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, New Zealand
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 Boseong
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.
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
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
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).
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…?
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.
Possibly my all-time favorite picture of Jonathan
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. 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.
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.