Visiting Taichung

My grandmother Ruthe and I (Betsy’s daughter Casey) are visiting Betsy and Dan in Taichung for the next two weeks. We traveled from Seattle through Tokyo and arrived Wednesday night after 11pm. We all stayed up chatting for a bit before unceremoniously collapsing.

If you are ever travelling through Asian airports, may I recommend a travel partner who could use a wheel chair? Attendants took us straight to our gate when we couldn’t read the language, we had a line entirely to ourselves to get through passport control, and were let on to the planes first. It was a more pleasant and comfortable 17 hour journey than I expected. (Especially the first leg where we were surprised to find ourselves in the Economy Plus section. It’s amazing how much of a difference 3″ of additional leg room make to your mood…)

Things my parents have neglected to mention so far in this blog:

* The air is sweet smelling. Actively so. It’s not yet to cloying, but I could see how it could get there.  Flowers? Exhaust? Incense? Garbage? A combination of all of the above? I don’t know.
* Storefront temples! Temples! In Storefronts! I don’t know why this amazes me, but I am tickled just the same.
* One of their showers has a Winnie the Poo head where the water shoots out of his mouth. It’s bizarre. (I gather they’ve not tried it yet.)
* The carrots are GINORMOUS. Here, I took a picture:Our first day haul @the morning market

Things my parents have mentioned that I can now corroborate:

* The vegetable ladies are the nicest
* The mountains where AST is nestled are gorgeous (I’m really looking forward to seeing more of them)
* Looie and Cricket are the most photogenic cats imaginable. Here, I took a picture:

kitty cats


Kitchen Help

Mom and Casey helped me with cooking class yesterday.  We tackled mashed potatoes and chicken gravy.  It was great to have some experienced hands in the kitchen helping the students with such concepts as waiting for potatoes to actually cook before mashing them and the nuances of making a roux.

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After the students scarfed down their handiwork, Mom washed all the dishes (in cold water because that’s all we have in that room) and Casey cataloged all of the equipment.

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Casey is going to help me put together cooking kits to use in the classroom, one for every four students.  The cooking kits will be particularly useful for the older students in the longer classes when I can tell them to get out what they need for the day’s lesson.  Until now I had an ever increasing jumble of bags in the back of the room with all the bits and pieces I’d collected.

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Stocking a kitchen from scratch takes some serious shopping and investment.  One of the challenges of buying equipment for 14 students is that I frequently buy all that a store has and still don’t have enough for all the class.  The elementary school students very much prefer to cook by themselves instead of in teams so when I can set up a recipe that way I do.  That means bowls and measuring spoons for all.  It’s a lot to keep track of.  Just the sort of organizing project that Casey loves.

Showing Off the Family

My mother and one of our daughters are visiting for the next two weeks. Lucky you – you get some guest posts from Casey, who introduced me to blogging. Lucky us – we get time with some of our favorite people. Actual physical presence and not just Skype!

We’ve tried to start off slowly to give them time to get over the long, long flight from Seattle and the inevitable jet lag.  Fortunately their travel was relatively easy and the two of them charmed everyone they met across the Pacific Ocean.

Our morning market was the first must see stop in the travel plans.  Now they’ve been introduced to our favorite vendors so they can be regulars, too.  I’ve learned to say “mother” in Mandarin so I can introduce them.  (This is not as big an accomplishment as you may think.  It’s “mama.”)

On the way back from the morning market both Casey and Mom were distracted by one of the many clothing vendors.  The sales ladies kept bringing them more and more outfits to try on.  Both bought colorful stretch pants (which looked great on them!) and Casey bought one of the fun tops.  Here’s an outfit Casey put together with the new pants and a floaty dress the previous teachers left in the apartment.


Casey is looking forward to more clothes and shoe shopping when we get to the night market.

We walked past the multiple temples in our neighborhood to Ou-jyi for pearl tea and radish cake.


Casey liked the pearl tea so much she ordered another one, but we got this shaved ice treat instead.  We all had to help finish it off.  Yum!


View from the Temple

I’ve been hearing since we got here that we should go up to the temple above school. It’s a steep walk, but it’s also possible to drive up the narrow road.  Just turn left at the giant hand and follow the road to the end.

There’s not much to the temple itself – mostly some large statues (the Taiwanese love giant statues) and an impressive view.


It’s a whole new look way to look at the school (the red-roofed buildings).



Cooking Class Update

4th and 5th grade cooking class has been going well.  We’ve cooked pasta sauce, carrot raisin salad, chocolate chip cookies, and vegetable curry among other dishes.  The students are very enthusiastic and the older students are eager to get a cooking class of their own. 

I just found out that cooking classes for middle school and high school will be offered next school year in addition to the upper elementary school class.  Let’s hope lots of students sign up for these.  I have plenty of ideas for classes for older students.  But I still need to build up my teacher stamina and my store of student-ready recipes.  I get very tired when I teach.  All the experienced teachers in the family have assured me that this is a temporary condition. 

Next school year the new cafeteria will be open and that’s where the cooking class will be held.  I’m told that it will have hot water and even a dishwasher!  This is a very big deal for me (and for Dan who often helps out by washing the dishes after class).  Hot water is not always found in Taiwan kitchens.  And I’ve never seen a dishwasher here.  Believe me, it’s difficult to get greasy plastic tablespoons really clean with just cold water and soap.  It’s possible, but difficult.

The older classes will also be 90 minutes instead of the 45 minutes I have for elementary school now.  That will give enough time to tackle some more elaborate dishes.  I’m thinking about assigning a final exam of a traditional roast dinner served to the teachers and staff. 

The students have done very well with the dishes we’ve done so far.  They are picking ingredients, measuring and mixing all on their own and for the most part doing well.  They are even being safe with the knives, ovens, and stove tops.  But following the recipe steps in order is still a challenge.  They do very well when I demo the recipe but not so well when they are required to figure it out on their own.  It will be interesting to see how the older students do with following precise directions. 


It seems that every week we have had to buy some new equipment for the cooking class – cutting boards, knives, bowls, whisks, and more.  This week we found the best toys of all.  The local store had induction cookers for a great price.  These cooktops have no heating elements and don’t get hot. They cook by heating the pot directly with a magnetic field.  So cool!  (sorry for the pun)  We tried these out today and they worked very well.  They are safe enough that I’m comfortable with the entire class working on their own.  They could still get burned with hot liquid, but nothing will catch fire.  What a relief.  And these cookers are fast.  Water boils quickly.  I’m getting one for my kitchen. 


I have a separate blog for the cooking class. It includes my adventures learning to teach (mistakes and all) and the recipes that I’m using.  Check out Careful with the Knife! for more stories.


Hello Kitty Dirt Devil

Derrick loves West Side Story so much that he came to our place for movie night even though he’s very allergic to cats.  Alas, the best of intentions and allergy medication just wasn’t enough and he couldn’t stay past “I Feel Pretty”.

Vacuum cleaners were on sale at Save and Safe today.  Anything that can keep the dust and cat fur under control seemed like a really good idea.  The best choice in the store? The special edition Hello Kitty Dirt Devil.


Dan may have been influenced by the Exorcist parody commercial that was playing nearby.  Keep in mind when you watch this that Christianity is a minority religion here.  How many in the Taichung Save and Safe understand the religious references in this clip?

p.s. we tried the vacuum and it’s great!  Just what we needed when the cats are shedding.