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.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Post RV and Rocky Mountain High Recap

The view from Mt. Evans

It took a day or two to catch up on sleep once we returned to civilization. I did not miss sleeping in the RV at all, it was amazing to be home. My parents' guest bed is a million times more comfortable than my beds in Taiwan.  I spared no time and quickly got online and starting ordering goods I couldn't get in Taiwan and calling friends to make plans.

One of the observations my daughter made about the States, or at least where we were was, "There's so many white people here!" Which one of my brothers found hilarious. For me I noticed how much worse the traffic was, how everyone has smart TVs and bluetooth their cell phones to theirs cars and of course there were all the green cross shops from marijuana legalization.

High above Berthoud Pass

 America is more comfortable generally. I ate well to say the least. While all my friends were avoiding carbs at all costs for health reasons, I was happy to eat spelt tortillas and bread. I couldn't get enough. Unlike bread in Taiwan, one slice with organic butter is all you need to be satiated. I was having turkey melts for lunch, with New Mexican green chili. That was one intention I did do as planned, eat green chili for every meal. I had it with my eggs, my lunch, my dinner.

 I embraced my inner hobbit and had 2 breakfasts and 2 dinners; or one breakfast, one brunch, lunch, supper, dinner and dessert. Suffice to say I gained 2 kg, which is fine with me (and totally noticeable as I'm so short) because I had the creamiest yogurts, kefir, cottage cheese with peaches and blueberries, Ben and Jerry's ice-creams- my bones were stocking up on all the calcium I ate from the dairy. (Here in Yilan I hardly eat dairy, a little yogurt or kefir as its expensive at the local Santa Cruz health store.) I had so much cheese as my mom gets raw cheddar. It was fabulous.

 I went to the gym almost everyday with my Mom for a Zumba class, which was fun if the teacher was decent. I caught one amazing yoga class with my friend who taught it and mostly did yoga in my folks' backyard. I wanted to do a massive morning yoga class at Red Rocks, but they were all sold out, so before I left CO, my friend and I went to a Yoga Journal sponsored Yoga Rocks the Park downtown taught  by Amy Ippoliti. It was incredible. I was inspired to walk in wheel pose, see the demonstration here.

Hiking at Chataqua, Boulder
 Sadly I didnt do half the things or catch up with half the people I wanted to.  I had this brainstorm of places to go and things to do, and who to do it with- but its ok, resting at home, my daughter playing with her cousin, me trying to bake at altitude (upside down lemon cake, zucchini bread with goji berries and pumpkin seeds) and cook (chicken tandori, biriyani) was relaxing.

Bear Creek Lake.

 We had wanted to go to Water World, Elitches (an amusement park), but never made it. However my friend took us to Bear Creek Lake where our kids could play and we could catch up. It was blistering hot that day, I stayed under an umbrella most of the time, the sun at altitude was intense, but every afternoon like clockwork there was summer thunderstorm. I love the crackle of thunder right over head, the Thor dazzling lightening,  The weather the whole time was in a word-perfection. It wasn't too hot (80F/ 24-26C) and in the evening and night it got chilly. My daughter liked to say, "This is like winter in Yilan!" She loved it. People, kept on telling us how hot it was "just the other day", but we didnt really see it. What a relief not to be melting in the sweltering Tropic of Cancer humidity. It felt more like the end of September than August, autumn is early. Colorado was uncharacteristically green due to a monsoon summer, El Nido no doubt. Everyone agreed winter will be intense this year.  I hate to miss the aspens change color.

Hail Out of Nowhere 2
They had a blast gathering hail for cranberry snow cones! I was weary for them, with the thunder and lightening.
Posted by Kathy Benavides on Monday, August 10, 2015

 It was just like Colorado weather to unleash a mighty hail storm for my daughter to experience. I pitied anyone caught in it, it would be painful. My daughter and niece braved the hail under a massive umbrella and gathered buckets of it which they later ate with condensed cranberry juice, heaven's own slushie.

View from our campsite
We had another family camping weekend at YMCA's Snow Mountain Ranch in my parent's pop up. During a short hike to a waterfall we saw a mama moose with her calf just a few yards away, it was indubitably memorable. I felt honored that this massive animal let us be so close to her precious baby. I've seen elk before but never moose, let a lone at this close range. My sister in law, got great video of the calf, I only saw it on the way down from the waterfall and my photo unfortunately was too blurry.

We saddled up in the morning and went on a trail through the mountain forests. The scenery was stunning, relaxing. We stopped for ice-cream in Empire on the way up and for views of Berthoud Pass on the return trip back to Denver.

Views overlooking Boulder

 My trip would be incomplete without more hikes and a trip to Boulder to catch up with friends. I hiked the flat irons at Chataqua in my mom's clogs which wasn't ideal and I def felt the altitude having to stop a few times, but it was worth the views and exercise in the end.

Z had to see Red Rocks! Maybe next time we can catch a show

My Dad took my daughter and I to Mt. Evans, which has the highest paved road in America, far above tree line. The views are usually extraordinary, with big horn sheep and the Rocky Mountains extending as far as the eyes can see in all directions, but because of forest fires in Washington State and Oregon, the visibility was compromised. It was still stunning and cold despite the sunny day, the wind chill made it 45 F (7 C). My daughter was cold and the altitude made her dizzy. As is our tradition, we went down to Echo Lake at the base of America's highest road and had some famous pie at the Lodge while watching the alpine hummingbirds feed out the windows.

My Dad and daughter, Mt. Evans

Later we went fishing. My kid has been lucky in Taiwan to catch fish easily with her little bamboo pole, but for some reason her patience was tested with these brown trout. It took  several hours for her to catch 2 brown trout while everyone around us seemed to be reeling them in. I had a few bites myself I failed to hook. The real kicker was when the fisherman on site was teaching my kid how to gut a fish. She was utterly disgusted, but being the adventurous epicure I know she is I dared her to eat one of the beating fish hearts and she did. She popped it in her mouth like a little raspberry, 'Temple of Doom' style. I knew she would, she's eaten fish eyes, grasshoppers, some kin of larvae caterpillar and  crickets before. That kid won't do anything she doesn't want to.

Z ate a fish heart while it was still pumping! She caught 2 brown trout (after much time and effort) and when the guy was teaching her how to gut it, I I dared her. She chewed it up! Haha!
Posted by Kathy Benavides on Friday, August 21, 2015

One of the things my daughter hankered to do was eat at the nearby Fondue Restaurant. She's been keen to eat Fondue the past year after reading about Switzerland and wanting to live there when she's an adult.  It was my first time at the Melting Pot, although it's in my neighborhood, I suppose its slightly been out of my price range or occasion. Anyways, it was expensive, but amazing. We shared a few dishes and were stuffed. I enjoyed a local Denver cider with the mouth watering white wine, Gruyere, blue cheese, whatever it was, which was perfect with green apple, strawberries, anything. It was the ultimate delectable experience. It reminded me of Hot Pot places in Taiwan, all the family gathered around heated pots of vegetables and meats, except fondue, chocolates and cheeses are so much more appetizing. I doubt Taiwanese would like to eat there as the place is haunted, they have ghost dinners for Halloween and the staff testified to their own personal close encounters.

Dip it good!
My folks, it will be their 42nd anniversary the beginning of September

The day before we had to fly out of DIA, all 4 of my brothers and their kids got together in the park, which had prior been impossible with everyone's schedules. My little nieces and nephews are beyond cute, precious and of course I think they are all extremely intelligent. We ended the day with chicken wings and beer, the restaurant had the Bronco cheerleaders and mascot so my daughter and niece got some posters and autographs, a great souvenir for her, although the meaning is lost on her not having grown up at the mercy of Bronco season.

The first time my kid tried Gatorade, which boggled my brothers
Z with Miles the Mascot

The highlight of my trip of course was spending time with family and resting. The entire time in the forefront of my mind was when and how I would settle back in Colorado. I cried when I said goodbye to my grandparents, because tears ran down my grandpa's face when he said, "I probably will never see you again," implying they will die soon. It wasn't pleasant to leave him like that. It wasn't pleasant to leave America as it turned out, but that's another story.

Uncle Mike behind the camera, and some of the Benavides clan, Albuquerque.

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