Lion’s Head Mountain

(another guest post from Casey)

I spent much of the drive up to Lion’s Head Mountain with my head hanging out of the window like a puppy dog. There is a large temple on the mountain and also beautiful, lush, jungle.

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My dad and I, the half of the expedition without canes, clambered up the tricky, uneven stairs to the top of the temple.

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I kept admonishing the view to ‘stop it’ since everywhere I looked was over the top, ridiculously picturesque: mountains rising up into the haze, colorful dragons on top of orange tiled roofs, flute music wafting through the air, tropical flowers, etc.

 

When I was a small child one of my favorite places ever was a plant conservatory in Vancouver. The air smelled delicious, the humidity would cause strangers to remark on my curly hair (relieving me of the responsibility of insisting that my hair was, in fact, curly in the face of well meaning, “what lovely wavy hair you have” comments), and since the whole place was a relatively small bio-dome, I could wander around by myself in what felt like my own personal jungle. I adored it, and secretly hoped each time we had a vacation that we would go back and visit it again.

With that in mind: the drive up to Lion’s Head Mountain and the surrounding area are a giant, real version of my perfect childhood place. There are even butterflies! My dad, the great naturalist that he is, pointed to a butterfly and said, “I call that one a ‘white butterfly!’” (Please feel free to make fun of him for this.)

There are vendors spaced around the temple selling food, trinkets, walking canes, and musical instruments. I got a little distracted by the musical instruments. I was entranced by the flute music and asked to try one out. The straight flutes were tricky to get a sound out of, so the man selling them handed me a smaller one that played more like a recorder. He tried to teach me to play a scale and started singing solfege syllables to me. Since I speak solfege we had a common language! I wasn’t allowed to leave until I could play “happy birthday” without messing up.

 

Standing on the top of a mountain, surrounded by tropical mist, smelling burning paper, struggling to play an unfamiliar instrument while being patiently taught by a man I share a total of eight common words with.

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Lightheaded and out of breath we continued on trying to figure out if we could snake around the back to get back to my mom and grandma. We were unsuccessful and instead found another flute seller.

 

ETREMELY light headed (I am not a wind instrumentalist) we made our way down the mountain and found the rest of the family.

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People Watching

We had a great visit with Mom and Casey.  They both wanted to see what our daily lives were like so we took them along to school to help teach (very helpful to have their insights and assistance in class) and to gatherings with our friends (such warm and generous friends we have), and to our favorite weekend escapes.

One of the things we loved to do together is sit and watch the people go by, particularly here where so many things are familiar and at the same time so much more is new and different.

This town square in Lukang was one of the best places for people watching.  Plenty of space for children to run around and a bubble toy seller to give them bubbles to chase.

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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