In Phase 0, I chose the inquiry topic that I will be researching and exploring while am at Xizhou with 15 other peers. In Phase 1, I created 10 big questions that I will be asking or at least guiding me through the process of asking the resident after my arrival, but I found out that some questions were not as useful as I thought it would be. Then in Phase 2, I found helpful resources that will deepen my knowledge on my chosen topic, tie-dye. Afterward, in Phase 3, I took all my data including information from local contacts, teachers, and alumni, laid them out to have a clear view of what I have gained. Moving on to Phase 4, I have created an understandable outline for my final product. This last Phase is my final product where I will be reporting and reflecting on my findings of this trip.
Last semester we were introduced to this project called Microcampus, where 16 students from 8th grade will be traveling away from home and to a place called Xizhou located in Yunnan province. The first time hearing Microcampus, I thought to myself, "I will never be the one doing this. This is just ridiculous and intimidating." But somehow I applied and started this wonderful journey with 15 other peers. We have taken a four-week trip to a village called Xizhou to study a topic of high personal interests. 28 days spent in a village is not something easy to manage. Throughout the trip, we are fully exposed to the real world outside of our Shanghai Bubble. During the 28 days, we need to be responsible for our own actions and keeping ourselves inside the "Box," Wildfire Microcampus group left the Shanghai Bubble on March 9th, 2019, having four continua in mind, expanding intercultural understanding, working through challenges, personal growth, and awareness of impact.
We were given a large list of inquiry topics to choose from, we could also, if wanted, to create our own inquiry topic. I first narrowed down into three topics, Love and Marriage, Water Usage/Treatment, and lastly textile production. Afterward, I realized I was quite interested in the Making Things list which includes textile production. Then I chose tie-dye because I want to explore the handmade tie-dye products. In this technology-based world, what is the purpose of choosing to handmade and not factory wholesales?
In Phase 2, I have collected a series of contacts, but it wasn't much about Xizhou, nor from the resident of Xizhou. Moving on to Phase 3 when we arrived, I have made connections with all sorts of tie-dye dealer and tie-dye product maker. Mr.Wen was one of my key sources, he had many interesting thoughts upon modern and traditional tie-dye arts. I have also met Ms.Wang who is really interested in the usage of this textile production, tie-dye. She connected tie-dye with arts and dance movement. Also, from some of the teacher supports that shared contacts.
Before arrival, I was trying to answer questions like, how was dye made? What techniques there are? But I found out those were only questions on the surface, nothing that could help me much on my research. After my arrival and some connections made with residents, I realized the questions that deepen our thinkings are the ones made after contacting dealers and not the ones made after researching online.
In order to let the audience understand the meaning of my tie-dye product, I am going to share my journey, my personal growth, and my own interpretation.
Sharing My Learning
I have created a short video to represent my final product. In this video, I talk about my personal journey and my personal growth throughout this trip. Click here to see my final product.
During the inquiry project, I noticed not everyone that is making tie-dye have the same interpretation. Some for the commercial, for money, some for high personal interest. I really appreciate the ones with personal interest, even if this job has a low income they are still into and persevering for what they like and what they want. Not saying that the people that worked on this product for money is not working hard or anything. It is just that looking at the people that like this cultural art is really grateful. Looking at them, even with tear and sweat, but I see a big smile on their face. Every one of them. Maybe learning the techniques and the process is not my biggest takeaway, but watching them work is something that I truly love.
I chose my topic to learn something new and explore cultural differences. My topic did not change throughout the course of my study, I was able to find something I like. I was told better to narrow down my choices, but I feel like tie-dye is tie-dye. I cannot manage to narrow it to a more specific meaning. I wanted to learn the different interpretations people have when working with tie-dye.
The most difficult part of my research was to find the people that are not working for commercial, but for personal interest. People working for the commercial was not able to answer my questions. At first, I explored a few stores near SiFangJie, but found that most of the employees are just responsible for selling as many items as he/she could, and most of their products are from chemical dyes. That led to a situation leaving almost none of the dealers that sell tie-dye actually liking the process, nor the product itself.
This project taught me not only the Bai minority tie-dye, but also the perspectives from different people, the dealers, the tourists, and the makers. Although I was finding specific people, that does not mean I ignored the dealers that work for money. They taught me how tie-dye changed over time with their own eyes exploring Xizhou. I learned how commercial could also be a part of their needs when related to tie-dye. Getting the senses that maybe commercial is not something ridiculous, it is just people working hard to reduce the family's pressure.
Through this inquiry project, I was able to befriend many of my contacts in the community. Most of the tie-dye dealers and vendors recognize me when I am on the street. They are all very kind and talkative. I was able to discover their passion and themselves. When talking to experts, learning their perspective, I also learned their role as a person in the community. Some of them really like children, some likes art and music, and some just love their family. It is important to be different and have alternative views looking out to the world.
Along with 15 other peers, I have not only learned about them, but I have also learned about myself. My personal growth on the trip whether it is good or bad, it is something that I have learned along the way through the 28days. I have understood myself better as a person when asking people about things we are passionate about. In pictures taken by teacher's support, I see myself when interacting with the community, I look deeply into their eyes when they are talking. I was honored to learn about their experience.
As a learner, I realized when I was interviewing others I do not like to take notes because I think that if one was actually listening they will definitely gain the gist of others' experience. If I was taking notes at all time, I will miss the next part of their journey. In order to listen properly to one's experience, I prefer not to take note, and just listen with ears, eyes, and heart.
If I or someone else were to continue this research project I would have focused on tourism, since I think my research has a lack of information for the tourists' point of view. Even though tourist might not have academic skills or experience, I still think it is better if I have collected some tourists' perspective on tie-dye products.
I would first like to thank XiaoJuan for having the patience to lead me through the process of making a final tie-dye product, even with a bucket of consumers and customers. Secondly, I want to thank all my field research contacts, more specifically, Mr.Wen and XiaoPang for sharing their experience and knowledge to help to make my final product happening. I would also like to thank Ms.Wang, teacher support that I signed up for the most, leading me through the process of finding resources and giving me advice on making my way to the final production. Lastly, I would like to thank Ms.Mai, Mr.Tafel, Sofie, and 15 other peers for making this trip possible and supportive throughout the process of being in Xizhou to step out of the Shanghai Bubble and one's self-comfort zone.
The inquiry project has not only helped to gain the facts about tie-dye but has also learned about myself. Myself, as a student, a learner, and as a person. As a Microcampus participant, I was fortunate to have this opportunity to learn and to understand the outside world.