2014 Review

It’s that time of year again…

Time for me to reflect on the past year and think about the upcoming year.

This is a personal post more for my own records, but feel free to read along if you feel so inspired.

TL;DR: 2014 was great.

Also, here is a video compiled from February 28, 2014 ~ January 1, 2015. I took a video each day and mashed the day down to one second. This is 10 months of the year in one video! Making it

2014 started off in Tequilaz, a local Tex-Mex resto-bar. The place was packed with people gathering to countdown hours before their home country’s local time. The countdown came quite abruptly and Adam was a crowd away. We eyed each other and squeezed through champagne-holding humans to try to be with each other, but it was unsuccessful. However, we soon learned that the countdown was a false alarm when the it started again. This time, for real! The final countdown. 10…9…8… There were no fireworks like I usually enjoy on New Year’s, but they were in my head as I stole a kiss from my love (sorry I’m lame). I couldn’t be happier to enter 2014 by surrounding myself with the lovely souls of Gwangju. It started off on a great note and knew it would be a good year.

I originally wrote out a long post about specific topics this year, but I decided that those could be separate blog posts themselves. I’ll just list here some accomplishments and memorable events this year.

  • Created Gwangju Freecycle to reduce waste through reuse and recycle and create community and generosity through gifting. Organized two Swap, Don’t Shop! events in Gwangju.
  • Started a small home business, ‘CAUSE Banana Bread. Raised over $350 through sales, events and an auction for local causes.
  • Traveled to China (Guangzhou), Indonesia (Java & Bali), Japan (Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, Tokyo). CouchSurfed in each country, meeting some inspiring people and lifelong friends.
  • My parents came to Korea and met my birth family. Read about it here.
  • Hiked to the top of Seoraksan, Mudeungsan, Wolchulsan, and hiked in several other mountains
  • Finished in the top 30 for a 10K race in Naju. Trained for a half marathon, but it was canceled. 2015 it is!
  • Began tackling public speaking weakness. Partnered up with Adam to give a GIC Talk about Enhancing Community through Gifting, joined Toastmasters, and began Coursera course entitled “Introduction to Public Speaking”.
  • Fed my creative side that has been dormant for several years. Continued painting with watercolors, took some art classes, learned some basic piano and a very tiny bit of guitar!
  • Tried new things. Went skiing, took two swing dance classes, zumba, did an obstacle course with ziplines, snorkeled, made everything bagels, lasagna, granola bars
  • Learned how to juggle. FINALLY.
  • As of today, practiced Spanish on Duolingo for 217 days straight. Don’t want to ruin my streak!
  • Completed an intermediate Korean course. Certainly noticed my improvement in Korean skills this year, but not anywhere close to what they should be.
  • Organized a sneaky scavenger hunt a month before Adam’s birthday, leading him to a new Kindle inside a cutout book and then to a surprise party. It took a while to plan, but totally worth it. Lucky to have the sweetest boyfriend whom I want to spoil!
  • Finishing up another year of teaching English. In 2014, my visiting school was changed mid-contract to a rather difficult school. It has been a challenging year, but rewarding at the same time.
  • Read 17 books (thanks for my birthday present from Adam – a Kindle!) but want to read more this year.
  • The Gwangsters team won 1st place at the Damyang Amazing Race and 2nd (I think) place at the GFN Wangin scavenger hunt. Adam and I (Team name: CREATE and BANANA) won first place at the GFN Daein Market scavenger hunt. Had a bunch of fun with my chingus along the way!
  • Got LASIK.
  • Published a few articles in the Gwangju News and served as a proofreader.
  • Fostered some great friendships this year. Some of my dearest friends left Korea to go forth and prosper elsewhere in the world. So happy for my friend to have gotten married last week in Japan, another friend to get her yoga certification, my best friend to take the leap and move to Atlanta, another two studying to pursue medicine, and so on. My friends always inspire me and I want to keep them close.

What I learned about myself:

I had some realizations over this past year. Part of it is just me getting older, I guess.

  • Spend quality time with quality people. I used to be a social butterfly, but now I learned to value quiet time home.
  • I care less about appearance. I’ve never been into fashion or makeup, but even more so this year. I barely bought any clothes or makeup this year. I wear almost none, actually (makeup, that is). I never look in the mirror except to wash my face and brush my teeth (that comes with consequences. Adam always notices lint stuck in my hair or toothpaste on my nose. My student even stopped class to tell me I had something stuck in my hair. Maybe I’m just a mess). All of this is quite opposite of many Korean girls here who keep mirrors and makeup in their purses at all times. Perhaps being around that all the time turned me off. Never want to be that way.
  • I need to face my fears. As stated above, I was afraid of public speaking, but my irrational fears need to be conquered. Last week, I was scared shitless of skiing too fast, but by the end of the day I was flying down curvy-ass hills. It was exhilarating. You have to put yourself out there and face those extremes. The next fear I want to conquer is my fear of bugs, specifically cockroaches. Now that is a daunting task. Bring it on, Borneo.
  • I don’t necessarily need to go to graduate school. Throughout college, I was one of those overachievers involved in everything. My professors and research team colleagues all expected me to get my Ph.D. And I thought I would, too. I studied vigorously for the GRE, completed a thesis, volunteered in two labs and was a paid research assistant in another, designed my own study and continued to be involved with the university a year after graduating, traveled to conferences, etc. I liked it at the time, but it isn’t appealing to 2014 me. I learned a lot about myself after college, after my nose was taken out of those books and butt out of the labs and into the world. I still don’t feel like my life is in “the real world”, but really, when is that point? This past year, I’ve been trying to figure out the ‘next steps’ and finding my passions, skills, values. I don’t want to be robbed with student loans and specialize in something when I have so many interests and a difficult time committing to one field. I love to learn, but it doesn’t have to come at a cost. Nowadays, there are so many resources where you can teach yourself. We shall see, we shall see.

What to look forward to in 2015:

  • Travel to Palawan, Philippines and Borneo
  • Go to Jeju Island, finally
  • Figure out what the heck is next after leaving Korea in August
  • Spend time with my birth family while I have the chance. My oldest sister will have her second daughter in March!
  • Improve in chess, public speaking, fitness, learn how to cook new things, take a swing dance class, practice piano, learn more Korean, improve my handwriting, write more, read more
  • Smile and laugh every day.

2015 started in a bar with fellow Gwangjuvians dancing to our friends’ band playing cover songs. Woke up to a city blanketed in snow. Feels like a white Christmas!

Hope everyone had a safe night and started the new year off right!

Some of my favorite photos from the year.

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One comment

  1. Randomly came to this blog. Held attention. The father/niece picture is so good hearted and human and real world it was heartening even to a stranger worlds away. Maybe zhang zai’s western inscription so long ago tho unduly patriarchal was onto something….All people are my brothers and sisters, and all things are my companions….I post to say, gracias.

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