Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Frantic French Food Fixin'

This winter break is one of the few times in my teaching career that I have not disappeared to another country at the sound of the final class bell in December. Due to our travel restrictions and local obligations, we are staying in Taichung this holiday. Who would have thought that vacation could be so jam-packed and busy but so far it is shaping up to be a hectic ride.

Monday felt like our first true day of the break and we planned to use part of the day looking at baby schools. We toured a couple and may have settled on Paradise - I just like the idea of sending our little one to paradise each day...Getting home, we remembered that a guest was coming for an early dinner. It was 1:30 and the meal needed to be prepared and the house cleaned. Take a deep breath, let's start racing!

This kind of all over the place activity was much easier when four hands were 100% available to the task at hand, but Xian has the canny ability to require three to six. As I began cooking, Krista worked on cleaning with baby in tow (have we mentioned that Xian absolutely hates being put down during the day and will scream, scream, scream)

I had two and a half hours to bake a loaf of bread, prepare a tarte a l'onion,a salad and a chocolate mousse. In between cleaning spurts, Krista sprinted upstairs to our 4th floor garden space to clip a few herbs (basil, oregano and rosemary) for the bread. Thanks to a birthday gift from my parents, we are slowly attempting to transform an upper level balcony space into a garden.

The garden deck in September - unfortunately several of the plants did not make the winter transition but the herbs are going strong!
Yeast gobbled up sugar in a warm water bath until loads of flour were poured on top with garlic, herbs and a dash of salt. The magic of the bread machine then took over - the timer let me know that the baking would be finished just in time.

The next time sensitive item was the chocolate mousse. Chocolate needed to be broken up, melted, mixed with other ingredients and then chilled to a wonderful, tasty dessert.

Below, I'm frantically chopping garlic for the bread as eggs are prepared to add to the mousse.

Melting chocolate and beating egg whites at the same time. A non-hands-free mixer mixin' it up by itself.

The first impression of most people when asked if they would appreciate a tarte a l'onion, or onion pie, often begins with disgust but moves quickly to a polite response using the word "interesting". It does sound a bit odd. Who would make a pie with onions? But, I am yet to meet someone that later describes the taste of the pie as interesting. The person is usually asking for seconds so quickly that he or she has no time to comment on the fact that they are enjoying a pie full of onions. Labor wise, chopping vast amounts of onions can be brutal but this time I was able to quickly chop without a crying fit (what's your onion chopping trick? The latest I've tried is to hold water in my mouth as I cut. This sometimes works...)

As the clock ticked towards our guest's arrival, all was in good order. The pie was baking, the bread was finishing up and the mousse was chilling.

One of our best purchases in Taiwan - a counter top oven! Here, the tarte a l'onion bakes its final minutes.


I haven't run out of steam and I'm certainly not giving up, I am however, taking a break. The next few posts for the 17 days of 3400 NTD will be clustered together. This ultimately will make complete sense. It also gives me a chance to take a break from fashion and talk about family. Tomorrow is the day we go to court for Xian. You see, we are still in a state of limbo with the adoption of our darling daughter. Tomorrow is a major milestone and one that we have been waiting for since the day Xian was placed into our arms. So today, court. Hopefully soon, a home visit and shortly following, the final decree. Wish us luck!

take a look at those cheeks, totally pinch worthy

Daddy can't resist em!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Free Size

The markets here in Taiwan are fantastically spectacular. A person can find absolutely anything they could possibly need, or not need as the case may be. The one down side is you can try nothing on. You have to hold the outfits up to you and hope they fit okay. Outfit number 3 fell into the category of didn't fit too well once I got home. I solved the problem by adding a belt to tighten everything up. Leg warmers were an absolutely necessity due to the chill in the air. The great thing about this outfit is that it is incredibly comfy. I even wore it for a little hike later in the day. The shortness proved a bit uncomfortable for me but hey, sometimes a girl's just gotta show what she's got!

For hiking, I lost the belt for a much more comfortable hiking experience. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve with a Touch of Love

Tonight, I experienced something truly magical: acorn nut roast. For those of you who have never tried this wonderful concoction of nutty goodness, I seriously tell you your life has been lacking. We were invited to a friend's house for Christmas Eve dinner and were introduced to this tasty bit of goodness. I wish I had pictures for you, but pictures would hardly do this dish justice. We had a wonderful time meeting new people. Xian had her first party, and I donned my 2nd outfit of 17 days. Upon heading home from the market, I noticed that almost everything I had bought was black and white, which makes this outfit one of my favorites due to the splash of red over a zebra print dress. . .YUMMY!

Of course the dress was short and so it was paired with chevron print tights and gray boots.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Disney is a Don't

First and for most.. . the loot. Here it is in all its glory!

When I emailed my sister in law a sneak peak of today's outfit, her response was, "AAAAHHHH!" I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. However, I can say that I was comfortable, warm and ready to deal with the screaming baby I woke up to (growing pains, ugh!). It also kind of reflected my mood. . . dark.

There are several styles in Taiwan that I have become accustomed to, and some I have even embraced. That said, there are a few styles even I have difficulty with. The two that come to mind immediately are: bow adorned sweaters, the other: Disney character clothing. Don't get me wrong, I think it is completely appropriate for a five year old to become all excited by their favorite Disney princess T-shirt; however, I find it quite disturbing when adults become all twitterpaited with said garb. This brings me to my first outfit. I knew I needed to rock an oversized sweatshirt, after all, I am in Taiwan. That, coupled with a very tired mommy, this outfit was pulled together. Comfy, cozy, and so very Taiwanese. . .

My head is absent from this photo due to my exhausted state 

Game ON!

My shopping excursion last night proved to be quite successful. After only 3.5 hours at the market, my money was spent and my body was exhausted. However, I did accomplish what I set out to do. 14 outfits were purchased, not a penny more than 3400 NTD was spent. Thursday night at Feng Jia was quite manageable, with only the food streets being barely passable. My friend brought along her baby, Ella, and so the stroller proved to be quite an effective battering ram, clearing the way for us to shop.
Baby stroller + night market = pathways created

Feng Jia, thankfully, wasn't too busy

a quick dinner of cheese balls

I quickly noticed that I had to keep my purchase price somewhere around 150 NTD per item, roughly $5.00 USD if I was going to make budget. This really limited my selections. I found myself perusing the sale racks out front of the stores. Bling was out! Too expensive at a whopping 300 NTD per shirt ($10.00 USD). All in all, I feel as if I accomplished quite a bit and am excited to share my purchases with you over the next few weeks. Tomorrow I'll share my first outfit, and even post pics of my spoils. Game ON everyone!

Preparing for Feng Jia

Well, this is it. The last post before my big night out at the Feng Jia night market. In order to get in the mood, I am dressing in night market-esk garb as I venture off on my task. A few things race through my mind. . .is 3400 NTD really enough money to show case the night market’s many wonders? am I really young enough to rock the fashions I will find (short and tight)? what really constitutes a complete night market outfit? I don’t know if I have the answer to these questions; however, I have been working on the last one. Shoes don’t count. . .PERIOD! I am a girl who truly feels as if shoes will make or break an outfit but really, I only have 3400 NTD-not nearly enough for a complete make over. I suppose I need to clarify “outfit” by saying: major pieces of outfit must be from the night market; however additional pieces may be added from my current wardrobe to complete the outfit. In addition, pieces may be recycled throughout the 17 days as long as they are worn in different ways.


A run down on my Feng Jia shopping attire, if not explicitly stated, items were purchased at a market in Zhu Hai, China.
hot pink leggings: $4 USD
black lip stick tank: $3 USD
Black jingle jangle shoes: $3.5 USD
Black zipper shrug: $5 USD
Black Ice Breaker top: $19.99 USD purchased from Steep and Cheap
Total outfit cost: $35.49 USD.

Okay the Ice Breaker top totally blew the beauty of how cheap a night market outfit can truly be, but a girl’s gotta stay warm shopping. Plus, the jingle jangle shoes may be replaced for a much more comfortable pair of walking shoes. I do have a lot of shopping to do after all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dong Zhi: Winter Solstice Festival

A cup of sugary pink balls was placed on my desk by  a student today. With it came the following message:

“Winter Solstice Festival or the Extreme of Winter (Dong Zhi, December 22), is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other Asians. During Dong Zhi, sunshine is the weakest and daylight is the shortest. The origins of this festival can be traced back the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. Traditionally, the Dong Zhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One popular activity is the making and eating of Tang Yuan, or balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize reunion.”

The odd little balls were strangely tasty. This is a tradition I could get used to!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Girl's Always Gotta Look Her Best. . .

Right? Well, that's what Xian thinks anyway. A mirror is her new favorite toy. She loves to gaze at herself in its reflection. With day time naps being almost non existent, we were elated to discover that Xian adores laying face down on the shiny surface and passing out. Is a future fashionista in our midst, or perhaps we're creating a monster. . .

Every girl knows a mirror should always be within reach, even when sleeping.

Mirror, mirror on the wall. . . 

At times, vanity is a good thing. Sleep well little angel.

Miracle Cure

We’ve been struggling with reflux and massive gas cramps with Xian. Poor baby has a hard time staying asleep more than an hour at a time and often only gets 20 minute naps during the day. Off we went to the doctor hoping for a miracle cure. The answer: massage her belly 30 minutes before eating. I don’t know if any of you have children, but mine certainly is unwilling to wait once she decides she is hungry. It’s been a frustrating battle, knowing Xian is in pain and yet, hoping against all hopes that she’ll just go to sleep. Then, a miracle cure was placed into my hands: Gripe water. I tell ya, I was hesitant, but my friend, Allison, who shared it with me said it couldn’t hurt. So last night, I measured a teaspoon into the bottle and then left Xian to chew on her hands in her crib. 20 minutes later, not a sound was heard. 8 hours later, Xian still was sleeping! AMAZING! We woke her up to eat, then put her right back to bed. 11 hours of solid sleep isn’t too shabby. Of course, Frank and I didn’t sleep as we were constantly in her room making sure she was okay.  Now I’m placing an order to the states for the miracle cure.

Xian's passed out pose

Sunday, December 11, 2011

17 Days of 3400 NTD

With the arrival of the above birthday card from my darling daughter, Xian, coupled  with my sister-in-law, Kristie’s, fantastic blog, Style Me Mommy, an idea was spawned. Being that I was getting a night out on the town and that I love fashion, why not spend my 34th birthday paying tribute to Taiwan’s night market culture? So, that is exactly what I am going to do. 

Next Thursday, I will be making the trek to Taiwan’s famous night market: Feng Jia. I intend to bring with me exactly 3400 NTD (a little over $100 USD) in honor of my 34th birthday. This 3400 NTD must be used to dress me the entire winter break, all 17 days of it. Prepare yourselves for short shorts, boots, and bling that won’t stop. The 17 Days of 3400 NTD is quickly approaching. Stay tuned for an introduction to Taiwan’s night market culture.

(Fair warning to all: Taiwan’s fashion is a tad bit different than that of the good ole Pacific Northwest. Very few fashion rules apply. Plaid and polka dots? no problem. T-shirts with the word “excrement” written across the derriere? Okay. Micro mini shorts with an over-sized Minny Mouse sweater? Of course! As far as I can tell, the only rule is: the shorter, the better, just remember to add tights.)

A Girl's First Teddy

Is there anything cuter than a baby and her teddy bear? Thanks Grandma Pat and Grandpa Tom for baby’s first teddy bear. Xian loves it and she’s finally bigger than the bear!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Heading out & coming up...

Xian is all bundled up and ready to go to her 2-month doctor's appointment.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Coming up Smiles

After reading about the many milestones babies are supposed to hit and when, I became worried. Baby Xian wasn't making any of them on time; however, I was reminded by my level headed husband, that Xian was 4 weeks premature. That said, I was over the moon when I captured this on camera. . .

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Quilt Square

A month or so ago I received a request from a former student. As part of the celebration of her 16th birthday, she was to have a quilting party where each person would make a square to be assembled into a larger quilt. What a great idea! Then, as things happen around here, I completely lost track of time (baby brain...) as hours compressed into days which incredibly became weeks. An email...unfortunately I missed the quilting party - and really that was my loss. This girl is an amazing cook and I am sure that the party was fantastic. The final quilt would be assembled towards the end of the year and would I be able to contribute? Yikes!

In all honestly, I was quite intimidated by this task. The student is the type any teacher would love to have in a class. Highly intelligent, super organized, always wishing to learn and (to my constant need) an amazing artist. I always knew a class mural, art project or anything else needing an ounce of artisitic / craft ability, of which I have none, would succeed with her around. But now, the tables were turned. She was giving me the assignment and the due date was looming.

Fortunately for me, I have a wonderful wife who is quite talented and Krista provided me with lots of technical assistance. I wonder how much I owe her this time...The theme was decided - her name in Chinese characters to represent where I am now and her desire to travel the world, Mt Hood - I'm excited that she is spending more time outdoors exploring, and a river and a leaf to represent the three years of Sunnyside (this is the school where I taught and the three years of curriculum were themed mountain, river, forest). The needles came out and today my quilt square contribution begins its journey across the Pacific Ocean.

Happy Birthday!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Trip - Kenting

The trip started our with a bang! On the right of us, a monster tour bus cruised at high speeds when suddenly we heard a loud noise. Something had hit the Freeca but we were in no position to stop and hoped for minimal (meaning that we would never notice) damage. A few moments later, the steering column ceased to respond and I managed to get over to the shoulder. The rear driver-side tire was flat, flat, flat.

No problem. Audrey hopped out of the back, we pulled all the bins and bags for this camping trip out, lifted the faux-carpet and voila! The solid metal flooring of the Freeca's body. There was no hidden compartment for the jack and tire iron. Ok...The spare tire is attached to the back so we thought the equipment would be nestled in with the spare. Nope. Well, this was a situation. Cars zipped by and some drivers politely waved as they sped past but no signs of assistance were given. Fortunately, we had passed an emergency phone and I jogged back towards it. After a few moments convincing the operator that I have no operational level of Chinese someone's voice suddenly spoke out in perfect English. He told me to wait and stay away from the road. Fifteen minutes later, a tow truck arrived and the Freeca pulled onto the bed. A police car also showed up and the policeman ushered the three of us (Audrey was still in the back of the Freeca on top of the tow-bed) into the cab of the truck. Infant car seat? There weren't even seat belts!

We arrived at a hole in the wall garage and found out that the side wall of the tire was punctured and the tire was not repairable. Krista hopped onto the back of a scooter with the mechanic's wife for a quick trip to the ATM and a new tire was soon on the car. Our southerly expedition to Kenting was again rolling.

Pulling into the small camping area, we quickly set up a tent and raced down to the beach to see the sunset.

This trip was our first foray into camping with Xian. With the long Thanksgiving weekend, time was on our side. A night or two at the beach and then back home to recover before the end of the weekend. The four of us hopped into the tent after a short excursion into town. Audrey quickly migrated to the bottom of the tent and set-up shop on her thermarest hoping that she would not be bothered during the night. Xian seemed to enjoy snuggling into sleeping bags.

(thanks Auntie Kristie for my awesome blankie!)

Babies love car rides, right! It helps them sleep are what we've been told. That means that if a car trip takes five hours the little wee one gets plenty of sleep. She was well rested that night so we didn't get that much sleep but all in all the first night camping was a success. The next day we went to the beach to enjoy the sand and warm water. A few shots...

all smiles as Mom protects Xian from the wind

Yay! I''m a beach girl.

hello tongue!


I'm exhausted. Let's get outta here.

Unfortunately, the wind howled and howled with few areas of shelter and we decided to go ahead and make the return trip after a morning on the beach. The car ride home featured another diversion. All the water Audrey absorbed during her swim came gushing back up. Yuck. 

Our first camping trip was a success! Xian was awesome and the "hiccups" came from the car and dog. I guess we're hoping for another trip in the near future.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Xian in Love

Special nights exist when the temperature of the bath water is just right, Xian comes out of the bath nice and warm and gets put into soft fuzzies without getting cold. Aah, it's great - she seems to enjoy squirming around.

Monday, November 14, 2011

5 Weeks, 7 pounds 3 ounces

Xian’s one month check went off without a hitch. However, it was quite a bit different than I had anticipated. Upon arriving at the clinic, we were ushered into a private waiting room. Shortly thereafter, we were led in to see the doctor.  Instead of the typical bed, the doctor’s room consisted of what appeared to be a dentist’s chair, complete with scary looking instruments. The doctor though was amazing! She suctioned out Xian’s nose, looked in her ears and mouth, and then gave us a clean bill of health. At five weeks, Xian now weighs 7.3 pounds. Our little peanut is growing up! Her clothes are finally starting to fit her. This completely shocked the doctor who wanted to know where we found clothes as small as we did. Here in Taiwan, they do not bother with buying/selling newborn size clothes. They buy larger clothes and just fold up and tie back the excess fabric.

Friday, November 11, 2011

To Camp or Not to Camp, That is the Question

The two week countdown until Thanksgiving is upon us. I have been spending the past few weeks contemplating what we should do. Do I cook a traditional American turkey dinner? Do we sit around, do nothing and enjoy the time together-potentially with take out? Or, do we follow last year’s lead and head to Kenting for a few days lounging on the white sandy beaches? Lately, I’ve been leaning more and more to Kenting. Only one problem. . . .our baby will only be 7 weeks old. Do we dare camp with a 7 week old? I suppose we have to dive in at some point. Hmm. . .decisions, decisions.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Four Weeks of Bliss

With the arrival of Xian’s four weeks on this earth, Frank and I decided to memorialize this event with a photo shoot. The little model immediately took to her new garb and was a doll for the camera. She seemed to ham it up with pursed lips, arms waving, and poses struck. It seems as if she’s completely at home in her new sparkly tutu.

And of course, who can resist big ole cloth diaper butt with tutu?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Our Little Monster

With three weeks of parenthood under our belts, it’s hard to imagine a time pre-Xian. Sleeping through the night has become such a distant memory and I hardly remember a time without the mandatory five cups of coffee to get me going in the morning. This past week has been especially draining. Xian has decided that she must be held at all times and we have a new two am witching hour. This is the time when our little princess wakes us up with blood curdling screams that continue for several hours. Frank is awesome about taking this shift. He entertains her until 4:30 when it’s time for Audrey’s morning walk. The other day, he came in to give me Xian and I jumped up in bed and began to rock the covers. When Frank told me he had the baby, I was so confused that I began to search throughout the bed for her. It took me a while to realize what was going on. Exhaustion is the new normal. Oh the joys of parenthood!

This morning began like many hours; however with one little twist thrown into the mix. Today at AST, we would be celebrating Halloween. We ran around frantically trying to get ready for the festivities while Xian respectfully slept. We had tried to order her a costume from the states but our little girl is such a tiny peanut that nothing would fit her. So, no costume for her. That is until our sister-in-law sent her a darling Frankenstein bib complete with a very feminine pink bow.


As Xian awoke with her usual endearing scream, we dressed her quickly in her Frankenstein garb and all morning activities were put on hold for a photo shoot. She was the perfect little actress, playing the part of Frankenstein quite well. Perhaps next year, we can convince her to play the part of a princess. . .

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It begins and hopefully ends with a toast

Adopting has been on the minds of Krista and I for quite some time. We hoped and hoped that this fall would bring a beautiful new life into our home. Throughout last year, baby items began showing up in our apartment and one of the primary reasons for moving into the "hills" at the end of the year was to give our future baby less polluted air. Baby carriers waited us in France - oh, here is Krista using her carrier on Xian's first walk...

As we packed our bags to leave my parents' home in Les Grangettes, we carefully packaged a bottle of Macvin du Jura, which is a specialty of the region my parents live in and (I believe) relatively impossible to find elsewhere. The bottle made it safely to Taiwan and was almost opened on a few occasions but for one reason or another we did not get a baby. Then, on October 5 we had Xian - the perfect baby for us. Several days later, the Macvin was opened for a small toast.

What happens now? Well, we begin the legal process which can take four to six months. Here's to lots of good thoughts and one more toast in the near future as Xian officially becomes a McGowan.

Monday, October 10, 2011

She moves!

Quickly becoming habit, but the first time...

Here is a post that I wrote in June 2006 just before I left for Peace Corps Guinea.

Have I mentioned before how wonderful the school community that I am in is? The hardest part of deciding to enter the Peace Corps was the knowledge that I would have to leave the amazing staff, students and others at Sunnyside. In a complete surprise, today’s morning meeting was a good-bye for me. Sarah, John and Jan had kind words for me, students read a “Remember Me” poem that they had written about me and several students gave anecdotes from the last three years. It’s fascinating to hear stories from the other side of the class room.

Sandwiched among many nice statements was my “rite of passage.” Several months ago the staff was shocked to hear that I had never changed a baby's diaper. Honestly, it has never been one of the items on my must-do list, though ranked on the try-to-avoid list. When Midwifery Day came and past without me seeing a baby’s bottom, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I had avoided it! Today as Jan began talking she mentioned the words rite of passage and I immediately looked into the back of the auditorium to see a coworker’s newborn. The 240 students in the room probably didn’t yet know that I would soon be a source of entertainment for them but I was already sweating it. Finally, with an auditorium full of people, I managed to change little Noah’s diaper. I guess that I’m now prepared for anything!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Naming of an Angel

When naming our baby girl, we knew we wanted something unique and a blending of western and eastern cultures. Xian or 西安 in Chinese is translated as western peace. The pronunciation is similar to "she-an," while in English her name is pronounced "sigh-anne" or like the color, cyan.

Xian is the historic capital of China and the first place where I began to appreciate and fall in love with Asian culture. With Anne being my mother's name, we quickly became set on naming our angel, Xian.

Xian's middle name, Odile, is French and is shared by Frank's mother. 
So, Xian Odile it is-a blend of American, Chinese and French.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Xian Odile McGowan enters our life

All eyes were on us as we made our way down the long hall, through the packed waiting room and out of the medical clinic door. In our arms were boxes of diapers, a baby bath tub, a small care package and the amazing, beautiful, adorable... Xian.

Several hours earlier our evening followed the path of many others. I finished soccer practice and in the spirit of avoiding the need to cook, we rode our scooter to our favorite pizza restaurant. Breaking tradition, the order of a slightly different pizza had just been ordered when my phone began ringing. Unknown caller. No one ever calls me so I ignored the call. Krista, thinking it odd that I would receive a call, checked her phone. Missed call after missed call after missed call. Something important - baby was available but we needed to go immediately!

Throwing the pizza into a box, we raced home to let Audrey out, grabbed the already packed baby bag and headed out the door. We've been waiting for a baby since our return from France and have weathered a few disappointments. Would this be the one?

Driving to the clinic was nerve-wracking. Trying to balance building excitement with the reality that we may return home empty-handed was difficult. At the clinic, we first met Xian. Wow! She is so tiny!

From Xian

For the number people: 17 inches / 5.5 lbs

After seeing Xian, we met and talked with her birth mother before leaving the clinic. Unbelievable - hours before we had no idea that our lives would change that night. The feeling was amazing - an instantaneous growth in my heart unlike I've ever experienced. Love blossomed as I held this precious little girl.

Xian Odile McGowan
Born 10.4.11
Joined us on 10.5.11

Saturday, October 1, 2011

E. Hehuan Shan

Our Saturday began by grabbing various items and hoping the camping bins were stocked for a get-away in eastern Taiwan. For some reason, we have recently stagnated since returning to Taichung with few weekend trips. The first stop was a local park for Audrey to get a quick run-about and we "discovered" the first forgotten item - leash and collar. How could we forget this? She's more fun off-leash anyways...

Stop number 2 seems to have become an essential part of Saturday mornings. Maybe it's our need for some western indulgence but we often find ourselves heading down Jinhua Road for the Early Bird Diner on most Saturdays. Bottomless cups of coffee, blueberry pancakes (with whipped cream!), and Krista's essential starter - bacon - are all served up. Needless to say, we were on the slow path out of town but eventually got rolling and found light traffic on the freeways all the way to Puli.

From Puli, the route necks down to a narrow lane in each direction heavily traveled by tour buses and big trucks. Today, cabbages seemed to be a popular item of transport. We then passed the craziness that is Cingjing Farm. At some point, a government official decided that it would be great to have farms in various districts for the Taiwanese to visit. This one was crowded with lots of people who appeared to be looking at sheep.

The road got narrower as we neared the mountain - entering Taroko Gorge National Park and crossing the altitude mark of 3000m. The hot, sunny weather of Taichung was replaced by clouds, rain and wind. Opening the car door in the parking lot was a risk as it almost became unhinged due to the strong wind. After a quick lunch inside the Freeca, we let out our over-excited pooch and began heading up towards Hehuan Shan (shan means mountain).

Taiwan does not receive much snow but if one wanted to find it in the winter time, Hehuan would be a good bet. At some point there was even skiing!

Enjoying the open spaces and lack of concrete, we seemed immune to the conditions. At first...Nearing the peak, we realized the extent of our lackadaisical packing job. Our clothes were completely soaked through! The light raincoats we brought as an afterthought did little for the constant rain and Krista did not have a change of clothes in the car.

Krista's and Audrey's first Taiwan peak - E. Hehuan Shan - 3,422 m (11,227 ft)

"the view"

The return leg was quick as we scurried down in the hopes of warming up. Several large Taiwanese groups were climbing up and made us wonder how busy the mountain would be on a sunny day. The shift cloud banks offered few glimpses of the beauty to be found in the high mountains of Taiwan.

Satisfied with a fun hike, we toweled off our wet dog and began the trek back home. Next time, a change of clothes and a bit better weather gear will accompany us into the mountains.