Welcome to my final product phase. In Phase 0 I narrowed down the list of inquiry project choices, down to the one that I want to do. In Phase 1 I made 10 big questions that I will be investigating during my time in Xizhou. In Phase 2 I found resources that would help me find out more information on my topic. In Phase 3 I organized my research and then recorded my information into the Phase 3 area. In Phase 4 I organized all of my information, and I made a plan for my final product video.
Microcampus is a 28-day hands-on trip, led by Mr. Tafel and Ms. Mai. During Microcamous we travel to a village in the Yunnan province called Xizhou. I came to Xizhou because I wanted to experience the world outside of the Shanghai "bubble" and understand different cultures in China. Before coming to Xizhou we had to choose 3 inquiry projects that we were interested in learning for the next month. We then had to choose, out of those 3, the 1 topic we were interested in the most. The topic I chose is woodcarving, religious studies, and myths/stories/legends. I chose these three because they all relate to each other in some way. When arriving in Xizhou and being there for a while, I decided to just focus on the myths/stories/legends in Xizhou. I chose to do the myths/stories/legends topic because I thought it could teach me some of the culture and behavior in Xizhou and why people act or do not act a certain way because of a story or conspiracy they were told before. The sources I used were: Jie Ling T (N), Alisa K (C), Sara L (J). I chose these sources because they had the same topic as me and they were all students that were on the recommended list from Mr. Tafel. In order to understand my journey of discovering the myths/stories/legends of Xizhou, one must consider what I knew before coming to Xizhou, what I learned in the first couple weeks of being in Xizhou, and what I found to be my favorite story in Xizhou.
Sharing my learning:
In order to understand the stories in Xizhou, I first have to think of what I thought the stories would be like, what I learned they were, and choose which one was my favorite story. To share my learning I made a short video. Scroll up to the top of the page to view my video.
What I took away from my project was many stories that were told somehow related to an event in history, or the characters showed how certain people felt at the time. When interviewing people I also learned that many people I talked to did not know any local stories, so it was harder to find people that knew. Most of the people that knew stories was probably through their job, for example, Mr. Du is an antique shop owner, all of his antiques have a story so that is where he knows his stories from. Also, when interviewing people in Si Fang Jie, I learned that the older people are much more open o talking then the younger people. I started focusing more on the older people in Xizhou, and I learned much more, because they were willing to talk to me, and they were bound to know more stories than the younger generation. The other thing I learned was when I ask someone if they know the myths in Xizhou they will say they have none, but if I ask for the legends or stories, they will have some stories to tell me.
During the process, I did change my project. At first, my main project was woodcarving, religious beliefs, and local myths/stories/legends in Xizhou. For the first week or so, I was focusing all of my attention on woodcarver, but I did not get much information from the woodcarvers. Then I decided to focus on the stories behind the woodcarvings. That too did not get me too far. I then decided to drop the woodcarving and religious beliefs and just focus on the myths/stories/legends in Xizhou, and after learning some stories I would pick back up on what I dropped.
The most difficult part of my research was going around asking for the myths in Xizhou. When I say myths the locals have a different interpretation of what that means. If I want to know the stories then I should just ask for the stories. I also should have gone to Mr. Du first, because he has boxes and boxes of stories form antiques, and I went to him on the last two days of our teacher support sessions. I also decided to mainly ask the older people in Si Fang Jie. Some responses I got were they were too old to remember or not many stories are from the village, but they are from the village near Er Hai Lake, and I should go there to get some stories.
One of my "A-Ha" moments was when I kept asking questions that would not get me far. After noticing that I started not to say "myths in Xizhou", I started making new questions and that started to get me pretty far. From just changing a couple words in my questions, I went from having no stories or information to knowing and learning 4-5 different stories, that I probably would not have learned before if I kept asking those same questions.
This project helped me understand my topic better because before coming to Xizhou all of my information either came from books or came from a website online. I feel like talking to a person directly about my topic and what they know would be better because when it comes from a website I would never know if this is even a real story or anything. Also when talking to someone in the village directly I would be able to not only understand their culture a little bit better, but I would also be able to experience their culture. These stories were told to the probably over 20 years ago, so that means I also get to experience what the culture was like 20 years ago.
To gather the local contacts and to learn the stories, I must go out into the village and talk to people. After interviewing some people I created a relationship with them and that opened up new opportunities and very nice gestures from their end. After interviewing many people around Si Fang Jie and at restaurants, they would always wave and smile when I passed them. When I went to eat at some restaurants, the people knew me so they would give me discounts. I feel like I made great connections while here in Xizhou.
Since we had to go out and talk to people, I started to develop many connections that helped me get my way through the community. In Shanghai I know I would probably never had gone around Lu Jia Zuai interviewing people because in Shanghai we were told to never talk to a stranger, but in Xizhou we only talk to "strangers". Now that I have been in Xizhou for a month I have probably interviewed 50 different people. That is 50 old strangers, 50 new companions.
This project has given me the opportunity to learn about myself. In Shanghai, I am never given the opportunity to go around asking people questions. We have to follow a set of rules every time there is a new opportunity open. In Xizhou, although there are some instructions here in there, we get to make our own rules also. Sometimes we get to even set the boundary, which I know would never happen back in Shanghai.
My project has also let me think about myself as a learner. I have learned that when I listen to all the instructions before doing anything, I will get the job done better and more thoroughly. I have also learned that it is fine to take my time and work hard, because that will ensure that I will get done with all of the instructions and I will not miss all of the little things that we were supposed to do, but I did not do them because I was rushing through my work.
If I could go back in time and change something about my the process in my project, I would listen more carefully to my 3-5s conversations with the experts in Yang Zhou Ren. After going to Mr. DU on one of the last days, I realized that I should have definitely gone to him on the first day. If I had gone to him on the first day I feel like I would get the chance to learn more stories form him and also have a wider chance to pick my favorite story in Xizhou. Mr. Du is the "story guy" in Xizhou. All of the antiques in his shop have a story behind it and he just has cases and boxes of stories, big and small, but the stories would take time to be told, so that is why I should have gone to him on the first days of the teacher support sessions.
If my project was continued, I would focus more on the "stories and legends" part of the project. I am saying this because if I want to use my time wisely and make the most of my work, then I should have questions related to this topic because it would get me further then if I kept asking people around the village if they knew what some myths were. Like I said before when I ask people in Xizhou what were some myths, their interpretation of myths in Xizhou is much different then what we think they are going to tell us about.
I would like to thank Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai, Mr. Chen, Ms. Braverman, Ms. Song, and Mr. Du for helping me with my research. If I did not have their support, encouragement, and belief then I would not have gone anywhere with this process and this reflection would be much more different. Lastly, I would like to thank Xizhou and the people I made connections and all the people who went out of their way to answer my questions. If they just ignored me or did not feel like answering all of my questions I would not have learned or grown form anything. Thanks, Xizhou.
Microcampus has been a great experience and we have learned many valuable lessons. Although we had some rough patches in the process, we got right back up and learned from our mistakes. I will always cherish these moments during Microcampus and I will take/use all of the lessons and mistakes we learned into action from now and moving forward.