Sunday, April 18, 2010

sun + moon = lake



Brandon and I recently escaped for a weekend whirl at Sun Moon Lake. We went with no plans or expectations and ended our trip feeling completely elated because it went so well.


Taking off mid-day Saturday, we took a few train rides along the beautiful countryside. Who wouldn't be tempted to take a picture of themselves on the train ride? We certainly did. But we always enjoy how the Taiwanese are willing to set up their tripods, even when there are capable photographers amongst them.


After the train ride to Shueili, we were then to take a shuttle up to Sun Moon Lake. After finding the cashier (below) at the shuttle station fast asleep, we learned from a local that we missed the shuttle and the next wouldn't arrive for another 2 hours.


Lack of an itinerary allows for spontaneity. For the 2 hour wait, we were able to soak up some rays by a large river eating juicy watermelon and reading our books.



Well, we didn't arrive in Sun Moon Lake till late and we didn't know what was in store for us. After finding the bike shops closed and the camp grounds overcrowded, we decided to venture off on foot and find our own area to set up camp.

After walking around the windy mountain roads for maybe 30-40 minutes searching for a trail to lead us somewhere, we were stopped by a Taiwanese woman in her car. We interpreted her frenzied Chinese to mean that it was dangerous for us to continue walking in the dark . She relentlessly refused that we leave her presence unless she took us to our destination. OUR DESTINATION? We didn't have one. Soon enough, Brandon was pointing to a random trailhead on the map he was carrying.

Our saving grace (aka. Tiffany- of whom doesn't like her English name because it resembles 'expensive') drove us for merely 15-20 minutes in the opposite direction we were originally headed. She understood our intentions to camp and we were impressed with her willingness to drop us off at this trailhead when the signs posted NO CAMPING.


The long trail (it was really a long staircase) led down to the water with a small outlook platform and a lighthouse. Only being disrupted once by a group of people (who might have been on to us with their many questions) Brandon and I had each other, the many spiders, toads and the beautiful lake to ourselves for the evening.




We set up camp and were never discovered...at least we don't think so (we heard someone fishing or doing something close to us in the middle of the night). In the morning, we may or may not have 'fallen' into the water. It's ILLEGAL to swim at Sun Moon except for one national day a year.


Since a 2 hour cycling workout was on our triathlon training schedule anyway, we found it appropriate to bike entirely around the massive lake. Windy hills and roads with picture taking and hiking up to temples ended up being more like a 4 hour bike ride.





So, we ended up only riding on a few paths where they posted NO BIKES ALLOWED. And dipping into the lake water again only seemed like the most logical thing to do when there's always a chance of heat exhaustion from cycling in the hot sun.


We finished our adventure Sunday night at Sun Moon Lake's nominated best Chinese restaurant (people were being turned down left and right but we're lucky enough to squeeze our way in). We watched the sunset through the fog and then headed home.

Thank you Sun Moon for letting us bend your rules and get away with it all!  

Saturday, April 17, 2010

In the Classroom


After the hard work is finished... the books are read, the sound pronunciation tests are finished, the writing is done, my students do a variety of activities so they have the opportunity to speak as much English as possible. 

The Kinders

The Kindergarten classes are the exception to this. They of course just get to have fun all morning long but they must speak English. They go through four rotations (I teach 2 classes and Callie teaches 2 classes).
They get to: 1. eat food 2. read and talk about a book 3. make an art project 4. bounce around in a padded room and call it PE 


Frank after he made his peanut butter and jelly cookie cutter sandwich


I still love reading those Berenstain Bear books


Sometimes it's hard not to just squeeze Robbie; he's so fun to have in class

video

video

For PE, I have been teaching these kids how to dance. (sorry for the shaky camera...they still need me to do the dance with them)


Carol and Monica were caught spontaneously blowing out the candles of Jay's birthday cake hat. 

The Trouble Makers 
(just my older students)

My other two classes (9-10 year olds) had fun doing some 'spring time' activities. Since most students are not Christian, they don't understand the connection between Christ, Easter eggs and bunnies...oh wait, do any of us know? Nonetheless, they didn't object nor ask why they were on a hunt to find candy-filled plastic eggs (why would they? it's sugar!)


Sharon's obviously about to pounce upon another egg finding



No deluxe egg decorating kits here! It's all about the vinegar, water and food coloring


Did you know if you write your name with white crayon on the egg- the dye will not color that area? 

Anyway, I just LOVE these kids! 



Wednesday, April 14, 2010

3.14 (just a belated pie day)


Sweets in Taiwan just really don't hit the sweet tooth spot, so I guess that is why we keep attempting the culinary art of baking.  


So everyone apprised me about how to save the pie crusts from shrinking after it was baked and 1/2 of it's original size. 


I love banana cream pie and enjoyed this recipe: 

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
  • 4 bananas, sliced

Directions
  1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Add milk in gradually while stirring gently. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is bubbly. Keep stirring and cook for about 2 more minutes, and then remove from the burner.
  2. Stir a small quantity of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks, and immediately add egg yolk mixture to the rest of the hot mixture. Cook for 2 more minutes; remember to keep stirring. Remove the mixture from the stove, and add butter and vanilla. Stir until the whole thing has a smooth consistency.
  3. Slice bananas into the cooled baked pastry shell. Top with pudding mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 12 to 15 minutes. Chill for an hour.


Banana cream & mulberry baked pies were just what us teachers needed at the end of the week.



Lost Boys in Never Neverland

A group of English co-teachers and Taiwanese co-workers went camping a few weekends ago and boy, were we in for something new.

Some of the unexpected results:

1. The Taiwanese don't really utilize the park; everyone camps within a few feet of each other under small pavilions. Our group was loud, but the engagement party next to us, involving 20+ Taiwanese, also had their fair share of noise.


2. It's apparent that most Taiwanese aren't connoisseurs of the great outdoors, but bringing a suitcase for an overnight trip? come on.


3. Supposedly the camping fee included frozen meats delivered in a box. The box also came with the supplies needed for starting the fire, bags of charcoal, a grilling rack, and more.


4. Just in case you can't figure out the frozen goody box or handle sleeping on the groomed dirt, there are hotels and restaurants at the top of the campsite.


5. A bee keeper providing us fresh honey




6. Jurassic Park playground


7. Astroturf sledding




8. Zipline swings 




9. Suspension bridges



10. Tightrope walking



11. Well manicured flower gardens



12. Firefly parks



And that is why I felt like one of the Lost Boys in never Neverland. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Training in Feng Yuan

As you might know, I've willingly signed myself up for an Olympic Triathlon the weekend of June 12 & 13.  I have been assiduously training with my co-teacher Brandon for nearly two months already (just a few more to go). 
The race will be the following: 

1.5 km swim, 40 km ride & 10 km run
(.93/24.8/6.2 miles)

So, training on top of everything we're already doing can be a little hectic (doing each event 2x a week and sometimes 2x in one day for 1-2 hours each).  But Feng Yuan, Taiwan has graciously provided us the perfect training grounds for our preparation. We are a little spoiled as you will see below.

The Feng Yuan Bike Path 


Only 15 minutes on bike from our school, lays the nicely paved bike path that stretches for nearly 12 miles in one direction.


The bike path is not crowded in the early morning weekdays when I often frequent. Come Saturday and Sunday, the path hosts rollerblading CRAM schools (shown above), Taiwanese cyclist clubs, families and friends renting single and tandem bicycles, and runners/fast walkers of all shapes and sizes;
it can wear anyone out (baby boy completely exhausted)!

The Diore Swimming Pool


Only a 15 minute bike ride away, this sparkly clean pool has plenty of lap pools and isn't crowded during my lunch break. 


I haven't seen this part available yet. Even though the kids are in school, don't they realize adults want to play too?! 


The reward after a long swim is spending time using a few of the 15-20 different jets. 


I've got new running shoes (they are a men's shoe because the women's section doesn't come bigger than a size 8). Now, all I need to find is a generous female cyclist to let me exchange my rusty old mountain bike for her shiny thin-tire bike for maybe a few training sessions and the race.