Year in Review: Daring Deeds and Amazing Adventures

For the past few weeks every time I’ve logged onto Facebook I’ve gotten a message urging me to share my Year in Review with my friends. When I scrolled through the timeline the Facebook elves had strung together I found that while I did some photo-worthy things in January, I apparently did nothing at all between then and April. Actually, according to Facebook, there is only evidence of my living at all during 5 of the 12 months of this past year.

At first I was kind of indignant, “Hey, Facebook. I DO things. I’m pretty sure I did things in March and in July and October. I’m almost positive.” But then I realized that real life could never be summed up in a Facebook album. Real life is both grittier and more beautiful.

Normally at the end of each month I do a What I’m Into post to summarize what I’ve been reading, watching, eating, and doing over the previous month. For these last few days of December I’ve decided to do a few year-in-review posts about 2014 before writing about goals and dreams for the coming year.

This post is about the adventures we lived this year. Not every adventure was fun and exciting. Some were difficult and scary. And of course, some were just plain boring. Everyday life is full of mundane moments, but my hope in reflecting on this year is that I will see these moments as part of the story too instead of only remembering the highlights.

***

2014 was an epic travel year for the Dunns. Including Korea, we went to 7 countries this year – blowing our previous record (1 country) out of the water. 😉 Since our winter vacation from school comes in January we started the year with the trip of a lifetime – 18 days spent in China, New Zealand, and Australia. Jonathan and I agree that that trip (particularly New Zealand) was probably the greatest traveling experience we’ve had or will ever have. We were (and are) profoundly grateful for this opportunity and remind ourselves of it often when we have moments of frustration and homesickness because we never could have taken that trip if we hadn’t chosen to come to Korea. You can read about our trip and see more photos here and here and here.

wanaka

Wanaka, New Zealand

 

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

February and March were hard. They were long and cold and dark and especially after leaving the summer weather in Australia and New Zealand I struggled. I struggled with depression and with feeling like I didn’t belong. I struggled with my body and with my relationship with food. And I clung to my family and celebrated the beautiful friends whom I love so dearly.

In the spring, we did a bit of traveling around Korea to see the green tea fields and attend a cherry blossom festival. In May my parents came to visit us in Korea and we were able to do a little bit of in-country travel with them. Since the entire country of South Korea is about the size of the state of Indiana, it’s pretty easy to cover a lot of ground in a short time. We explored Seoul, Busan, and Gyeongju as well as our city, Daegu.

Green tea fields in Boseung

Green tea fields in Boseong

Mom and Dad visit

Hiking at Palgongsan with my parents

 

In the spring, I also joined a Bible study with one of the most delightfully diverse group of women I could imagine. There was both more eating and more cursing than any Bible study I’ve ever been a part of, but there was also more courage, more honesty, and more desire as well. The girls in this group have changed a bit from when we first started, but we are still meeting and it’s still one of the best things that happened to me this year.

In June I had an article published that went viral (in fact, I recently learned that it was Relevant’s most-read story of the year). To say I was unprepared for this is the understatement of the year. But I’ve learned so much through this experience and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities I received as a result and am still amazed and humbled that something I wrote could have been seen by so many people.

In June we celebrated our 4th anniversary with a trip to the Busan Aquarium where I reminded Jonathan of how lucky he is to married to a girl who can do this with her face.

aquarium

I can’t believe I ever got someone to marry me.

 

But in June my best friend’s dad was diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer and all I could do was sit on skype with her and cry.

July was the worst. It was hot and so, so wet and humid and gray all the time. The semester crawled by and after nearly a year in Korea we were feeling desperate for a change. We were tired and sad and not altogether excited about the fact that we had just signed a contract to stay in Korea for another year. And all summer long I prayed bold prayers that seemed to go unheard.

In August our best friends here in Korea had a perfect baby girl. It was a privilege to walk beside them through the entire pregnancy, to meet Genevieve hours after she was born, and to watch her grow over the past 4 months. As a bonus, both of the grandmas were able to come to Korea to meet their granddaughter and they were able to stay with us (because we have a bigger apartment) so we had moms with us for most of September and October which was nearly as good as having our own moms here.

Josh, Laura, and Genevieve Louise Rhoads

Josh, Laura, and Genevieve Louise Rhoads

In August we also went home to America for 10 days to see our families and to stuff ourselves with enough of our favorite American foods to make it another year away from them. We spent 5 days in Louisiana with my family and 5 days in Ohio with my in-laws, but we didn’t make it to North Carolina where a lot of our friends and our cats are. Since we were already flying back to Asia, we stopped for a few days in Bali before getting back to Korea. The monkey forest was easily the highlight of that trip.

Family Photo, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Family Photo, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

In September we took a long weekend trip to Osaka and Kyoto in Japan where I had an unfortunate stomach incident and where we got to see some real live geisha headed to work. (Geisha is the plural of geisha – fun fact for you).

IMG_6235

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The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto

 

In October I read like it was my job. I read to avoid writing and maybe other parts of my life and instead I sat back and let some friends do the writing for me. I ran a guest series on various aspects of sex and the church and was inspired and encouraged by the brave words of my friends.

In November I ran the Dalgubeol Marathon (it’s only a half marathon so the name is misleading) here in Daegu and set a new PR at 1:57:06 beating my previous time by 7 1/2 minutes! I was so excited to break the 2-hour barrier, but I confess that I haven’t run a single time since then, haha. Maybe it’s time to set a new goal…

I also had a blog post that was Freshly Pressed in November leading to some lovely new blogging friends.

I celebrated my birthday at the beginning of the month with a visit to the coolest wine bar where we sat on cushions on the floor of this little alcove covered in thick carpets and sipped sparkly drinks and almost fell asleep because it was so warm and cozy and the only lights were from dozens of candles and it smelled like sweet spices from all the hookah (which, for the record, I did not smoke). I also dyed my hair brown and got these bangs that all the Korean girls have but that frankly feel way too cool for me.

To bang or not to bang...?

To bang or not to bang…?

Most recently, Julie, a friend of mine from high school, came all the way out to Korea for a visit. We braved the cold in Seoul and made it to some of the big touristy spots and made an entertaining stop at the Trick Eye Museum.

IMG_6549

Possibly my all-time favorite picture of Jonathan

Possibly my all-time favorite picture of Jonathan

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I even got to bring her to school with me for our winter festival and my coteacher made us pose with this tiny tree.

All the little Christmas icons are also courtesy of my coteacher.

All the little Christmas icons are also courtesy of my coteacher. Also, I messed up the timeline a little since clearly the bangs came after this.

We had a quiet Christmas alone together in our little apartment. Jonathan woke up with a fever on Christmas morning so we skyped with our families and exchanged presents and then we canceled our dinner plans and he got back in bed. It wasn’t romantic and it wasn’t a good story, but it was real and we were together.

socks

Novelty socks are all the rage here so we did manage to find each other some pretty excellent footwear as Christmas gifts.

 

Reflecting like this fills me with gratitude for opportunities that are frankly undeserved and that sing of grace in my life. Thanks to the many of you who have been a part of that.

Watch for my next post about the best books of 2014.

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29 comments

  1. I can relate to feeling homesick in a place where people think your life must be glamorous just because you’re not in Louisiana, but it’s actually dark and cold all the time, and kind of depressing. I meant to comment on your last post but I’ll just do it here: I can totally relate to your feelings about Christmas. This was my third Christmas in Germany, and in all this time I’ve only been home once (though we are going again in the Spring), and I have not spent a single holiday with family. It’s been friggin hard, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas!!

    Thankfully, I married a man who loves just talking to me. Like your sock picture, we choose to enjoy the little things and just invest in being together. His family, while very German and very different from mine, has also done their best to include me in their traditions too. It’s a hard adjustment, but we survive :p

    I’m so glad you have a bible study where you’ve found friends, too. I never appreciated those enough until I didn’t have them anymore!

    Also, your “to bang” picture is hilarious, but not because of the bangs. Isn’t that what people say when they’re horny and look at pictures of celebrities? Lol!?

    I often read your posts in my inbox and don’t comment often, but I hope you have some way of seeing they are being read! I really enjoy your blog — thank you for writing 🙂

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    1. Anna, I’m sure you do know exactly what I’m talking about! I hope you guys had a good Christmas in spite of being so far away. I also really, really struggle with the dark and the cold after growing up in Louisiana where that doesn’t happen all that often. Are you in Germany pretty permanently or is there any chance that that could change in the future?

      Sounds like you’ve got a great hubby though and that really is worth so much. I don’t know how I would do this living abroad thing without him! I know that our relationship is a huge outpouring of God’s grace and I’m so thankful for it.

      My Bible study girls have been such a breath of fresh air – they are kind of all over the place in terms of where they are at with their faith (or if they are even sure they have faith) but I find that so refreshing and inspiring – here are people who are really actively choosing to get together every week and be a part of this, not out of compulsion or because it’s what Christians are expected to do, but because they genuinely want to. It’s pretty cool.

      My husband said the same thing about “to bang” haha. I told him to get his mind out of the gutter. 😉

      Thanks so much for reading and for the comments you have left. They always make me smile. 🙂

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      1. Haha! I probably have a gutter mind too, then xD

        We are in Germany sort of indefinitely. We’re actually trying to decide what to do with the next 3-5 years. My husband wants to complete an “apprenticeship” (the best translation I can come up with) that will give him a certified skill set, which would give us more stability anywhere we go. In my opinion they have the smoothest and most beneficial system for that in Germany. That would take at least 3 more years, so we’ll probably stick around for a while. We need to figure in more visits to my hometown though :/

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  2. Thank you for writing that. It struck me, reading it, how every year is a little life – with birth, death, family, love, travel, new things, familiar things, difficulties and good friends all swirling through it.

    When you’re living far from home, on one year contracts, I think you notice time passing more acutely. And I think it’s easier to remember to make the most of every opportunity when everything is so obviously finite. Which is a gift.

    By the way – I just finished reading a wonderful book by Lisa St Aubin de Teran called Memory Maps. It might be out of print, but I can see it’s available as an eBook. I think you’d enjoy it – and I think you’d especially enjoy what she writes about Mali, fairly near the end of the book.

    I like your fringe, by the way.

    All best wishes,
    Elaine

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    1. Thanks, Elaine. Your thought about each year being a little life is so beautiful. Reminds me of something I heard recently about how the story of life is one of constant death and resurrection. Makes the deaths a little more beautiful and bearable when we can hold them in perspective.

      I also love your thought about making the most of every opportunity. We are indeed entering a season of lasts in Korea. We have eight months left here and I want to fight the urge to mentally move on to the next thing and appreciate all of the firsts and lasts left for us here.

      I found the book you mentioned on Amazon and I’ve added it to my wish list. My husband says I have to finish all the Kindle books I bought in the past few months before I can buy any new ones, but I will keep it on the wish list! 🙂 Thank you for the recommendation.

      And thanks about the fringe. I’m getting used to it. Nice to have a change every once in a while. 🙂

      Happy New Year!

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      1. Yes, you’re wise to spend the remaining 8 months in Korea revelling in the Koreaness of it all – doing the things that are only available to you there or using it as a jumping-off point to countries that are easily accessible from there. It sounds as if you’ve been doing a pretty good job of that already. 🙂 Once it’s over, it will be over – which truly is a metaphor for life.

        I don’t know if you’re going home afterwards, but you’ll probably be surprised at what you miss or remember fondly from your Korea time. At a distance – of space and time – things shift and reorganise themselves in your memory. Things that bother you now, because you’re knee-deep in them, will take on a shimmer of nostalgia once you’re far from them. You’ll remember some positive aspect that’s invisible to you when you’re in the middle of exasperation. It’s an interesting process!

        Happy New Year to you too! How is it celebrated in Korea? It’s been a recent addition to their calendar of festivities, hasn’t it?

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      2. Well, the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year) is quite a big celebration here, so our New Year isn’t an especially big holiday. We do get a day off of work, but as you said, I think that’s a fairly recent development. Interestingly, rather than staying up until midnight for New Year’s the popular thing to do is get up to see the first sunrise. Many people actually do a hike early in the morning so they can watch the sunrise from a mountaintop. Which sounds quite beautiful, but is also happening in the middle of winter and would be brutally cold. 🙂 The other interesting thing about the New Year is that because of the way age is calculated and recorded in Korea, everyone gets a year older on January 1st. Instead of each person getting older on their birthday, everybody born in a given year gets older together on January 1st, whether they were born in January or April or November. Which means you can have a baby who is born on December 31st and ages 1 year the next day. The Lunar New Year (which falls in mid-February this year) is the first or second biggest holiday of the year and schools are closed for 3 days to celebrate.

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      3. That does sound interesting. Is there a way to catch the sunrise without freezing in the attempt? Does it have to be a mountain?

        When we lived in Spain, I remember there was a tradition to climb up mountains to enjoy the Perseid meteor shower with friends. We knew about it, but never quite got it together to take part. Now the inconveniences have faded into nothing and I think it could have been a magical memory. One summer we’ll go back and do it.

        I think when something isn’t your tradition, you’re not programmed to do it. People in the UK will put up with a lot of dreadful weather to take part in Bonfire Night or New Year’s Eve or spend hours on overcrowded motorways on August Bank Holiday to get down to the seaside. We do it because it’s what we’ve always done.

        Do people in Korea have super efficient winter clothing?

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      4. I suppose you could just wake up and go up on the roof. 🙂 I think Korean winter gear is the same as everyone else’s – they admit that it’s completely freezing so it’s not as though everyone does the pre-dawn hike. It’s just the only New Year’s tradition that I know of. Oh, and they eat seaweed soup because they believe that’s what makes you older at the New Year, haha. Women eat seaweed soup after giving birth because it’s supposed to be good for healing the womb and people eat it on their birthdays to remember their birth. The other popular day to eat it is New Year’s Day,

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    1. That’s OK, there’s not all that much to see in Daegu. Busan is probably my favorite city in Korea because it’s on the coast. If you’re ever back you should try to check it out!

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      1. Happy new year, next when you guys plan for a trip ,consider my country Kenya , its a good place with a lot of breathtaking sceneries…like the wild beast migration one of the seven wonders of the world is coming up in September…welcome and happy new year.

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      2. We would love to go to Kenya! Right now we live in Korea which is why we do most of our traveling in Asia and Oceania. Everything in Asia is quite close to us from here. But Kenya would be wonderful. 🙂

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    1. Thank you. 🙂 I don’t think there’s any point in acting like life is perfect when everyone knows it’s not. I think we can only be loved to the extent that we are known and it’s important to me to be fully known. The world doesn’t need more fake people. 🙂

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