In Phase O
I chose the inquiry topic that I will be researching while I am in Xizhou, which was tie-dye. In Phase 1
I did some background research and created 10 big questions that helped guide me through my inquiry project research. Then in Phase 2
, I found helpful resources that helped me further my knowledge of this local art. In Phase 3
I gathered information from alumni, teachers, and local contacts. In my previous phase, Phase 4
I created an outline for my final product. This is my Final Product where I will be reporting and reflecting on this trip.
Microcampus, an experience I will cherish forever. Last school year, we were introduced to Microcampus. Microcampus is a 28-day-long trip where up to 16 grade 8 students travel to a small village that is located in the Yunnan province called Xizhou. Microcampus is the longest trip that SAS provides, which was a bit intimidating when I first heard it, but I felt ready for this amazing experience ahead of me. Throughout the trip, we are exposed to the real China outside of the "Shanghai Bubble". During these 28 days, we are also shown to have self-discipline and take full responsibility for our actions. The Ultimate group left the "Shanghai Bubble" on November 18, 2017, excited for this amazing learning opportunity ahead of us. We all left with four major goals in mind experiential learning, personal growth, intercultural understanding, and lastly awareness of impact.
Prior to our arrival in Xizhou, we were given a large list of inquiry topic options, we were also told that we could create our own. After reading the large list of possible inquiry topics, I was interested in many possible topics. After careful thought and consideration, I first narrowed it down to three topics, water usage/treatment, body language and people watching, and textile production. Then I made a list of why I wanted to study each topic. After making lists for all three, I chose textile production more specifically tie-dye. I chose tie-dye because I wrote down many reasons why I was interested and I also picked out tie-dye because I never thought I would be able to study it.
Three phases ago in Phase 2 I gathered and made connections with tie-dye factory workers and tie-dye saleswoman and salesmen. I found many of my sources from my wonderful teacher supports and I also gathered information from alumni. I chose to interview experienced tie-dye salesmen and women and experts in the industry. I gathered tons of information from a business owner and tie-dye expert Xiao Bai. I also got tons of information from Zhang Jie a saleswoman from the cheese/tie-dye factory, and Mr. Yang a tie-dye salesman who has had his shop opened since 1990. I did not have many contacts during my field investigation, but I kept going back to their stores to build steady relationships with the business owners and salesmen/woman.
When I first began my field investigation I asked them about their businesses and why they were working in the tie-dye industry. Most of my questions were about preferences and techniques. I also asked many questions about if they learned and how. While asking these questions I wanted to understand their preferences, how their career started, but most importantly what meanings do these pieces have to the owners and the Bai people.
As I reflect on my Microcampus experience I realized that I have learned about tie-dye, China, and myself.
Sharing my Learning:
For my final product, I have created a short video. In this video, I talk about my personal journey and what I learned throughout this trip. To see my final product you can either look above and if it is not able to load click here.
From this amazing 28-day-long experience, I have gained knowledge on my inquiry topic and myself. For my inquiry topic, I was able to learn and gather tons of information on techniques, processes, and ingredients used to make dyes. I also learned about the background stories that are behind the designs of a piece and also people. A major takeaway from my inquiry project is that everyone and everything has a background story. I am also able to see plenty of ways that I have changed since I have boarded the flight to Xizhou from Shanghai. Pre-Microcampus I used to always have something to do a place to be and I never had the time dedicated to just think. After I arrived in Xizhou that changed, I had to design my schedule time to just stay still and look at the clouds. My communication has also improved vastly. Even though my Chinese skills are very limited I have always greeted everyone I know at times, even strangers, which is something I would not have done if I was in Shanghai.
When I chose my Inquiry Topic I wanted to study a very specific topic, the Environmental Impact on the Tie-Dye industry as I was interested in water usage/treatment and textile production. As soon as I got to Xizhou I started my inquiry fieldwork I did not find any valuable information that I could use to create a final project. Asides from being able to learn about the natural process of making a piece I realized I could not advance anymore with my topic. I talked with Mr. T about my process and with his feedback, I took a step back from my topic which was the environmental impact of the tie-Dye Industry and opened my topic up to just the tie-dye industry in Xizhou.
The most difficult part of my research was perhaps when I did not know how to investigate my topic further, which was the Environmental Impact. I was already four days in the nine days that we were offered to do field research. I decided to step back and focus on a more broader topic, which means that I had to find more contacts and start making new connections which are usually awkward. Like Mr. T's advice: It was only awkward because I feel awkward. After having my first conversations again and getting to know a new connection better I have become more comfortable while speaking to people that I have never met before.
My "a-ha" moment throughout my inquiry process was when I was out in my fourth outing from the nine outings that Mr. T and Ms. Mai provided us. I was able to realize that I needed to expand my topic in order to have a solid final product. While I was out I was able to reflect on my work as I was getting the same answers to all of my questions. When I came back I talked to Mr. T about how my inquiry project was going and he provided me with some feedback. I was also able to realize that I should focus on the Tie-Dye industry in Xizhou. I felt very inspired to continue my work as I still had more than half of the outings left to gather new information.
This project taught me more than just Bai tie-dye. Through the project, I was able to understand tie-dye more than I ever could ever want as I was able to gather a significant amount of information. Instead of just learning about my topic, I was able to learn about different views on this industry and how it is slowly decaying. I also got to notice the impact that the tourism has not only on the tie-dye industry but on the locals too. I am very glad I was able to learn about this topic, which I knew barely anything about before I came in Xizhou.
Through this project, I was able to not just make connections, but I was also able to befriend many of my contacts in the community. The project was also another way for me to step out of my comfort zone even more. Being able to talk to experts on my topic was a great opportunity, and I got to not only learn about their passions, but I got to learn about them. Now I feel comfortable when talking to complete strangers, as most strangers are not the same thing as danger.
This project has taught me the good things, bad things, and things I can improve on for the future. The first thing this project revealed to me was my procrastination and my laziness. When I first started working on my inquiry work I kept multitasking, every time I tried to focus I would end up distracting myself. Because of this, Mr. T told me some wise words, Monotasking is key. This created tons of additional stress that was not worth it. When I arrived in Xizhou I made sure I was able to stay on task in most of my work. Even though it has been a struggle, I have been able to learn new ways to stay on task and I hope that I will be able to grow from it. I was also have learned to have a plan a,b,c and so on. This has helped me throughout my inquiry process and I hope to continue having endless plans as life never goes the way it is planned.
If I was able to do something different in the course of my inquiry process I would focus on having a broader topic and then narrow it down. I have learned that not only on my inquiry project but in other projects I have I tend to narrow my topics down a lot. This would have helped me learn about my topic more and be able to have found more information. If I had the choice to decide whether I could change my topic or keep it the same, I would not have changed it for the world. This project has taught me many things not only about myself but, that I can learn way more from my mistakes instead of covering it up.
If I or someone was meant to continue my project I would have focused on the tourism impact that the industry has dealt with. I was always interested in understanding how this industry has changed this tradition and also why the tourism industry is slowly letting this tradition decay. I would also probably talk about how tie-dye would look like in the future and if it would change if this tradition would change or die in a matter of years.
I would first like to thank Xiao Bai for sharing information about her passion and also welcoming me with open arms to both of her stores. Secondly, I want to thank Xiao Jun for having the patience to teach me how to make a piece that took a while. I also would like to thank Zhang Jie and Mr. Yang for providing me with very useful information on aspects other than the process and history of making a piece. I would like to thank the Linden Centre staff more specifically Ms. Song, Mr. Chen, Ms. Braverman, and Ms. Linden for helping to make this trip possible and helping me translate my questions while I was out and about. Lastly, I would like to thank Mr. T and Ms. Mai for making this trip possible and being the most patient people in the world.
The inquiry topic has helped me so much more than just tie-dye. After various conversations, stories, and interactions with locals I have learned more than I could ever do in a classroom 3000 kilometers away from Xizhou. Even though the project took many hours of work I am very grateful to have experienced this unique and rare opportunity to learn beyond the gates. I am very glad I am able to call this small town, my home.