to Hal, “we will be changed people when we are done with the trip.” Unlike the northern route, in the South (especially parts of Texas, LA, MS, AL and parts of Florida), we saw cruelty in poverty amidst muddy brown water swamps, houses with partially blown roofs due to repetitive hurricanes, holes in the walls, miserable hot humid air even during the winter months which made me imagine the unthinkable misery in the summer time with annoying mosquitos in the crowded, and barely covered shacks. The notable things throughout the South are the crawfish Cajun style eatery billboards, but we were not traveling in April, which is the season for eating crawfish. On this trip, I was struck by how divided our country really is socioeconomically; the poor are so poor and the rich are so rich. The costal parts of Pompano Beach and West Palm Beach in Florida displayed incomprehensible and spectacularly expensive estates lived in by a few Caucasian people with their unobstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean. In my opinion, it is not the education, race, gender, different nationality, or languages that divides the American people but the socioeconomics; most of the blacks are in poor, crowded neighborhoods with one McDonald’s, and an old, decrepit, half empty sugar cane factory for the entire community to work in, and without many schools or resources to even dream what to dream to for reprieve from the poverty. The natural disasters always have much more profound devastation on the poor. The residues of hurricanes still remain: Ripped-off roofs, flooded cities, businesses and houses boarded up and never to open again. Just like the current COVID-19 pandemic, the African-Americans die more frequently and it is no surprise why that might be. Crowded spaces, poverty, lack of hospitals to go to, lack of opportunities for work that provide health insurance, and perhaps cultural differences in seeking medical help until too late. To match this realization, the 2020 Oscar winning movie from Korea “Parasites” confirmed my perspectives on the division of the classes by the economic status. The rich are oblivious to the basic human needs of the poor and naïve toward the calamity that is about to come from the poor that will ultimately affect their lives. The poor people live in the same country of “equality” and yet never taste what that really means. My heart aches for the poor but my body demands luxury.
Having seen most of America including Hawaii, and Alaska, I am blessed to say that still, America is a beautiful country. If I had to choose where is the most beautiful National Park, I have to say Yosemite in California and Big Bend in Texas. The most beautiful and scenic state to drive thru is Alaska.
How did I change? For one, I am grateful that our parents who came to this country giving up their comforts and familiarity and became proud to be a citizen in this beautiful country. Secondly, I am grateful to Hal, my husband who is not only my companion, friend and lover but supports and prepares every step of the way to ease the discomfort of my physical disability, being my own legs to explore beyond the door of the house. Thirdly, I am grateful for the faith I have in Christ to have the courage beyond my imagination to explore the whole country with my polio stricken leg. Despite my physical disability, God took me and lets me see His creation in Nature and His people throughout the U.S. and I dare to travel trusting God is good all along the way. Fourth, through seeing the whole country, it gave me the perspective on who I am and what is important in life. My identity is not just defined by the work I do. Life is much more than that. Having a balanced life, knowing the purposes and meanings found in God, having the end in mind but fully present and mindful of the breaths I take today and not consumed with worries of tomorrow is good. The time passes ruthlessly never asking my permission. This moment too passes, and never returns. No one knows when I will die. The COVID-19 reaffirms the fragile nature of the life. Indeed, it is a time to reflect, know what’s really important, lay down the pride and humble myself to God. We came into this world alone and naked and we die alone. Tomorrow is never promised. And therefore, rejoice in God, praise and pray to Him one more time today while I still have breaths. In Matthew 6:19, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where the thieves break in and steal.” In Luke 12:39, Jesus also said, “Be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken with.”