Thursday, May 30, 2013

到山頂 (up to the mountain top)

I'm getting into the swing of things! I've finished a week of my internship. I got to attend one of Dr. Dr. Chou-Chou's lecture on Monday.  He made me stand up in front of the class and introduce myself, and the students seemed very animated and excited to meet a foreigner haha!  But Dr. Chou has given me a lot of interesting background information to study and look over before I am entrusted with some of his data haha. I'm being introduced to many different sampling techniques, as well as some botany knowledge of the native plants here on the island. Currently, I am trying to understand a type of GIS programming software. I got introduced to it a little last week, but now I'm diving deeper. It's a common tool used to analyze population distribution on a map. You can add many different layers to the map such as temp, precipitation, elevation, ect. All to get a better understanding on the population's desired habitat. I know I am going to have a class on this subject later on in my Purdue studies, so I was really excited to get a jump start on this! That being said, it is proving to be a little difficult to grasp. But that's okay! The grad students are so helpful. And, I'm now starting to understand some of the basic tools and steps.

I think my favorite part of the internship so far is the mini excursions the grad students take me on.  They say because I'm here, the prof is letting them show me around :) So this week, I'm at my desk studying and working on some sample problems in the GIS software, and two of them come up very excited, and they ask if I would like to go see the mountains! So we just got up and left! Just as simple as that! The lab is really chill, you can get up anytime you want; just make sure you get your work done.

So we got to take the lab's car, well it was more like a worker van. It had a little trouble as we moved into higher elevation. :) The curves and steepness of the road proved a challenge for this oldie. But anyways, I absolutely love Taiwan. It took us around 20 minutes to leave the university and head north to Yangmingshan National Park. The grad students are so funny, they are always so energetic when they are showing off their country and culture. And rightfully so! Taiwan is beautiful. I can't say it enough. But anyways, they printed out a map of the route we were going to take, just in case I wanted to know where I was on the island. So the first stop was at a famous scenic spot that was adjacent to Chinese Culture University (a university ON the mountain side, very cool). It was my first aerial view of Taiwan, and it was absolutely gorgeous.  My guides pointed out where the our university was located, where the largest farm is located, and the harbor. When looking out onto the city, there was one building that towered over everything in sight. That was Taipei 101. It was ranked the world's tallest skyscraper until 2004, when the Burj Khalifa in Dubai took its place. I was told it was also awarded an award for one of the largest "green" building in the world. Hopefully you can spot it in the pics at the bottom!

So our next stop was at the volcano! A VOLCANO PEOPLE! never have one of those in Indiana! It was very neat, the smoke coming out of the rock, and of course, the wonderful sulfur smell made it an even cooler experience. This one was called Siaoyoukeng. I was amazed at how there were so much vegetation surrounding the site. The short bamboo were pinned down from the constant gusts of wind. There were a lot of other foreigners there, many different accents, kind of fun to try and pick out where people are from.
But we still had so much more to get to, so we jumped back into the car to head even further up the mountain! Next to the tippy top, where we could see all of Taiwan. I couldn't take enough pictures; by the end of the night, I ended up taking over a hundred.. so sorting through them took some time. There was a small rest stop before the switch backing occurred. There were colorful signs and posters all around, announcing that it was butterfly season, and sure enough, on the side of the road were many different colorful butterflies. I tried taking a picture of one, but they all turned out blurry due to my inefficient picture taking skills, sorry folks. Next time.
So the top of the mountain did not disappoint.  It was a 180 view of Taiwan. By now, the sun was starting to get lower in the sky, so a beautiful hue was starting to tint all the plants and mountain side. I wish Indiana had these sorts of mountains... I would never come down though.

The grad students planned on last stop for our little excursion. We were racing to the West side of the island, in order to reach the harbor and pier in time for the sunset. It took a little longer than they expected because of the rush hour traffic, as well as taking a couple wrong turns haha, but we made it literally a couple minutes before the sun was inches closer from the ocean's horizon. A beautiful bridge was where we stood as the sun started to set, and show off its amazing colors. Sunsets are things that I feel are one of God's most unique creations; the stillness and calmness that surrounds a sunset is universal. One of the few things that are. A perfect ending to an amazing journey of this island.

Here are just some of  the pictures from that day.. it was hard to pick which ones to choose!

one of the amazing views!

the volcano site! see the smoke? be glad you can't smell it though.. :P
the winding road up to the top

because I couldn't get a pic of a butterfly.. the sign will have to do

awesome tour guides!

the bridge at the harbor; there was a huge crowd waiting for the sunset

no caption needed..

the bridge lights up!

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