TAIPEI, Taiwan – Clouds drift up one side of Mt. Cising before they slide down the other. But first the mist hovers, encircling the peak. Nothing is visible except the very top, where hikers are stretching out on stone platforms, snapping photos with the elevation marker, sharing apple slices. Over the clearing’s edge is nothing, a foggy abyss periodically dissipating to reveal a sea of waving grass.
“This looks like the end of the world,” we say.
A Taiwanese hiking group recommends other mountains to climb, points out how to get to the sulfur springs. One of the women went to college two hours from my home in Pennsylvania.
A couple pulls me aside once we mention we’ve studied some Mandarin in college and asks me about the United States, Hong Kong, Harvard. Occasionally the husband translates for me as he explains what to notice about Taiwan–how friendly people are, how they are eager to talk to foreigners. He taught himself English from a book and says I am his second chance to practice with a native speaker.
Before we leave, we take a picture together with the hiking club, a baker’s dozen falling over each other to crowd around the wooden post. “Mt. Cising Main Peak. 1120 M,” it says.
On our way down we don’t see any of the dark brown squirrels with flatter heads and extra fluffy tails, or the foot-long worms. The buzzing of cicadas, the whirring and warbles of birds fade, too. Only a single neon blue-tailed lizard darts across the path.
We pick our way down the steps carved into the mountain. Where the mist floats away reveals bushy trees and long blades, green carpeting the slope. Without the hush-hum of insects, with fewer travelers passing this way, it’s quiet. In the distance we can see the orange and white bus we’ll take back to the city.
Chelsea L. Shover ’11, a Crimson news writer, is a literature concentrator in Cabot House.
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