On November 18th, the 21st Microcampus Ultimate group left their homes to a village in Yunnan named Xizhou. For 28 days, 9 other students and I endured a remarkable opportunity for us to grow outside our comfort zones, challenge ourselves, expand intercultural understanding, and having an awareness of impact. Each of us chose a topic of interest, our inquiry project for us to investigate here in order to learn more about Xizhou's culture.
My inquiry topic was the local hobbies here in Xizhou. I chose to study this topic because I wanted my topic to be something I can interact with the residents of Xizhou more. I wanted my topic to be something I can make meaningful interactions with, and getting know the villagers closer, their lifestyle, their background, and of course, their hobbies.
In order to learn more about the local hobbies, I had to use many different sources. Shortly after our arrival in xizhou, we were asked to make 3-5 interviews in the time limit of 3-5 minutes. During my interviews, I gained a handful of local contacts for me to talk to. We were given teacher support sessions to help us reach our destination and let us communicate with our contacts. I met a variety of people in different age range, different personalities and different belief in life. Ms. A Ling, an ayi who works at the Linden Center, was helpful in my research and told me her perspective of how her ideas are different than her kids' teachers. Mr. Zhao, a guard who works at our home in Xizhou ( Yang Zhou Ran) gave me great elaborations and information and told me about the time during Cultural Revolution. I also met a guy who works at the bar at the Linden Center and gave me an image in my mind of his happy child and teenagehood. He told me that they did not have technology 10 years ago but was still able to achieve a high level of happiness by just playing on the fields and with friends.
These amazing contacts I got were suggested to me by Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai, our teacher support Mr. Chen and Ms. Braverman. Some of the contacts that were suggested to me were friends with the workers at Yang Zhou Ran and the Linden Center.
My questions I had for my contacts were about how technology is going to change the next generation, how the elders of Xizhou maintain health, and how the history affected people's hobbies. In the beginning of my research, a majority of contacts that I met did not really have hobbies, and that led me to frustration. Mr. Tafel, later on, explained to me the " Marlow's hierarchy of needs" to make me understand why people did not hobbies. Most of my questions were answered and I had to change some of my questions since it was not appropriate and lead to nothing related to my project.
To organize my thinking, I created a thesis statement -
In order to understand the different hobbies that people of Xizhou have, we can consider the perspectives of three people; Mr. Zhao, Ms. Zhang and Mr. Yang Yuan.
Sharing My Learning
To share my learning journey, I created a movie that could be viewed by scrolling above. If the video does not load, you can click here to watch it.
My Inquiry project of learning the local hobbies of Xizhou gave me the chance to think, plan, solve real problems and challenge myself. Throughout my investigation of my topic, my biggest takeaway was experimental learning and always having a backup plan. During our teacher support sessions, I planned half of the sessions to see a guy who is always not there. Because he wears a communist hat, I learned that I should not assume someone without asking them. Becuase he is always not there, I had to go to other contacts and makeup questions right on the spot.
Even though I could have narrowed down my topic down and had the chance, I did not do so. I did not want to focus on a specific hobby, age group or gender as I wanted to have a broad understanding of the hobbies of Xizhou. Because of my choices, I got to know a lot more of contacts that I would not have gotten to know if I narrowed my topic down. At first, I wanted to compare the teenagers 10 years ago to the teenagers now. I also wanted to do Square dancing in Xizhou. Unfortunately, I was not able to do both of the topics due to the teacher support sessions time. If I wanted to talk to the Square dancing ladies, it had to be after 7, which was our evening activity time. If I wanted to talk to teenagers, I had to do it after 6, which is also pass the teacher support session time. At last, I talked to some elders, teenagers, ladies who square dancing, and people who knew about the Cultural Revolution and how it changed people's hobbies.
For me, the most difficult part of my research was recording all the information. If I forget to record the information I got from my converstaions with locals, I would forget the important details and miss out. I have also learned that I should not record all my information in the same time, as it stresses me out and I forget details.
Since my topic was broad, I was able to talk to anyone I wanted in the community. I seek to talk to people who seem friendly and I had to force myself to have the courage to talk to the local students. The local students I met at a Ma La Tang place were surprisingly welcoming and told me about their hobbies and what they liked to do in their free time. However, talking to adults and elders was easier to me since I spend a lot of time talking to my family that I am experienced in what tone I should use when I talk to them. Through my Inquiry project, hobbies, I was able to make solid connections with many elders. They helped me understand the culture and the aspect of people's lives here in Xizhou. They were very kind to me and it feels good to say hi to people while walking down the streets of Si Fang Jie as if I belong here.
My biggest a-ha moment was when I realized not a lot of people have hobbies in Xizhou. I was confused at first on why people did not have hobbies, was it because they had no time or was it basically people did not bother to have hobbies. Mr. Tafel, later on, showed me the "Maslow hierarchy of needs", which was a triangle from basic human needs to self-esteem and self-actualization. Hobbies are considered self-actualization, knowing what you like to do and knowing about yourself. In order to have self-actualization, a person need has to have basic physiology, safety, and security, love, and belonging. After understanding that, I realize why the majority of the people I talked to have no hobbies or recreational activities. A lot of the elders during the childhood years had to help out their family and has to worry if there is enough food for the family or a place for them to live. If I was under that circumstance, I would not have the time or want, to have free time and developing a hobby.
This project taught me a lifelong fact that I would always remember: Do not Procrastinate. In school projects, I would usually be the one who does her work at the very last minute, and sometimes, not getting it done. For Inquiry Projects, you cannot procrastinate as it affects the rest of the group too. Now, I know that I am a type of person who needs to stay focused and dialed in in order to get my work done. While talking to locals, I realize that I am good with making eye contact and having an awareness of impact. When I walk by someone on the streets, I always make sure to say hi to them and ask them how they are doing.
If I could go back to the beginning of the process, I would have planned my teacher support session more wisely. Instead of going to different people and knowing more, I spend 4 out of 9 to go to an antique collector, Mr, Lao Mao, thinking he would be available every time I go to his shop. He was either busy or out whenever I visited him so I had to go to other people. I also would have started my inquiry project work earlier and followed Mr. T's instruction on doing a daily workload of 15 minutes per day. Because I have not followed his instruction, I had spent most of my time on the first few days catching up. I was able to catch up when we started Phase 2 and that made work a lot easier for me as I am doing it with everyone else at the same given time. My advice would be always planning your schedule before time and never, ever get behind of everyone else's work.
If I were to continue this project, I would have narrowed my topic down to what the villagers of Xizhou think of how happiness is achieved". Over my course of talking to a variety of people from different age group and genders, I have learned that everyone has a different deception of what brings them happiness and their favorite happiest moment/memory of their life. I wonder how a person in a small village, possibly someone who has not ever gone out of Yunnan appreciate the world and how they achieve happiness. It would also be interesting to know if most of the people in Xizhou are materialistic and base their short-term happiness on products. Would the villagers of Xizhou achieve happiness by helping other out or achieve happiness by gaining a fortune or gift?
I would not have expanded my learning of the village and challenge myself to grow without the help of many people. First, I would like to thank my group members that I lived with for the past 28-days. They helped me throughout my journey and had to deal with me when I am in a bad mood or so. Second, I would like the thank Mr. Zhao, Ms. Zhang, Mr. Yang Yuan, Ms. Braverman, Mr.Chen and Mr. Du tremendously as they helped me in my Inquiry Project process and taught me a lot about Xizhou and its culture and their understanding of the villagers. At last, I have to thank our beams that support the building, the people who created Microcampus, Mr. Tafel, and Ms. Mai. Thank you Ms.Mai, for making sure we are a happy and healthy person every day and being there for us when we need support. And thank you, Mr. Tafel, thank you for your endless amount of patience at the end of the day and pushing us to challenge ourselves.
Microcampus has been an opportunity of a lifetime and I have learned about myself throughout this trip. Our Inquiry Project gave us interest to the village and pushed us to have the courage to talk to strangers. I have learned so much about the village because of my topic; the village's culture, people's lifestyle, families' background and so much more about each individual I talked to. As a participant of Microcampus, my journey has been extraordinary and is an opportunity that I will never forget. Engaging with locals and having an awareness of impact was something I would have never done in Shanghai when I was inside the "bubble". I have changed and become a better person that is aware of its surroundings because of Microcampus.