Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Trip to Kenting

The end of November.  Living in the Pacific Northwest makes this time of year difficult to be outside.  Cold, yet not cold enough to freeze the constant drizzle of rain, and breezy is the norm.  Our first Thanksgiving in Taiwan had us packing up the Freeca and heading south along Highway 3.  This is a toll road, so the traffic was light though every 20 to 30 minutes we had to stop and pay 40 NT (approximately $1.30) for the right to continue driving south.  After three hours of driving, the freeway stopped and we hit small roads that eventually swung us along the western coastline.  The wind had whipped whitecaps in the Taiwanese straight and sunlight was glinting off the blue waters.  Aah, what a difference from the past years.

Our destination was Kenting, the end of the road in Taiwan.  Kenting is comprised of a small town on the southern strip that is surrounded by national park and ecological reserves.  It's like a tropical paradise.  We arrived just after noon on Thursday and walked the strip eating lunch and peeking into shops that were slowly coming to life in preparation for the night's market.

 Our Thanksgiving meal took place in this fine eatery.  Given that our school had provided us with a traditional turkey meal on Wednesday, we settled upon a light Mexican fare in honor of arriving in the land of sunshine.  After lunch, the sun had heated the day up and we were ready for a swim.  Little Bay was just around the corner and offered white sand and warm waters.

Until now, Taiwan has been a bit frustrating in that the time to go anywhere has taken double what would normally be expected.  Kenting restored some travelers' faith.  This part of the island is easy to get around and we soon found ourselves on the eastern side, looking into the Pacific Ocean.  At the end of the road is a surf camp like town and we parked along the palm trees and headed out to the beach.
 The afternoon was great!  We swam in the waters.  Audrey took quite a beating as she charged the largest surf of her puppy dog life.  The shore had a steep drop off and when waves sucked back out to sea, a decent undertow was created just as the next wave would come barreling in.  In one instance her high flying leap over an incoming wave was miscalculated and her hind legs were suddenly above her head as she was flipped into the surf.  Shortly after, the undertow sucked her beneath the incoming whitewater and she was held down for several moments to resurface and slowly pull herself back onto the beach.

Finding a smoldering piece of wood from someone's old fire, we quickly stoked it up until we had a nice beach fire.  Piles of nearby driftwood provided an endless supply of fuel but we were off to the southern tip in the hope of catching the night's sunset.

Unfortunately, we arrived a few moments too late to see the final rays of the sun but the hike to the southern tip was a nice and quiet one.  The other tourists had departed and the trail to the point was empty.  We emerged from the jungle to find this monument at the end of the line.

When the sun sets, the streets of Kenting come alive.  Vendors sell all sorts of things.  Lots of items can be put on a stick such as sausage, squid (looks a bit scary with all of the tentacles dangling about), cheese, fruit and chicken butt.  Yep, I got fooled into buying le brochette de chicken arse one night.  Contrary to what students in our class have told us, it is awful!

That night, we found a secluded grove on the eastern side to camp.  The night was gorgeous with a large, orange moon peeking out from the clouds.  Then, the wind started.  It howled.  Wind demons grabbed fistfuls of sand and threw it at us.  Our tent began to fill with sand.  The wind battered down the top of the tent.  Finally, we made a quick retreat to the back of the Freeca for a cramped refuge.

The next day was beautiful.  We explored a bit of the inland portions and stopped at Hengchun to visit the old city wall.

and market.  This lady is selling shrimp - pick the ones you want!

Not wanting another night with the sand demons, we returned to the calmer, western shores and the beautiful Baishe Beach.  It's a small cove nestled into the jungle.  This became our home for the rest of the trip.  Clear blue waters that were warm enough for long swims kept us busy. The sunsets were quite nice...

 It was great to just relax

 though Audrey became a bit obsessive with her desire to swim and fetch the ball out of the water.  Here she digs one of her holes before returning the ball for the next round.

Side trips to the aquarium and little towns kept us going for the next several days.

All-in-all, this was a great trip.  There are a few more photos tucked away if you're interested.

Taiwan National Museum of Marine Biology

Whale sharks, penguins, rays and more!  While in Kenting, Krista and I spent part of the day visiting this aquarium.  There were few others there so it felt as if we had the run of the place.

The whale shark at feeding time

More food 

Jelly fish 


As usual, the camera just would not stop taking photos so there are many more at our photo site.

Thanksgiving Celebration

For the past few years, Thanksgiving week has been parent conference time.  This year at AST, the day  before Thanksgiving was set out to be a celebration and feast.  The middle school Chinese language class got us started with a laugh-out-loud rendition of Snow White and the 7 dwarfs.  It was well done and hilarious.

Then, the middle school hand bell group beautifully performed "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".

Finally, we all sat down together outside for an amazing meal.  AST parents brought an assortment of food that included traditional Thanksgiving fare and Taiwanese food.  It was nice to sit outside with the school and enjoy this food.  Going back into the classroom after lunch was a bit difficult...

Parents getting the buffet line ready

The food was great!

An enjoyable Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A good shaving

Does anyone know how long it takes a dog to acclimate and stop shedding?  We're going crazy trying to keep Audrey's black hairs out of our apartment.  Our vacuum cleaner runs overtime slurping the stuff up by the pile.  Dust bunny?  No, we've got full on monsters.  As we approach the "four months in Taiwan" mark, it seems like she should have either lost her coat completely or stabilized.

If she continues, we may have to resort to extreme measures such as a complete shaving for her.  We have a few models to choose from but unfortunately have few photos at the moment.  I really wished that a camera was available the day that a grey poodle walked by with "le" shaved into her - everything was shaved except these two letters.

A dog with a mane...

From Random Taichung

Krista plays with Sasa (aka Squeakers)
 - unfortunately her tail moves too fast for the camera.  Squeaker's body is completely shaven except for the black tuft of her tail

From Random Taichung


On Sunday night the apartment began shaking.  Krista, quickly falling asleep in bed, thought I was moving the bed.  "Stop messing with me," she mumbled in her drifting off to sleep mode.  When the shaking didn't stop and there was no giggle or other response from me, she realized what was happening.

The photo frames on the wall rattled.  The glass door between our entry and living room vibrated for a long time.  It's a bit unnerving to be stuck on the 8th floor of a building when it begins swaying.  Fortunately, this one was centered in Hualien, which is on the east coast.  Earthquakes hit Hualien almost daily but this had the largest magnitude of the latest ones.  It registered a 6.1 out there and we reportedly felt the equivalent of a 3 shake (Taichung City).
earthquake report

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beach Time

Last weekend, we headed north to Zhunan Beach. It was a windy day and a bit cool but we enjoyed the ocean air while Audrey charged the waves. Zhunan is a bit farther than our normal beach but is nicer with long stretches of golden sand. Wind mills stand like rotating giants and the only other people on the beach are those also enjoying the wind.

From Zhunan Beach
Loving the wind

From Zhunan Beach
Playing Chuck-it

From Zhunan Beach
A rest in a pool