Our Year in Review 2021

I am writing this post in January of 2022, but I can’t help feeling like we are still in 2020. While much has happened during the last 2 years, the ups and downs of the pandemic has also made time come to a standstill sometimes, and right now with Omicron surging, it feels like we are suddenly being brought back to 2020, learning how to live in a pandemic-stricken, polarized world once again.

Perhaps, because the new COVID variant Omnicron has dominated headlines since the beginning of this year, causing immense fear and turmoil around the world, it has triggered a lot of unpleasant memories of the 2020 lockdowns, causing us to feel “stuck” again. Many, including our family, were very hopeful that 2022 would be the year that things transition back into normalcy, at least as far as gatherings and travel were concerned, but to start the year with record high COVID numbers quickly made our collective hopefulness dwindle. But, it is only January, so things could turnaround for the better as the year unfolds!

Despite the seemingly never-ending COVID situation, as I reflect upon 2021 for this post, I see so much to be grateful for. Even though it was undoubtedly one of the hardest years of my life, as I look back at everything that happened, I feel immensely thankful for the many, many ways that God showed up. In fact, in hindsight, which is often 20/20, I can see God’s hands in nearly every part of my life…the highs, the lows, and all the in betweens.

If 2020 was the Great Reset, then 2021 was the Great Surrender. Literally so much was completely out of my control I could do nothing but constantly pray for God’s guidance and direction. There were moments when I questioned whether God was listening, but what I have learned is that God is always listening. However, God’s timeline is almost always different than ours, and His ways are never what we envision. Part of the journey in growing my faith is also a journey to grow my patience (which has always been a problem!) because God wants us to wait for His perfect timing and plan, not ours.

And with that single most important lesson from 2021, here’s our recap of a remarkable year full of wonderful memories with loved ones, even amidst a global pandemic…

January 2021We rang in the New Year in Hong Kong with our family, and the huge blessing of all being together during a global pandemic was certainly not lost on us. We cherished every meal together as a group of 9, squeezed affectionately around Mimi and Brian’s dinner table, night after night…before Bridgette and I left Hong Kong a few days into the new year. Alan stayed behind, but Bridgette and I had important reasons to leave first. We went home to get our house ready to welcome the Chuangs, because their first stop before departing on their gap year was SFO! Since we knew we’d be reunited with the Chuangs in a week’s time, our farewells in Hong Kong were not as sad as previous times. When the Chuangs arrived to SFO, we hugged as if we did not just spent the last 6 weeks together in Hong Kong, but that was because we recognized how precious it is to get to be together once again! They spent only a week in the Bay Area and it was a leisurely week for all of us to get over our jetlag, but we did get to celebrate Mimi’s birthday together with her favorite tiramisu cake from Studio Cake. Brianne and Bridgette spent a lot of time in their room just playing music, Brady got to practice snorkeling in my bathtub, and Brian constantly surprised us with delicious baked goods from the kitchen! A week later, we sent the Chuangs off to Ecuador, and confirmed that Bridgette and I would meet them a couple weeks later after their time in the Galapagos. Little did they know that I had spent the last few months scheming up the most perfect surprise to meet them in the Galapagos! Our surprise went off pretty much without a hitch, which is saying something about my years of accumulated skill in this arena (haha), and we spent a wonderful week in the Galapagos Islands together touring the western islands. We even got to celebrate Brianne turning 14 while on our Galapagos cruise!

February 2021After our week in the Galapagos, we continued our trip in Ecuador through most of February. We visited our friend Kirk in Cuenca, moved onto Banos, and then spent an exciting few (and very hot) days in the Amazon Rainforest. Bridge and I ended our time in Ecuador after visiting our friend Ayaka in Quito, and then flew back to the Bay Area while the Chuangs remained for another two weeks. During our time in Ecuador this month, we got to celebrate my birthday, Chinese New Year, and Valentine’s Day! We enjoyed a sweet reunion with Alan once we arrived home, and because we had to self-quarantine after traveling, Bridgette spent a very quiet birthday with us at home…though I did get her an amazing cake from Butter& that had a beautiful gold map of the world. After self-quarantining, we eagerly reconnected with friends and family that we hadn’t seen for awhile.

March 2021Our home became a natural transit (and rest) stop for the Chuangs in between all the places they were going to hit for their gap year, so we happily welcomed them back again for a week this month. We had prayed so hard for the Chuangs’ annual visit to happen in the summer of 2020, but God said no. Instead, He had even better plans for us and blessed us with way more time than we asked for in 2021, both at our home in the Bay Area and in various countries around the world! Thank you Lord! We spent a good chunk of our March just enjoying home cooked meals, celebrating Alan’s birthday, and seeing the few friends and family that felt comfortable with small gatherings. The Chuangs then jetted off to their next destination–Alaska, and we joined them during their week skiing at Alyeska ski resort in Girdwood, Alaska! My cousin Jacqueline also brought along her daughter Maddie, and it was so cute to watch Maddie and Brady learn how to snowboard together. We had such a fun time, but boy, after skiing for like 5 consecutive days, I could barely feel my sore arms and legs anymore!

April 2021We spent the whole month of April back at home, and continued making up for lost time with family and friends. Our friend Kirk came to visit from Ecuador and we had a lot of fun taking him around town to indulge in all kinds of Asian food. Bridge even introduced Kirk to his very first boba drink! The Chuangs returned to our home from Alaska for an extended stay this time, and our uncle James also visited from Puerto Rico. We celebrated Brian’s birthday with a wonderful 2 night stay at the Autocamp in Yosemite where we hiked, swam, and played an exciting round of Truth or Dare around the evening fire. Lastly, to close the month out, Mimi planned our annual girls’ trip down to San Luis Obispo where we got to eat our favorite clam chowder at Pismo Beach!

May 2021This was definitely one of my favorite months of the whole entire year. My parents returned from Hong Kong, giving us precious time together as a family before the Chuangs headed to their next destination. Much time was spent cooking in our kitchen and gathering around our dinner table for meals, games, and endless laughter (mostly from Brady’s silliness!). We hosted a lovely backyard brunch for Mother’s Day and a super fun cousin’s BBQ to pre-celebrate Brady’s 5th birthday! I really cherished every single one of these gatherings with family and friends, always reminding myself to never take these moments for granted again.

June 2021It was especially sad to send the Chuangs off again at the beginning of this month, because their plans were to hit the next 2 countries consecutively, and then fly straight back to their home in Hong Kong since they would need to quarantine for 21 days upon arrival there. We had gotten so use to having a full house and a crowded dinner table day after day, and were not quite ready to let them go yet. Alas, sadly, we still had to bid farewell. After they left, we continued to maximize our time with family and friends (who knew when the next lockdown would be?!) before Bridgette and I flew off to Kenya to meet up with the Chuangs there. It was a loooong flight, though Bridge and I did get to enjoy an afternoon tea at Harrod’s when we transited in Doha, Qatar, and that was pretty cool. We arrived to Nairobi, Kenya after midnight and enjoyed another sweet reunion with the Chuangs the following morning. Our time in Kenya together was absolutely magical, and dare I say that it was the most memorable trip we’ve taken?! We spent time in Nairobi, Maasai Mara, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, and Laikipia County, and while each place was vastly different in terms of wildlife and habitat, what impacted us most were the people that we met along the way.