My name is Chris L. and on November 18th, 2017, 9 students including myself took part in a unique school trip called Microcampus. We traveled to a small village called Xizhou, in Dali, Yunnan province and stayed there for 28 days, aiming to achieve 4 goals: expanding intercultural understanding, leaving a positive impact, personal growth, and experiential learning. Before this trip, every member of my group chose a topic that we are going to be studying in Xizhou. At first, I chose to study the local foods/cuisine of Xizhou, but with the help and guidance of Mr. Tafel, I narrowed my topic down to one of the most popular foods of Xizhou, Xizhou Baba.
I chose to study the local foods/cuisine because I have always been a huge food enthusiast, and an even bigger food enthusiast of exotic and different foods. Furthermore, I enjoy creating food and I knew that this was my chance to learn more ways of creating delicious snacks and dishes. As soon as I saw this topic on the list of possible topics that we can study, I immediately regarded it as one of my most interested ones and therefore, I was really glad when Mr. Tafel approved and allowed me to research this as my Inquiry Project topic.
During this 28-day trip, many people have helped me with my inquiry work. However, there were a few that I would like to thank in particular. Ms. Zhao from Old Town Snacks was a really nice first local contact. She helped me understand some of the basic outlines of the food in Xizhou and certainly boosted me forward with my topic. Ms. Zhong from Hong Yuan Xuan Snacks helped me further some of my understanding of local foods and snacks. Last of all, Mr. Yang from a Xizhou baba shop, Old Xizhou, and Mr. Du from another Xizhou Baba shop, He Shag Po Su Xizhou baba, helped me understand the famous local snack, Xizhou Baba. I chose to talk to Ms. Zhao, Ms. Zhong, and Mr. Du because of the numerous recommendations from Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai, and the Linden Centre staff. Mr. Yang, my mentor who taught me how to make a Xizhou Baba, was someone who I approached because I have connected greatly with him during the many times I bought his Xizhou Baba.
My goal on this trip is to study and understand the local foods and snacks of Xizhou. During the first weeks of this trip, my goal stayed the same. However, after the second week had gone by, I slowly decided to narrow my topic down to Xizhou snacks, and then eventually, Xizhou Baba. I realized that I did not have time to learn and study everything and I also realized that I have been more interested in Xizhou Baba than any of the other foods in Xizhou. I am very pleased with my decision since I was able to not only learn about Xizhou Babas, but I learned how to make one as well.
In order to determine whether I can survive as a Xizhou Baba maker, one must consider the economics, the lifestyle, and the techniques.
Sharing My Learning:
For my final topic, I created a short video that can be found above. If that fails to work, please click here to access the video.
The biggest takeaway from my inquiry project is to prioritize my work and manage my time well. The inquiry project is a huge responsibility and it takes a great amount of time and effort to complete it. Even if I put in the needed amount of hard work into this project, it is difficult to complete it with high quality if I do not manage my time and prioritize my work. During the WIPPIS time of every day, I get 2 whole hours dedicated to inquiry work and during that period, I can choose to go out with a teacher to interview my local contacts. Then, after I come back, I have to record my findings. To be honest, that is a lot of work for just 2 hours. After the first week of my WIPPIS time schedule, I learned how to best use my time and this came in really handy when I had to create my final product video. I managed to write the introduction, the sharing my learning video, and the reflection in 6 hours, distributed among 3 separate days. This is one of the best skill that the inquiry project has taught me and I am sure to benefit from being able to manage my time well in the future.
When I first arrived in Xizhou, with my original inquiry topic in mind, I was going to study the local foods and cuisine of Xizhou. I always knew that my topic would become more specific in the future but I just did not know what to focus on. When I was doing my background research for my topic, I have expressed interest in the local Xizhou snack, Xizhou Baba, but Mr. Tafel told me not to focus on that one topic just yet and explore the other foods of Xizhou first before making my decision. Even though my topic eventually came down to Xizhou Baba, I am glad that I followed Mr. Tafel's advice to try other foods because it would have been very boring to just study Xizhou Baba for 2 and a half weeks.
The most difficult part of my research would be to find out about the economics of Xizhou Baba. Not many Xizhou Baba shop owners were willing to tell me much or tell me the truth because all of the shops in Si Fang Jie were very close together and there were afraid that their competitors might overhear some of that sensitive information. Luckily, I was able to interpret the rough cost of everything from the information that I gathered from the different sources.
During my inquiry work, I did not have many a-ha moments but there was one in particular that pushed me forward with deciding on a final topic. That moment happened when Mr. Tafel introduced the idea of "hanger and hooks" to us. He explained that we hangers and hooks are basically the format that I need for my final product. The hanger is what I am trying to find out, and the hooks (3) are the things that I need to understand in order to find out my hanger. Mr. Tafel gave us an example of someone from the previous groups and he was explaining how that student wanted to explore the fish industry by using the thesis statement "In order to determine whether I can survive as a Fisherman on Erhai, one must consider the economics, the lifestyle, and the technique. At that moment I realized that I could do the exact same thing, but instead of a fisherman, I can determine whether I can survive as a Xizhou Baba maker. I almost had all the needed information and only required a few more pieces of information so I thought why not. I am very glad that this happened because I was really struggling with coming up with a final topic and this truly helped boost me forward.
This project has helped me understand several things. It not only helped me understand the foods of Xizhou but the economic side and lifestyle side of the village as well. Furthermore, it is very different researching my topic in the village with real people than reading about my topic online. It gave me a better and more trustworthy understanding of things and learning about it also becomes very interesting.
During my inquiry project, mainly because my inquiry project is about food, I have made multiple strong connections with local restaurant owners as well as Xizhou Baba maker. Then, from these strong connections, I was able to learn quite a few things about the Xizhou foods and cuisine and even how to make a proper Xizhou Baba! Furthermore, some of these connections are strengthened through the many times that I have eaten in their restaurant or bought Xizhou Baba from their shop. I will truly miss them when I leave.
This project has not only helped me understand the local foods of Xizhou, but it has helped me understand myself as well. Furthermore, I found out that I really do enjoy conversing with the citizens of Xizhou, whether it is a full-on conversation or just simply a friendly wave of the hand. After realizing this, I began to encourage myself to make more and more connections in the village and soon, I was not as afraid as before to go and approach strangers on the street or in the shops.
This project has also helped me understand myself as a learner. One of the main things that I have realized is that I am capable of producing large amounts of high-quality work once I am fully dialed in, which usually takes around 5 to 10 minutes. With this, I have been able to accomplish many things that seemed overwhelming. One example would be the inquiry project final product video. During the 2 hours that I assigned myself to create the final product video, I was really focused, ignoring every distraction and concentrating only on my work, I was able to create a video that I have envisioned in my mind. Knowing all this about myself, it will definitely benefit me in the future.
If I could go back to the beginning and do my project again, I would follow the one advice that told me to take more photos. As I approached my final product video, I realized that I lacked a few important footages that were needed to make my video successful. This meant that I go back out again to take these photos and videos. This took away a lot of time that I had planned for actually making the video. I am certain that this advice would have helped me greatly.
If I or someone else were to continue on my inquiry work, I would focus more on the history of the Xizhou Baba. I was honestly very interested in the origin of the Xizhou Baba and what the original Xizhou Baba looked like and tasted like. Furthermore, it would have been great if I found out how the recipe and method of making a Baba changed through the many years that it has been passed down. However, I did not have enough time to ask and understand these things.
Next, I would like to use this reflection as an opportunity to thank all those who have helped me with my Inquiry research. First and foremost, I would like to thank Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai, the Linden Centre team (Ms. Song, Mr. Chen, and Ms. Bravermen) for helping me find helpful local contacts. Next, I would like to thank Ms. Zhao from Old Town Snacks, Ms. Zhong from Hong Yuan Xuan Snacks, Mr. Yang from Old Xizhou, and Mr. Du from He Shang Po Su Xizhou Baba for helping me with my research and giving many useful information that eventually formed into my final product. I would also like to thank Mr. Tafel and Ms. Mai again, for being such a great constant support and guide through the dark and tough times of our work. Last of all, I would like to thank Xizhou and its community for being the best host village for the month that I can hope for.
Microcampus has truly been an unforgettable experience that I will remember for a lifetime. The inquiry project has only made this experience even better because of all the lessons and advice that I have received. During the Inquiry Project, I have encountered not only smooth paths but obstacles and barriers as well. These drawbacks have done nothing but make me a better person once I have conquered and triumphed over them. Once I leave, I will miss everything that Xizhou has to offer including the clear blue skies, the fresh breathable air, and the list goes on. We are the 21st Microcampus group: Ultimate and this has truly been the ultimate experience.