About Me

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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Epic Family Road Trip 1: New Mexico

Eagle Nest Lake

The day after our arrival about 29 hours of straight traveling,we, my family hopped in a 34 foot RV and headed down to New Mexico. My mom, dad (our driver), my daughter, brother Eddie and niece Emma were all on board. It didn't take long to enter New Mexico (5 hours of driving from Denver) and because of the monsoon summer, the terrain was lush, wild flowers carpeted the hils and valleys, beaver dams were sprinkled here and there along the rivers. Coming down into the Moreno Valley, I was mesmerized and made my Dad stop when there was a shoulder on the road. Outside Eagle's Nest, NM we saw a herd of deer and then a doe with her two fawns. The scenery was poles apart from the beautiful landscapes of Yilan, certainly more wild and pristine. 

Taos Town
 I knew it was going to be a great day when I could do morning yoga surrounded my aromatic wild sage. Our RV camp spot was surrounded by it. Unfortunately, I couldn't shake the jet lag, waking at 3 am for the next couple of nights. Undisturbed sleep i the RV was an impossibility, pretty much the whole trip. It's like a boat, when a person is walking, we all feel it.

In the morning we walked around Taos  and found a historic, luxury Bed n Breakfast called Casa Benavides- distant relatives no doubt (both my parents come from NM). I couldn't get enough of the adobe houses and gardens, looking out over the  Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains. It made me think of the lyrics of that Paul Simon classic, "Hearts and Bones", of running around my grandparent's backyard. I could live here, easily.

I love New Mexican gardens

That first night we caught a live Friday night music performance in Taos plaza, the town center. It was comfortable, old hippies letting loose, everyone was dancing, my mom included. I was surprised how cold and cool the weather was like 65 F, my kid and I were shivering.

Our RV parked in the background
Maria de Guadelupe
old doors and bells
We walked around the town, the girls (my daughter and niece) had fun snapping photos on their new cameras. Taos feels so familiar, I could live here. The food here and everywhere in New Mexico was sublime, native green chili garnished, featured in everything and they were "Sandia hot"-  a reference to the Sandia mountains outside Albuquerque and meaning just right. The beans were perfect, like homemade. I couldn't get enough homemade corn tortillas and mad a point of trying out new dishes.

Adobe goes perfectly with blue trim and hollyhocks

Taos Pueblo
I've been here before with my Dad, but this time around was very different. There were a ton more tourists, an outside parking lot with shuttle vans and our own volunteer University student guide. He made it more interesting, he definitely knew his history. Taos Pueblo is a world heritage site that's been continuously inhabited for a thousand years.

The Holy mountain of the Taos Pueblo people
The people who live in Taos Pueblo have no electricity or running water. They get all their water from the river that flows from their holy mountain. Theodore Roosevelt seized 48,000 acres from their holy mountain and the people fought the US government for years. It wasn't until 1970 that president Nixon returned their mountain and sacred Blue Lake back to the people.

I bought several sage bundles to burn, 2 cross necklaces for my niece and daughter and a gorgeous green petrified moss necklace and matching earrings for myself. I also bought the girls a dream catcher each. I know its cheesy trinkets, but better I buy them here and support native jewelers, than a shop in town. I bargained, they were receptive which was fun.

My mom, daughter and Ed, Chimayo

This was my 3rd time to this ancient pilgrimage site of El Santuario de Chimayo. I went before in 2000 with my dear friend and then later with my Dad. The biggest draw is the healing sands in the back, side room of the sanctuary. Since before the Spanish came, Natives considered the sands sacred, the place was an energy center, a vortex. People with disabilities or diseases come and fill a small bottle of sand for themselves or sick loved ones that couldn't make the journey. There are written testimonies, crutches of people's miraculous healings on all the walls. The church itself is an artistic and historical wonder. Unfortunately I couldn't take photos of the wooden carvings, old doors and murals from the 16th century.

The various grottos all over the grounds reminds me of Asian temples, the colors, the statues of holy saints, a familiar energy. There was a Vietnamese chapel in the back and a Vietnamese Virgin Mary as well as an outdoor chapel under some willow trees.

Santa Fe
We spent most of the day at the living air museum at El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. They had some annual Wild West show with different exhibits. It was educational, each volunteer was an expert at their crafts and patiently retelling their history lessons to us. 

For example, each step of the weaving process from spinning the wool, to dying it from plants, insects and crustaceans, to weaving it and embroidering tapestries, they do the real thing.

Th drying yarn after being cooked with plant dyes

Embroidering a church tapestry will take her 4 years to finish

Synthetic dyes couldn't be so richly colored as these.

 Other working exhibits: the water mill, corral, smith, tannery. At the end of the day we tried archery, my niece takes lessons so she was nearest on target. We watched a target shooting competition on horseback which was LOUD but I could appreciate the good horsemanship and being able to run a course and change guns or reload, it didnt look easy, but was once a necessary skill I suppose.

The one room schoolhouse, brought my mom lots of memories

Z is interested in his old pistol

Our RV generator stopped working and we called all the RV shops in the Santa Fe area, no one was available.  One guy called back and made 2 trips to the Golondrinas parking lot (a dusty field). It cost a small fortune and supposedly the RV shop in Denver would reimburse my Dad back. He had to replace 2 generators. Finally we were relieved to be on the road heading south to Albuquerque. It was starting to rain again. Nothing smells quite as nice as the rain on New Mexico dust.


An hour way was Albuquerque, synonymous with my paternal grandparents, amazing food, and my extended family. We settled at the KOA campground there, not as picturesque as the setups outside Taos or Santa Fe, but they had a pool and the girls ended their day with a cold, splash.

Z at the butterfly pavilion, Botanic Garden
The next day we all met at my Aunt Susie's for a spread. It was mind bending for all of us, my aunts and uncles to realize that little Kathy was 40, which means they are pushing 60.  I was always the little kid in their eyes, even tho I was the eldest grandchild. Its like we are all stuck in the body memories of our eternal 20 year old selves. It affected their field of vision so that they thought I looked younger. My grandma who had trouble remembering me and kept on asking my Dad who I was (her mind has made the slippery decent), bless her, every time she said I looked like a teenager. The last time I saw them was after my daughter was born at my grandparents 60th anniversary and the same BBQ I started eating meat again after 17 years of being vegetarian (always a fun story to tell).

 I basked in the presence of  hearing my grandpa retell me the same old stories and some new ones, which was a surprise. Stories have morphed into legends over the years like my Uncle Mike (who was there) being able to sit up by himself the first day he came home from the hospital, haha. Or my grandma riding her horse jumping it while holding my infant father.

Aunt Susie, Eva, myself
My cousin Eva was at summer camp in Oregon and she was flying back that night. Not wanting to miss her we had my aunt drag her out of bed the next morning and had her guide us around the Botanic Gardens. The butterfly garden was the highlight for my daughter and niece, but I enjoyed just strolling around the various environs, admiring the flowers and cacti, chatting with Eva and my aunt. They are so grounded and positive.

Ojos Caliente

I was just about to enjoy the medicinal waters of  this New Mexican hot springs when we found out kids weren't allowed after 6pm so we had to save it for the following morning- only to find out kids cant begin to enter until 10 am (they need to update their website). At least they can go to the mud pool which is what really mattered to my daughter that night, as we ended the early evening with S'mores.

 "Ojo is the only hot springs in the world with four different types of mineral water including lithia, iron, soda and arsenic. Over 100,000 gallons come to the surface, revitalizing those who soak in these legendary, healing waters. Our eleven pools are filled with different types and combinations of these waters with temperatures ranging from 80-109 degrees."

Mud baths!
My mom covered in mud.

I soaked in the iron springs first, as it perfectly timed with my monthly induced anemia. I brought my brother Ed and mom in with me. The iron recharged me. Then it was  time for mud baths. My mom and I spent longer there, we helped each other load up on layer after layer of mud. I dried out like a lizard on a rock in the sun. After we washed up we took a quick dip in the arsenic pool but not too long so we could catch a yoga class in a yurt. It was a basic flow, but good, very calming and centering and right for the moment.

We boarded our RV and headed north to Colorado, a long drive to Cortez.

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