He’s Really Gone Now…

Not like that time years ago back in Cleveland when he disappeared during a frosty, snow-blanketed February pre-dawn run in Forest Hills Park with me and his sister Scout. When I finally found him, he came out of the woods covered in blood and whining in pain. According to the vet, a larger animal, perhaps a coyote, had grabbed him first by the butt, flipped him over and tried to rip his throat out.

But he made it out of the coyote’s jaws of death and back to us. In the waiting room at the vet’s office, Becky said she could feel the rhythmic movement of air on her lower leg. It was coming from the holes in Jake’s throat when he exhaled. The vet had to keep him overnight and offered no guarantee of survival. He came back to 100% eventually, although his bark was forever raspy where the coyote got him in the voicebox. I like to think that coyote has a few scars to remember him by as well.

Nor is this like the time he got lost in the woods behind our house in Pepper Pike. He loved to chase deer and there were plenty to chase in those woods. But he always found his way back – breathless and still thrilled from the effort. But this time he had gotten turned around and didn’t come when called. Our family was in a panic. I took to the woods while Becky and the boys took to the streets in our minivan. I trudged through the woods yelling “Jake!” at the top of my lungs.

People came out of their comfortable homes to peer into the darkness at the shouting madman in the woods. A woman asked me what I was doing. “Looking for my damn dog!” I replied to her disdain. We found him after a few hours in a development a few blocks away from ours. He ran over to me crouched low to the ground with his ears back like he was feeling guilty. I scooped him up and called the family. Daddy was a big hero, the star of the big reunion.

He wasn’t gone very long at all the time he swallowed a ball and collapsed from lack of oxygen when it blocked his throat. Becky had carried him to the car and gone back in to retrieve her phone when one of our boys yelled, “He spit it out! He’s breathing now!” It was just a few seconds that time but it seemed so much longer.

And it’s not the same as when he wandered off after we relocated to Taiwan. By that point at 16 years of age he was pretty much deaf and couldn’t see very well either. It had gotten dark and we were worried he might get hit by a car or fall into a ditch. So Becky took the boys and I went on around our Taipei neighborhood on my scooter yelling his name and asking any locals I encountered if they had see a “small white dog” in Chinese (小白狗). Thanks to the microchip under his skin, he was identified and returned to us later that evening for yet another tearful reunion.

Then he disappeared once after we moved into our new home in Taipei. It was maybe half an hour before one of us asked, “Where’s Jake?” And not five minutes later he strolled onto the back patio dripping wet and shivering. We had let him out into the front yard to do his business and he must have gone through the fence slats (getting skinnier as he got older) and fallen in the pool. We don’t know how that 17 year old blind deaf dog ever found his way to the steps at the far end of the pool all we know is we’re glad he did.

Jake was the best running buddy anyone training for a marathon could ever have. He and his sister would jump up even from a deep slumber, trembling with the possibility to get out and run. The two dogs were really our first children as Jake was already 5 years old when Griffin was born. And Jake was obsessed with catching a Frisbee. I would throw it as hard and as far as I could but he would always catch up to it and leap into the air – sometimes turning somersaults in the process – to make the catch. A passerby walking in the park once remarked, “I wish the Cleveland Browns had a receiver like that.” He was equally obsessed with fetching sticks from any pond or lake no matter how cold it was at the time.

But our loving Jake had a temper too. He never failed to growl under his breath when following directions he didn’t agree with. I have three scars on my hands from disciplinary run-ins with Jake. Now I cherish those scars as part of his memory. Jake has left us to chase that big frisbee in the sky – his final departure after all those threatened in the last 17 years.

Scout, his sister is still with us. Arthritic, mostly blind and deaf and occasionally incontinent. We clean up her accidents, carry her up and down the stairs, snuggle with her in spite of her rancid breath and tell her everyday how much we love our sweet little girl. Just like we still love Jake.

It doesn’t matter that he’s really gone now…

–theklarsafar

Catching Up Part 4: The Tip of the Upside Down Banana

Now that it’s March of 2016, you’re probably asking yourself, “What did the Klars get up to during Spring Break 2015,” Right? No? Well, in case you’re interested, here’s what we did.

We drove down to Kenting. This is what the kids and adults in our family refer to as “the tip of the upside down banana” which is what the island of Taiwan looks like.

Becky’s colleague Bridget and her son Aiden – pals with Klar Boy Griff joined us on the trip. Three adults and three kids driving 5.5 hours down Taiwan’s most  populous coast. Turns out that a highway is a highway even if the signs are in Chinese and you can’t read most of them. Dad did all of the driving because, let’s face it, that’s what Dads do – especially since it means you can ignore the children and have people hand you beverages and sandwiches and such.

We stayed at a place called Smokey Joe’s which was very comfortable. Close to the beach and featuring a nice little courtyard pool area where after family days on the beach, the adults could relax with refreshments while the kids burned off their extra energy in the pool.Smokey Joe's Kending

Not only is the beach right around the corner but the Kenting Street market is right outside the front door. One of the things you can eat there is fried milk. Really.

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We drove around the area in our minivan to different beaches and visited an eternal flame fed by natural methane deposits.  Turns out this is also near a Taiwan Military artillery range where they happened to be practicing while we were there so the family was treated to shells flying over our heads and exploding somewhere “over there” which seemed pretty close and far enough away at the same time.

 

One day we drove around the tip of the banana and saw a rock shaped like the partially submerged head of Richard Nixon gazing at mainland China.

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Check out the family fun on the beach…

All in all it was a great week on the beach and a good time was had by all.

We welcome your comments and suggestions and please remember we love and miss all of you. And there is always room in our home for any friends who come to visit us here in Taiwan. Until we see you again, remember to take care of yourself because “The Wild Dog Haunts.”

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–theklarsafar

Catching Up Part 3: Chinese New Year

This post is part of an ongoing effort to catch you all up on what the Klars Afar have been up to here in Taiwan. This entry details Chinese New Year 2015.

In America, the biggest holiday season is Christmas or Hannukah or Kwanza or whatever it is you happen to celebrate. In Taiwan and China it’s Chinese New Year or Spring Festival 春節. It happens in February and everybody takes up to two weeks off and there are many traditional activities enjoyed by all – like fireworks (oh God did I ever get tired of hearing firecrackers and bottle rockets – it never seems to stop during the entire period), eating traditional foods and launching lanterns bearing your wish for the coming year.

The one most enjoyed by Griffin and Bodhi was the giving of red envelopes bearing cash to children. As you can see, they got very excited.

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Oh Yeah! We got the cash money now!
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Bodhi thought it would be nice to share his red envelope with Flat Parker, a friend we received in the mail from America.

Many of the people in Taipei travel during the break, either to their home village elsewhere in Taiwan or take a vacation so at times the city seems deserted. Since we’re newcomers here, the Klars decided to see some of the sights the Magic Rock has to offer close to our home.

On the north coast of the island is the Yehliu Geologic Park. It’s a very beautiful collection of intriguing rock formations jutting out northward and was formed as geological forces pushed Datun Mountain out of the sea. We took the kids and dogs there to check it out. Take a look!

 

Yet another custom we particularly enjoyed is the sky lanterns. In the early 19th century the Lantern Festival was brought to Taiwan, where every year, at the beginning of the spring planting season, people would release sky lanterns into the air as a prayer for the coming year. You write your wish on the lantern, light the fire beneath it and send your wish off to the heavens. We went on a trip organized by Taipei American School to a Pingxi Lantern Festival – a beautiful village in the forested mountains south of Tapei where every 20-30 minutes hundreds of Taiwanese launch their wish lanterns in waves.

Becky wished for more fun in Taiwan. Griffin wished for “Halo 5 sooner”. I wished for career progress (a job). And Bodhi wished to be “super tough” and drew a stick figure with biceps as a visual aid.

The next morning, Bodhi was very sad. He thought his wish hadn’t come true because he woke up with no biceps. “I’m still skinny!” he cried. I explained that you could be skinny and still be super tough. So I showed him some Bruce Lee videos on youtube and he was mesmerised. Now he has a new hero – another little skinny guy who kicks major butt like he does in his Kung Fu classes.

Well, that’s it for this installment. Two more to come before New Year – Spring Break and Summer Vacation. Don’t forget that we love and miss you all. And there’s always room in our home for any of our friends who wish to visit Taiwan.

–theklarsafar.

 

Catching Up Part 2: Hiking Seven Star Mountain

During the holiday break, we hiked up Qixingshan (Seven Star Mountain) in Yangmingshan National Park (right behind our apartment). We went with our friends Paul Jacob, Amanda Jacob and their son Theo and of course we dragged our little dogs along too. Both Jake and Scout are getting on in years (15 & 14 respectively) but they hate to be left behind and luckily they are small enough to carry when they get tired or the terrain gets too rough. It was a beautiful day for a hike – with clear skys, pleasant temperatures and breathtaking views of the city of Taipei as well as the surrounding mountain-studded landscape. We loaded the kids, dogs and hiking supplies in our two vehicles and headed for the trailhead.

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Qixingshan in Yangmingshan National Park.

Qixingshan is located in the Datun Volcano Group and is the highest peak in Taipei, at the rim of the Taipei Basin and is also the highest dormant volcano in Taiwan. Thousands of years ago the Datun Volcano Group erupted and spewed huge amounts of lava that flowed to the north and became the foundation of Taiwan’s rocky north coast.

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Qixingshan Trailhead

A wonderful day in the fresh mountain air for everyone. At the top we enjoyed packed lunch and of course a bottle of wine. Scout and Jake were the favourites of the other hikers at the top and even managed to beg some treats.

Thanks for keeping up with the Klars Afar. Remember we love and miss you all and we always have room in our home for friends to visit us in Taipei

–TheKlarsAfar

 

Catching Up Part 1: Featuring a Giant Stone Phallus

It’s been months since a post and the last one was far from current. So as the title says, I’ve got some catching up to do. This first instalment is from our visit to Sun Moon Lake. While we were there, we rode the sky gondola over the mountains to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. This was both a shameless commercial venture AND an education on the different tribes of Aborigines – of which the Taiwan Govt. recognises 16. The shameless commercial side was an amusement park complete with overpriced, crummy food and a selection of rides. The educational part was a great walking path leading through life-sized villages of many of the tribes.

I promise to get current by New Year’s – either Chinese or Western. Until the next instalment, please remember that we love and miss you all. And there’s always a spare room for you here in Taipei. Here is your token video of a fish frenzy

–theklarsafar

Beheaded by the Green Dragon Crescent Blade

While we were visiting the newly named Sun HOON Lake over the New Year’s break, we made sure to stop at WenWu Temple. While our children were more interested in sitting in our car playing on their electronic gadgets (even though we dragged them halfway around the world to expose them to stuff like this), Becky and I had a wonderful time strolling the grounds and taking lotsa pics.

A WenWu temple is unique and slightly rare in China and Taiwan because it venerates both a civil saint – Confucius – and a martial saint – Guan Yu – and there are sections of the temple dedicated to each. I, of course, was mostly interested in the martial aspect and approached the statue of Guan Yu outside the entrance where he is depicted wielding his signature weapon, the Green Dragon Crescent Blade. He proceeded to cut my head off as seen in this entry’s main image. But don’t worry, Confucius was able to reattach it. Once I had my head on straight, I was able to take and share with you the following photographs.

A Fabulous Trip to Sun “HOON” Lake

On December 27th we welcomed our second visit from the ranks of our friends in America. The Hoon family, Zack & Jayne and their sons Clay & Carter arrived for a week-long adventure. Together we hit the Taipei Zoo, Taipei 101, The Shilin Night Market and Sun Moon Lake (now unofficially renamed Sun HOON Lake). Not only was it great to see our old friends again but Clay, who is currently studying Chinese in College, proved particularly useful as a translator and impromptu tour guide since he could read menus, ask directions and function as a nearly normal member of Taiwanese Society – a skill that still eludes many of the rest of us 外國人 (Weiguoren, the characters for foreigner in Chinese). In the photo below you see the jet-lagged Hoon Family found a little bit of home when they met up with American Marketing Icon Ronald McDonald who happened to be at the Taipei Zoo on a promotional visit.

The Hoons make the acquaintance of an American Marketing Icon who they happened to run into at the Taipei Zoo.
The Hoons make the acquaintance of an American Marketing Icon who they happened to run into at the Taipei Zoo.

Even the animals got excited meeting the Hoons. Some of them even opened their eyes.

Here you can see how excited the Pandas were to see the Hoon Family. This one nearly woke up, he was so thrilled.
Here you can see how excited the Pandas were to see the Hoon Family. This one nearly woke up, he was so thrilled.

Then it was just a quick ride on the Taipei Metro Rail (MRT) to Taipei 101. Taipei 101 dominates the skyline of our fair city and between 2004 and 2010 it was the tallest building in the world. For just $500 NT for adults and $450 NT for children ($15 US & $13.50 US respectively) we took the elevator up to the 89th floor observatory and also gained access to the 91st floor outside deck which is sometimes closed due to high winds. Even though we had been here 7 months at that point, it took visiting friends to get us to the top. We found out Taipei 101 is green, is known as an engineering marvel in a country rife with typhoons and earthquakes and offers a hell of a great view of the city and surrounding green space. Check out these pics…

That night we went to the Shilin Night Market. Sorry but I was either too tired or too drunk to take any pictures. Suffice it to say it is a packed throng of street vendors selling everything from squid on a stick to “Stinky Tofu” – a Taiwanese delicacy I have yet to drink enough to try. The next day we went to Sun “Hoon” Lake. Sun Moon Lake is the largest body of fresh water in Taiwan. Although it’s not much compared to the Great Lakes in the States, it’s still pretty damn big and the surrounding area is gorgeous. There’s a Gondola ride up the mountains, boat rides around the lake, bike paths surrounding the shore and the awesome Wen Wu Temple right on the shore overlooking the tranquil waters.

We rode a Gondola to an Aboriginal Theme Park, celebrated the New Year with old friends on the lakeshore and had an all-around great time at Sun HOON Lake – as it will forever be known henceforth in the Klar family.

One thing you occasionally regret living halfway around the world from people you’ve known most of your life is that you can’t show them the sights, point out the smells and have a laugh or two about this crazy place. It was soooooo nice to share our experience in Taiwan with such great old friends while we got to know their children better and let them get to know ours. We welcome any and all visitors to this “magic rock.” And we hope to see more of you soon.

I am terribly behind on this family blog. Please forgive me but I promise to post more regularly and eventually get up to the present. Don’t forget we love and miss you all. And feel free to post heartfelt or sarcastic comments – the more the better.

–The Klars Afar