Having not entertained guests other than the boys in awhile, we started out conservatively by inviting Gus over. Gus is the Cavalier King Charles spaniel pictured below.
Gus pushed our limits a bit by bringing along his roommates Regina and Greg. These were actually the second people we met when we visited Athens (they hosted us as couchsurfers).
Soon after that, we headed up to my parents' house to do a little housesitting. Actually, we went up for John's goodbye party, as he was heading down to Texas for grad school. Previously, he had never been out of Ohio for more than 2 weeks and so it was quite a bold move for him. The two of us went out to Bellefontaine to play a triple round (54 holes) of frisbee golf since it might be awhile before we get to play again. My parents left for Pennsylvania so Joo and I had some fun pruning branches (with a mixture of a saw and karate) and picking berries.
I received my fourth installment of my monthly Cheez-it supply. Now that I finally figured out the joke, Mom took a bit more liberty in personalizing the box...
We hit up a local garlic festival on our way home which I unfortunately don't have pictures of. It was a deliciously unique festival with treats ranging from garlic chocolate chip cookies to a live folk band that played increasingly harder as a thunderstorm rolled in and rain was pouring down torrentially around us.
Upon returning home, we were delighted to receive our first couchsurfing request. We've surfed with six different hosts now but have never hosted anyone. Hmmm... I guess that's not completely true; we did host the band Paleface via a couchsurfing connection, but this was the first time a request actually appeared in our couchsurfing mailbox. Luckily, our initiation into hosting was an easy one as the surfers were Dave and Lane from Bellefontaine. Even though we knew who they were, we really didn't know WHO they were since I hadn't talked with Lane since youth group seven years ago and I had never really had a conversation with David before. We chatted the night away, mostly swapping cultural stories (Lane of her time in Hawaii and Kyrgyzstan, Dave of his solo month-long hike down the Portugal coast, and Joo and I of our South American journey). As these two were more on the adventurous end of the spectrum, Joo gave them a bit of the acufire treatment she picked up in Korea.
Since it had been a full year since the "Acufire accident" (enough said), and Joo had learned quite a bit more, I finally took the courage to partake in the ritual again myself.
The next day we went out to Sells Park to do some hiking. Although Joo and I have lived here a year, we had never explored beyond the mouth of the trails and so we branched off into what turned out to be a rather longer hike than what we expected. It was a beautiful one with some areas feeling like dense Latin American jungle and some nice boulders.
Below, there is a picture of a little child praying that David and Lane sent us, and some flowers that Thad and Kristen brought us. Thad and Kristen are both professors at OU who have some Menno-connections with my past (what Mennonite doesn't?) and we had been wanting to spend some time with them for awhile. They live in a log cabin (although phrasing it like that gives a bit more of a rustic picture than their mansion-like cabin warrants) up in Nelsonville 15 minutes down the road and we've been looking forward to starting up monthly meetings with them and two other couples here soon. In all that we've experienced in Athens so far, we really haven't plugged into any sort of community on a regular basis and so this is something we're both looking forward to. We visited a couple churches also, but felt pretty strongly that neither of those would be a good match for us; in the meantime, Joo's been plugging in increasingly with the women at a nearby Korean church.
Although Joo and I had managed to survive with a single car for these first two years of living in the US, we finally reached the breakpoint this fall since she will be a full-time student in a college that's a 15-minute drive away and I'll be doing my student teaching outside of Athens. This turned out to be perfect timing, however, as Mom and Dad were ready to get a new car and were willing to sell us their old one at an excellent discount!
Joo drove the car back to Athens and remarked how it was much nicer now that she could see around curves before turning. (Yes, I did ask what she had done previously, but you don't want to know the answer). With about a week to go until my school started up again, orientation was in full swing and I spoke on a panel for the incoming teaching assistants. It felt so long ago since last year when I had been in the crowd of students at that same panel, nervously wondering how I would handle undergrad teaching.