Microcampus is a 28-day experience in Xizhou, a great program that I have always been excited and thrilled about. Fortunately, I was able to come to Yunnan with 15 other Microcampus students, and here I am, embarking on a whole new journey in Xizhou. Each of us chose a topic that has captured our interest, and for a large part, we focus and research on that inquiry project. I have chosen Bai music, as music has impacted my life in a number of ways and has inspired me to explore through the world of arts. At first, I wanted to learn the basics of Bai music, including the instruments and the difference in musical notations between Bai music and pop music that we listen to nowadays. But through a series of field research, I realized that I was more interested in the preservation of the music, and through that new topic, I was able to incorporate my learnings into my final project. Because I wanted to learn different perspectives on the preservation of minority music, not only did I ask experts in this area of Bai music but also residents and their thoughts on my project.
I have had conversations with local musicians like Mr. Yang, Mr. Zhang, and Mr. Zhao. First off, I wanted to understand their perspective of their career, and also their actions in terms of Bai culture preservation. Once I have gotten to build a stronger relationship with these wonderful people, I felt freer to ask them about the financial aspect of their life. I also conversed with many residents, all including people who are Bai, parents, and as well as the younger generation. In these people, I have talked to residents like Ms. He (Bai resident), and Mr. Zhao (shop owner). Through our talks, I realized more about why people are no longer interested in Bai music, and their viewpoint on Bai preservation.
Some of the main questions that I have been trying to answer was what impact did Bai music have on the people, and if people, especially the younger generation, was active in passing down and preserving the culture of Bai music. Slowly, it became clear to me that fewer people are active in preservation, so my main idea for my questions became: why? But I could not just ask that, so I broke down the question of "why?" into more questions. Some of which including the language in the music, and melodies, and of course the financial aspect of the musical career.
After conversing and digging into many different aspects of Bai music, I had finally reached my thesis: "In order to determine whether we can preserve the culture of Bai music, one might consider the factors of finance, musical notations, and the Bai language itself.
Sharing My Learning
As a final product, I have created a video that demonstrates and shares my learnings. Creating a video helps me express my findings, especially as I wanted to share some audios of Bai music, and I could be able to explain my informations and ideas. My video can be accessed above, or right here.
There are so many lessons that I took away from this experience because the process of our inquiry project is truly a unique experience that I have never done before. I learned about how to be more confident in my own abilities to make decisions and how to use my strengths in order to achieve my goals. Because this is such a big project, and we have a relatively long time to complete it, it really challenges your work habits. Instead of procrastinating, this project requires us to take it step by step, and to take hold and control your progress. The field research also has challenged my abilities, especially in the sense that we had to venture out into the community and connect with residents. This was an incredible experience for me as I learned about how to interact without the help of adults. It is true; in Shanghai, our teacher draws the dot, and all we have to do is to connect it. Here, the teachers give us a piece of paper, writing utensils, and tell us to go create a beautiful piece of artwork. It is up to us to make the dots, connect it, and create our own piece of unique artwork.
During the process of my inquiry project, it is very clear that my main idea and my topic has been altered and changed. In the beginning, I wanted to understand the basics of Bai music, for example, the structure and instruments. But through conversing with multiple musicians and residents, I noticed that most of the younger generation are no longer interested in Bai music and that without further action, the culture of this music could possibly fade out in the near decade. So after a series of field research, I realized that I was more interested in the preservation of the music. And through that new topic, I was able to incorporate my learnings into my final project.
Because I needed to understand the financial aspects of Bai music, I really wanted to ask about the musician's income, or how they are able to support their family. But during our conversations, I realized that it might not be the best time to mention this topic, especially when it is my first time meeting and learning about the interviewee and their life. I accepted the fact that this topic might be too sensitive for me to mention, so for that first time of me interviewing the musicians, I decided to leave this topic alone. After that, I went to visit them some more times, so I can build a stronger and more trustworthy relationship, and when I felt more comfortable with our relationship, I asked about their financial life. Fortunately, they were very nice teachers as well as friends, and so they were able to willingly show me some insight to their incomes.
After conversing with multiple residents, some A-ha moments for me was when I was talking to local residents. One woman that has given me the biggest A-ha moment was Ms. He, a Bai resident who works in a juice shop. Even though she is Bai and talks Bai, she does not understand the lyrics in Bai minority music. This surprised me, as I thought that people who speak the language should be able to know and understand the same language in the lyrics. After more conversations with musicians, I understood that because many songs have been passed down, the lyrics, unlike Bai language now, did not change. I was very surprised, and it soon led me to realize why more people are no longer interested in Bai music now.
No doubt, this project has made me understand more about my topic, Bai music. Being able to research in the community, conversing with experts, gathering real information from first-person resources, I believe that all of this experience is such a better way to learn than going online and read about what other people have researched. Before I came to Xizhou, we were using the internet to find out about our topic. After weeks of online research, the most things I have learned are the most basic structure and history of Bai music. Apart from that, I was not able to learn much. But when I was able to begin my field research in Xizhou, I had learned so much more, not only the pieces of information I have received, but the different perspective and aspect people have on this topic. If I did not come to Xizhou, I would have never received this information, and I would have never thought that the preservation of ethnic minority music would have such importance.
Because we have to converse with local residents, I had to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to different people. Because I had to complete all of this individually, I had to interact with the community often. Because I wanted to ask local residents about their perspective on Bai music, I went around the community saying hello to strangers and eventually having a conversation about their viewpoint on music. Through these conversations, I really believe that it has brought me closer to the community, and I have met many new friends through this process.
I was never the person that usually steps out of her comfort zones or challenges personal goals. So, throughout this trip, I was constantly being challenged. During the inquiry project, I had to step out of our little "bubble" and start to connect with the community and environment around us. Usually, in Shanghai, I tend to ignore the community we are in. Everything is about ourselves, but in Xizhou, we are constantly reminded that we are a part of the community, and so there should be no more ignoring, but to understand and communicate with everyone in the village. This had definitely made me step out of my comfort zone, but I am still very proud of that.
The process of inquiry project has definitely made me improve as a learner. Mr. T once told us that usually, teachers would help us draw the dots, and all we have to do is to connect. Now in Microcampus, we have to draw the dots, connect it, and make something beautiful out of it. I think that this is very true, and because this is what happened, it all challenged us as learners to make a project that is all our work. This has also improved our time-management. Because this is such a long project, it is up to us to make full use of our time. I urged myself to keep a steady pace while doing this project, so I would not stress out when I procrastinated and did not finish my work on time. And because of that, I have more time to go over my work at the end, and my work quality becomes 10 times better.
If I were to go back to the beginning of the project, I would not change anything. Most students would regret and wish to change something so that their work in Xizhou would be much easier, but I disagree with that. Mistakes are a part of the process, and it is when you learn, you are able to grow. That is what makes a process of learning so valuable. So even though I had struggled through some times during my project, I do not regret it, because I can learn and grow from it. If I wish to change something, I would have made the process easier for me, and that is something I do not want. I believe that by me coming out here, I should make the most of my time, and by challenging myself and having personal growth, I have fulfilled my goal.
If I were to continue my inquiry project, I would want to extend my learning further by trying to solve the problems that I have posed. In my project, I have listed three factors that determine whether if we can preserve the culture of Bai music. Through my analyzing, I came to the conclusion that all three factors have a negative impact on Bai minority music. Even though I have one solution that can solve finance, but the rest, I still have conflicts in which I am unable to come to a final conclusion on a solution. If I had more time to further explore, I would try to examine more solutions that can possibly help us preserve the culture of Bai music.
I am extremely grateful for everyone who gave unconditional support and made this incredible trip happen. I am so grateful for all the hard work and effort Mr. T and Ms. Mai has put into Microcampus. Without both of your support, we would not be here, sitting under the shade of the tree you both have planted years ago. I would also like to thank the support teachers, Ms. Braverman, Ms. Wang, and Mr. Yang, for their extraordinary support throughout this whole trip. I would also like to express my gratitude towards all of the Linden Centre staffs. Thank you for all the service that you all have provided, and thank you for keeping all of us safe and healthy. Of course, I am so grateful for the community of Xizhou. I am overwhelmed by the love and kindness all of the residents have given to us, your kindness will forever stay in my heart. And of course, the Wildfires. I am so thankful for everyone involved in making it such an incredible experience. This is truly one of the best programs I have ever been a part of. I am so overwhelmed with emotions right now, and I cannot express my gratitude enough to all of you.
Microcampus has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the journeys we have been through together are truly priceless. It is hard to believe that just one month ago, we had boarded the plane, embarking on a whole new journey together. Through the weeks, I had grown so much by overcoming challenges, expanding my intercultural understandings, and having personal growth. And with all of your support and love, I was more determined to reach those goals. I have learned in such incredible ways that I could not have imagined otherwise. And people are right: Microcampus really changes your life.