It was a normal day in Shanghai, until I heard a presentation in by Mr. Tafel. I was mesmerized by what I could do. This caught my attention, and led to today which I spent 28 days in a small village called Xizhou. Microcampus gave us the opportunity to study a topic of self-interest, which I finally chose food of Xizhou. I chose this topic because I personally not only enjoy consuming food, but also like to learn about the history of a food from a different region. Not only this, but my parents would always take me to different places around China and Korea, which gave me great experiences with food. However, the only place I had not been to restaurants that had Yunnan cuisine, which I thought would give me a whole new spectrum about Chinese food. However, since food was such a broad topic, I did not know where to start off. I could not put it together in a single video, therefore please note this video only covers Yunnan cuisine history.
Throughout my life in the village, I had to find sources that could help, me find information. I first talked to Ms. Zhao and her husband, which were the owners of the Microcampus students-beloved restaurant Old Town Snacks. She gave me detailed information about how Yunnan cuisine was all connected, and also explained how Yunnan cuisine was much unique compared to other provinces. Also, I would like to thank Ms. Dong at the Golden Flower Restaurant, Ms. Hong at the Ma La Tang restaurant, Ms. Zhong at the noodle shop, and Mr. Fan for showing his opinion as an immigrant from Chongqing province. They all gave me explanations how the changing factors of the market changed over time, and helped me out with specifying my topic.
Before I came to Xizhou, I came up with questions that were rather broad in Shanghai. However, interacting with the locals made me realize that each one had a different story to say. I asked more about their own life with food, and how they became a restaurant owner. This made me tweak my questions so the questions would receive a variety of answers from people, and help me improve my story by gaining more information to support my thesis statement after hearing the people. The thesis statement is below:
Factors that influence the cuisine business in Xizhou changed over time from Traditions, Migration, and Social Media.
Sharing My Learning
See above for the video of my final product. If there are issues with that, here is another link: https://youtu.be/7CNErarVmZI
In my Inquiry Project, I took away many things that I will never take from any other places. Not only the improvement of my actual-life Chinese skills, but I became much comfortable with being with a local person that I have never met.. At first, they might not be very sure what we are doing in this small village, but it was just cool how their life moved on. Eventually, they became very friendly whenever we came. Although most people were nice ever since we started such as Ms. Zhao at Old Town Snacks, occasionally people would be kind of nervous seeing a random foreigner trying to research food. I was scared at the start, but at the end it changed my point of view on local Chinese people. Before, I would think they would always be a little cold but now I know that they are not, which made my experience with my locals much better.
However, my topic changed over time by a little. Since food was such a broad topic to deal with, I sometimes had difficulties keeping up with information that I kept digging for. This caused me to modify my topic to the factors that influence the cuisine business of Xizhou. The process of making the topic specific was very interesting, as talking to locals brought up a new topic that I have never considered, which was the influence of Social Media. Since many restaurant owners were using WeChat, I generated new questions for restaurant owners on Si Fang Jie.
The most difficult part for me was probably organizing my pile of information. Sometimes, a single person would blast me with a day full of information, while one person could give slightly less. Also, the variety of information was confusing, as it was not necessarily in order or in a section. I had a hard time organizing all the information that each person gave. Also, talking to the locals were very difficult at the start. As already mentioned, some locals were sometimes reluctant on showing his or her thoughts, however talking with them eventually eased off their mind, which was interesting to see the change.
During this process of learning, I also had several A-Ha moments. When I was talking to Ms. Zhong, the owner of the noodle family restaurant, she introduced a whole new idea of Social Media. She explained how WeiBo, the Chinese version of Twitter advertised her restaurant. This changed my whole experience, as I even modified my questions in order to grab more information about the influence of Social Media on the Cuisine Market of Xizhou. This eventually became my third hook for my topic, which were one of the biggest A-Ha moment in my journey.
This project made me understand my topic better by many ways. At first when I chose my topic, I would only think about the single type of food. For example, my first 10 questions were basic, as some of them even included a basic question such as how to make the food. Since these questions did not help with my understanding of this place, I decided to modify these questions, and turned hands on with asking the locals. I found out that each individual had a different story to tell about their life, which changed my perspective on the restaurant owners of China. Also, I found out that Yunnan cuisine was rather simple before the tourism business arrived.
Also, this project made me connect with the community 24/7. Since many families work in the cuisine business in Si Fang Jie, my topic had to connect with the community whenever I could. I could not figure out the answers to my questions on my own, which showed my growth with the comfort level with the locals. When I signed up for the trip, I explained how food is a great combination of both culture and history. Talking to the experts of food not only showed me the culture and history of Xizhou, but about their life. For example, Mr. Fan was actually just in Chongqing until he discovered the booming cuisine industry of Xizhou! This broke my stereotypes on the cuisine business, as I did not realize the importance of the fusion of cultures in the cuisine business.
While occasionally facing difficulties in the process of going through the questions and information, I understood my strengths and weaknesses. Firstly, I realized my level of comfort with the locals. Although at start I would be very depressed when they rejected my conversations, I eventually understood why they would do that as seeing a foreigner in Si Fang Jie is rather rare. However, I found my strength which is the positivity. Even when the people would reject me, I kept trying in a happy way, which at the end gave me great connections with locals. Also, when the locals saw me smiling they were more open to share their life with me.
Knowing myself as a learner was difficult in this project, as I just tried to receive piles and piles of information. This made me realize that I have to improve at organization skills. Although at the end I obtained great information with my topic, I had difficulties organizing them into logical sections, which I found out my weakness as a learner. Secondly, I found out my strength when I faced difficulties trying to process the information. Although there were a few bumps on the road, I was able to stay positive through the whole journey, which I think helped me endure the process better than some people.
If I could turn back time to when I started this project, I think it would have been great if I came up with my supporting points before I could receive information. I think this would help me not only grab organized information, but I believe this would help come up with a cleaner hook. Since I did not use this method, it took me a while to come up with a sensible thesis statement that wrapped up everything. Also, having more time would allow me to talk to people far away from Si Fang Jie, which would give my information variety.
Just like any other project, it would have been better if I had more time to deal with my Inquiry work. However, I think I could have taken a different route if I had more time. I think I would come up with more hooks, as the changing factors of the cuisine business are definitely more than three. Also, I would improve my thesis statement by giving more rich information. Sometimes, I thought my thesis statement could have been better with more facts, but just like any other project, the 28 day limit grabbed my ankle for grabbing more information.
Without the help with Mr. Tafel and Ms. Mai, this trip would not be possible. Also, I would like to thank Ms. Zhao at the Old Town Snacks, Ms. Dong at Golden Flower Restaurant, Ms. Hong at the Ma La Tang Restaurant, Ms. Zhong at the Noodle Restaurant, Ms. Yin at the Rose Petal Jam Store, and Mr. Fan at the Chongqing La Mian restaurant. Without these people, all this information would not be obtainable. Last but not least, thanks to my family for believing in my journey!