I participated in American Councils Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program (TISLP) in 2019. During my summer in Taiwan, I noticed how green it is. It appears the nature has been infused with the country’s architecture willingly or unwillingly. Every time I went outside, I always felt this Zen-like peaceful atmosphere. There was some balance between mother earth and what the Taiwanese have built.
Here are some instances (mini-stories with pictures) to showcase this “balance.”
During one weekend of my program, I decided to do a day trip in Kaohsiung. One of my destinations was Lotus Pond. The Lotus Pond is known for its numerous temples around the lake. While exploring the pond and visiting these temples (one of which is the humanoid temple in the background), I stumbled upon this smaller pond (The Lotus Pond is the background while the smaller pond is in the forefront). This picture I took captures how they integrated nature with its cities.
We went on an excursion to Taipei and I had the opportunity to climb the nearby Elephant Mountain. As I walked or “climbed” wanting to see the view of the top, I noticed that the journey to the mountain was very beautiful. The stone stairs covered by the trees not only made the trek easier, but gave me sense of tranquility.
I decided to take my time walking to my apartment from National Cheng Kung University (where TISLP classes are located). During my walk back, it started to rain heavily. Since I did not have an umbrella, I found shelter in a local café. Once the the rain subsided, I took the chance to go home before the potential chance of more showers. As I neared my apartment, I noticed that the street on which I typically walked home appeared very different. The lights and the water in the street made that particular street vibrant. It reminded me how this country can transform a city of 1.8 million people (Tainan) into your personal city nature adventure.
During a visit to Taipei, my classmates and I had the opportunity to go to the Beitou District. Beitou is famous for its hot springs, and is possible due being Taipei’s most mountainous and highest district. On my journey to the hot springs, I observed how natural everything is in Beitou. The sidewalks have an infusion of grass, plenty of plants, and the trees providing a forest-like atmosphere.
I often used my weekends in Taiwan to explore the country. During this weekend, I stayed with my host family. My host family is located in Tainan, but since me and host family got along so well the they offered to take me to their hometown in Yunlin County. Yulin County is filled with rice fields, and once we reached my host family’s house there was a rice field right next to the house. Taiwan is a very lush country.
When studying abroad, one is expected to be by oneself, away from family. That is what I thought, as well. Well, apparently not, as my uncle scheduled a business trip in Taiwan at the same time I was participating in TISLP. We agreed to meet up. During our reunion, we traveled to Taroko National Park, which located on Taiwan’s west side. During our exploration of the park, we visited a nearby temple (Xiande Temple). While walking to the temple, we decided to rest for a bit. During the rest, I noticed the area was built a while back, and nature had started to “return” this area into its natural state. The moss on the rock was a key indicator of that process.
If humans do not maintain their structures, nature will retake that land. During my first cultural excursion with TISLP, we visited the Anping Tree House. This merchant house was established during the late 1800s of the Qing Dynasty. Over time the warehouse was abandoned and became home to the banyan trees nearby. How the banyan trees take root of the warehouse showed me how beautiful and powerful the nature is in Taiwan.
Overall, the nature of Taiwan wonderfully complements the country’s infrastructure. In the United States, nature is often separate from urban areas. However, in Taiwan, it is often combined. This combination fascinated and made me want to take pictures to this “infusion.” I highly recommend going to Taiwan regardless of the purpose; you have to take a minute to observe its unique landscape.
By: Alex Tran, AC Study Abroad Alumni Ambassador