For the past three weeks, I have been living in Xizhou, Yunnan, as a part of the Microcampus program. Before arriving, each of the fifteen students, including myself, chose a topic of our own choice that we would study for a month. These ranged from Bai Minority music to religion to local cuisine. I chose the Flying Tigers, an American aviation group. My interest for history has grown especially over the past few years, and choosing this topic would not only allow me to look into China’s history, but a part of American history as well. This group existed during World War II, and a great number of events happened during that time. The Flying Tigers in Xizhou stood out to me as restoring a piece of history of the village and looking into a part of WWII.
Through my three-to-fives from Phase 2, I was able to collect many sources from the Linden Centre staff and my chaperones. My main source was the wonderful Mrs Zhao, who clearly remembers the Flying Tigers in Jishanyi, the village where she lives. Mr Linden, the co-head of the Linden Centre, was also a great help. My three-to-five contacts are very familiar with Xizhou and the locals, so they know who I would be able to find to collect information.
In Phase 1, I created my list of Big 10 questions that would further on guide my research and organise my curiosity. These questions centre around what the locals thought about the Flying Tigers, the relationship between the radarmen and the villagers, as well as specific experiences and stories that happened. The only other person before me to do this project is Jacob E, so I was able to use his project as a guide as to what
After the collection of information, it is important to narrow down my topic and know what I am going to focus on for my final product. To fully understand the impact of the Flying Tigers, one must take into consideration the thoughts and opinions of the locals, the relationship between the radarmen and the villagers, as well as the experiences and memories between the two.
Sharing My Learning
My final product video is posted above or available at the following link: https://youtu.be/uOXJVp1jeYo
The inquiry project experience was something I had never done before. In school, we are assigned research projects to find more information about a topic, but it is done only through the internet on our laptops. At Microcampus, we are able to go out in to the village and interview the locals to get first hand information on our topic. Either from people who are currently working out in the fields, people who are praying at the mosques and temples, or from people who have met and interacted with the Flying Tigers personally. From the inquiry project experience, I learned how to interact with locals and how to make connections, which is really valuable to me. In Shanghai, nobody will go to a stranger and start a conversation, but here, most locals are welcoming to us. I was also able to conduct an effective interview, and find out information that was guided by my Big 10 questions for my final project.
My topic did not change during the course of my study. It was mainly focused on the relationships between the locals and the Flying Tigers since the beginning, although I did not realise it until I created my hangers and hooks for my final presentation. I tried to learn as much as I could about all aspects of the Flying Tigers, but it naturally lead to what my presentation is about - the relationships. My original focus was too wide. To me, the Flying Tigers is already fairly specific in terms of the ‘big idea’ but I needed a smaller focal point, which I eventually narrowed the topic down to.
Through the process of researching my topic, the most difficult part was trying to find a local contact that remembered the Flying Tigers. To have been alive and remember something during that time, one would have to be at least over eighty years old. Many elders in the village either did not remember, were not in the village at the time, or were too young. I struggled a bit to find a local contact that did not only remember the Flying Tigers, but was also willing to talk to me and be interviewed about them. Luckily, I was able to find Mrs Zhao who was very friendly and open, and she became my primary source for my project.
Right before I began creating my final presentation, I had an aha moment while reviewing my outline. Originally I designed my outline to reflect what I had learned about the Flying Tigers, mostly about the experiences that Mrs Zhao remembered and how they impacted the area. I realised that it was an amazing thing to remember the Flying Tigers after seventy three years like Mrs Zhao has, and the relationship between the Americans and the Chinese progressively developed during their time here. Then I compared that to the relationships that I have amongst the other Microcampus students, and how, in 73 years, I can only hope to remember this experience as well as Mrs Zhao remembers the Flying Tigers.
All the research and interviews has helped me understand the Flying Tigers’ impact in Jishanyi. Before arriving in Xizhou, I did not know whether or not the aviation group had a big presence here, which is why most of my Big 10 questions closely regard the relationship between the villagers and the radar men. Through my research and interviews, I was able to get a better grasp on how significant the presence of the Flying Tigers were and are in this area.
Inquiry projects require students to go out into the village and interview locals that have been recommended by our three-to-five contacts, or even random people on the streets. This caused me to become more comfortable with interviewing the locals as well as just speaking to them in general. The first few days here in Xizhou, it seemed quite awkward for me to go up to a stranger, say hello, and start a conversation. Now that I know how the community works and what kind of people the locals are, it is much easier to interact and become a positive presence in the community.
I have been able to learn a lot about myself as an individual, as well as understand myself better through my days living in Xizhou. I learned not only about my work ethic, but also about how I go about interacting with strangers and what I am interested in. Initially, I had chosen the Flying Tigers as my inquiry topic because I was and am interested in history. Through learning more about WWII, as well as Mr T’s Chinese history lecture, I was able to identify which parts of history I am especially interested in. As for my work ethic, I learned about which ways I work better in certain situations.
If I could go back in time to the beginning of the project, the advice that would have helped me make this a better experience would be to use Jacob E’s inquiry project as much as I could, and use his sources to find possible contacts for myself. Mr Dong, for example, did not want to see us when we went to visit him, but if I had gone earlier I might have been able to talk to him and collect information. Of course I would have had to find my own contacts as well, but using the previous inquiry project on my topic to guide
If this research project were to be continued, I think some new directions that students could take would be centred around the Zhao ancestral home. I did not have a chance to see the former radar station, but it would be cool to investigate as the funding for restoration has just been approved. Also, another interesting direction would be looking into the translation book of the Flying Tigers that they have here at the Linden Centre. The book is not only over seventy years old, but in great condition as well. There is a translation guide and a Japanese plane identifying section. Maybe the focus would be on how this book acted as a part of the interactions and communication between the locals and radar men.
Acknowledgements - A huge thanks to Mr T, Ms Mai, Yeling, Isabella, Mr and Mrs Linden, Mrs Zhao, Mr Yang, Andrew, Mr Evans, the Hailstorm group, my family and friends, and the Linden Centre staff. Mr T has been a big help through my research process, and I was able to talk to him about any concerns about my inquiry project, regarding either new ideas or bad ideas or new discoveries. Ms Mai is one of the most supportive people here, and Yeling and Isabella, the two other chaperones besides T and Ms Mai, have been great with helping me with translations during my interviews with local contacts. I am extremely thankful for Mrs Zhao, who was very friendly and open to my interviews with her. She was my primary source of information, and I would not have collected so much information if she were not a contact. Thank you to the whole Hailstorm group for supporting each other through the struggles and successes of our projects.
Microcampus has opened my mind and eyes to new things that I otherwise would not have been able to realise myself. Living outside the ‘bubble’ for a month is really an amazing thing for me and how the whole program is structured has been very beneficial to me as an individual and as a part of the Hailstorm group. I have come to terms with my own responsibilities, through things such as creating our own schedules and being in charge of when we do things and how we do things. Staying in Xizhou for 28 days was an incredible experience that I hope I never forget, just as Mrs Zhao was able to clearly remember the Flying Tigers 73 years later. Microcampus has taught me how to handle myself in difficult situations, make connections, and has exposed me to so many new things and experiences that have changed my way of thinking, my way of acting, and so on and so forth.