March 10th was the day when 15 students and I started on a journey called Microcampus when we left our house, school, family, and friends. We all went on an airplane going to Xizhou, a small province in Yunnan, from Shanghai. That day was the official start of the 28-day journey we had to explore the village Xizhou and study a topic of our interest 2000 kilometers away from home. I became part of this experience when I signed for Microcampus all the way in October, then starting on my Inquiry Project in December.
Originally I was going to focus on the techniques and history of Wood Carving, to learn about how Wood Carving started in Xizhou, stories behind Wood Carvings, how Wood Carvings were made. I believe that each Wood Carving has its own stories and all made with a great deal of effort and heart. However, during my stay at Xizhou, I shifted my focus from the techniques and history of Wood Carving to Wood Carver's thoughts on their life and Wood Carving. Now, my topic is concentrated on what the Wood Carver's thinks about their lives and their thoughts on Wood Carving.
My main local sources include Mr. Ding and Mr. Yu. Mr. Ding has been working on Wood Carving for 8 years and has a family workshop with plenty of amazing pieces of Wood Carvings. He offered me much information on the techniques of Wood Carving and also told me a great deal of about what it felt like being a Wood Carver and his thoughts on Wood Carving. Mr. Yu has been working on Wood Carving for 11 years and has a small workshop with many creative Wood Carvings. He offered a great deal of information to me on the history of Wood Carving and also told me about what it felt like being a Wood Carver and his thoughts on Wood Carving.
The type of questions I been trying to answer is what is the history of Wood Carving and what purpose does it serve, as well as some techniques on Wood Carving. Later I decide to question how does Wood Carving effect one's life. This will gradually lead to my thesis: In order to understand the different views of a Wood Carver, one might compare the perspectives of Mr. Ding, Mr. Yu and myself.
Sharing My Learning:
The final product I created is an iMovie that shows three perspectives revolving around the life of a Wood Carver and a Wood Carvers thought on Wood Carving. Click here to see the final product.
From the inquiry project, I have found many takeaways, but the few major takeaways will accompany me throughout my whole life. Working on the inquiry project helped me learn to mono-task, not procrastinate and also keeping my self and my schedule organized. If I was not able to manage and use these 3 skills, I would not be able to finish my final product on time as I would be spending my precious work time doing something else. This process also taught me to act more mature. Since I was asking about the Wood Carver’s thought on their personal life and their honest view of Wood Carving. I had to be mature when I was asking these question and be very understanding when they reply as these are personal questions. I am very happy that this project has taught me plenty and has allowed me to become a more mature and organized person.
Throughout the working process, my topic took a couple of big turns. I started out wanting to learn more about the history and purpose of Wood Carving while also wanting to learn some techniques on Wood Carving, this changed quite a bit after the first few days of fieldwork. I slowly became very interested in the life of a Wood Carver what it feels like being a Wood Carver. After a few conversations, hearing about the lives of being a Wood Carvers, I learned that I also wanted to learn about a Wood Carvers real thoughts on Wood Carving. Originally I did not plan to mainly focus on these question, but when I received my answers from the Wood Carvers, they were really shocked me and all had a very powerful opinion. This all lead my final topic, the different views on life and Wood Carving of Wood Carvers.
Throughout the process of fieldwork, I had one major "a-ha" moment that really helped me gather my Final Product and solve a very difficult part of my result. I was talking to Mr. Yu, a Wood Carver, in his workshop when he was explaining to me his life and thoughts on Wood Carving. Right at the time, I did not have a way to share my final product and was struggling to find a way. The moment that he shared to me his views on his life and Wood Carving and I realized it was very different from the previous Wood Carver, I immediacy had the “a-ha” moment and knew that I wanted to share my final products the different perspectives from different Wood Carvers. This also finalized my topic to the different views on life and Wood Carving of Wood Carvers. It was also very interesting when I realized the two Wood Caver also had completely different art styles. This "a-ha" moment felt like I was being freed from a cage and I could finally see the something I was not able to see when I was brainstorming and struggling trying to find a way to share my final product.
As most of the knowledge I had have surrounding Wood Carving before this project had come from books and teachers, this project allowed me to understand the real-life version of Wood Carving in China so as the real-life version of a Wood Carvers life. Before arriving in Xizhou, I did not considerate the life of a Wood Carver and what the life of a Wood Carver would be like. My head buried so deeply in the techniques of Wood Carving and the history of Wood Carving. This project has really helped me to understand the reality of this topic that is not often considered and talked about by the media.
This project really helped me to make strong connections with the community in Xizhou. When I was interviewing the Wood Carvers they were all really nice and would either stop what they are doing to talk to me or try their best to make a conversation as they are working as they cannot control if they can stop working or not. They were all very open to my question and had a sense of humor which made these conversations less awkward. The conversations I had really helped me build strong connections and friendships with people in Xizhou.
This project taught me plenty about who I am. I learned that if I give myself enough time and be in the right place I can do my work more efficient and better. I learned that I might need some extra time when I am doing work, and when I use this time well, I can be all caught on with my work. I have learned that when I approach new people I can become very shy, that is something I very need to work on to overcome for the better good of my future.
The inquiry project process has helped me learn how to push my self to be productive and actually work. I realized that when I made a mind schedule, I will actually do what I planned to do. This helps me to know what needs to be done which exact time so I would not push work to the last minute. I also learned that I need to allow myself to take breaks every once in a while because that is what that makes me more productive. When I stop and go grab some snacks or have a small conversation with someone, my brain becomes relaxed and then it gathers its focus together again. This not just allows me to think better but also helps me work faster.
If I could go back in time and give my self-advice, it would be to take plenty of photos and overall enjoy the time here while also being productive. When making the final product I was really happy when I found out that I had just enough photos for my final video if I had even more photos it would have made the progress way much smoother than it already was. I also would tell myself to enjoy the time more while also being productive because time passes by way to fast it feels like the entire journey was only one week.
If I am to continue researching my topic, it definitely would be to find more perspectives that I can talk too. Even though learning about the 2 different was very interesting, if I decided to switch paths on my topic earlier, I might have been able to learn about what it feels like being an Ex-Wood Carver, thoughts of being a product consumer. If other Microcampus students were to build off of my research, they could follow the path I took while also expanding their research to include many different other perspectives.
Though out this month-long experience here there are many people I will like thank. Firstly, I would like to thank Mr. T. and Ms. Mai for guiding me into the correct directions while creating and hosting this wonderful and amazing experience. I would like to thank Ms. B and Mr. Chen for helping me find plenty of people to talk to and also helping me explain the parts of the conversation I had that I did not understand. Thank you to the Voyagers group for making being away from my friends and family in Shanghai still a comfortable space. Thank you to everyone who made the Microcampus trip possible. Finally, of course, a huge thank you to the Xizhou community for being so welcoming and teaching me so much about myself and my topic.
This adventure in the past 28 days are the best experience anyone can have; it has helped me become a better learner, a student, and a person. The opportunity to take us "out of the bubble" has changed me as an individual. A final thank you to every who made this experience possible. I will never forget about this amazing, life-changing, experience in Xizhou.