Fifteen students and I came out for 28 days to a beautiful place called Xizhou, a small village with an inhabitance of around 2,000 people, our temporary home for 28 days. Located in the Yunnan province of China, the town has many astounding places to visit and has more than enough to do. I embarked on this journey along with 15 other students to focus on four main goals. The four pillars that drive our learning in Microcampus: Expanding Intercultural Understanding, Awareness of Impact, Personal Growth, and Working Through Challenges.
Along with improving our skills in these four pillars, we all chose our Inquiry Project which we studied before and during our time in Xizhou. I decided to research the topic of Local Food and Cuisine.
In Phase 0 we all choose our topics through an exciting topic. We first had to come up with a top three from an extensive list of topics. I decide to do either Local Food/Cuisine or Project/Business Management. I finally decided to research Local Food/Cuisine during my time in Xizhou due to a few main reasons. Firstly I have always been a massive fan of eating and making food, and I love to help my dad in the kitchen and preparing meals. Mainly because the food in Xizhou is majorly different than what I am used to.
Furthermore, I decided to research about the local food because it is not a topic where I can only talk to one another, from cooking I could learn from them and connect with them through the skill of cooking. I believe that Local Food/Cuisine is a great option to study here in Xizhou. When I first saw this topic on an enormous list of topics that we could have decided to investigate this one stood out to me. Immediately I knew that Local Food/Cuisine was the best option for me. As soon as Mr. Tafel and I came to the agreement that Local Food/Cuisine was the topic for me, and it was approved I knew that my time in Xizhou would be great.
In Phase 1 I created my 10 Big Questions. These questions guided my learning during my field research process. This does not mean that I am stuck to these questions and can only ask these ten questions to the people that I have talked to. But these are just some questions that are there for us if necessary. I believe that I had a few excellent questions from the start, but after I arrived in Xizhou, I changed a few of the questions I had created to better fit with the information I found. During my time in Phase 1, I did an enormous amount of background research about my topic. By doing so, I had a more significant amount of knowledge about my topic before I arrived.
In Phase 2, I was searching for helpful resources. As soon as I arrived in Xizhou, I started my 3-5's. Three to fives were we talked to five to three people who can be either Mr. T or Ms. Mai and teachers part of the Linden Centre. Our goal out of the short three to five-minute conversations is to find local contacts that we could talk to during our time in Xizhou. I believe that I got some connections and had a wide range of people I could reach out to in the community. I want to give a big thanks to Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai, Ms. Braverman, Ms. Wang, and Mr. Yang. These people have helped me tremendously throughout my inquiry work. They gave me marvelous people to talk to which I could find much helpful information for my final work.
In Phase 3, I spent over nine hours working on my field research, having conversations with Xizhou Baba makers, local restaurant owners, snack stands owners and many people at the wet market. I think that it was an excellent opportunity for me to talk to such a wide range of people. I think it helped to talk to over fifteen experts in the community that could tell me endless information about the local food. I found that Mr. Yan, a Xizhou Baba maker at the north-west corner of Sifang Jie, was a super nice person, really willing to share his story and information with me, and wanting me to keep asking him more and more questions. Another community member that I found especially helpful was Ms. Zhao; she is the owner of Old Town Snacks, she talked to me about her history about owning restaurants and sadly having to move out of her current location due to family issues. I genuinely believe that I found a huge number of resources and perspectives during my nine hours of field research throughout the past days.
My ultimate goal is to research and understand the Local Food and Local Snacks in Xizhou. Of course, I could not have gone to every food vendor in Xizhou and talk about there life and opinions on Local Food and Snacks in Xizhou. But during my field research, I did get a great sense of over 15 peoples opinions on the Local Food/Cuisine in Xizhou. To help understand the Local Food/Cuisine in Xizhou we have our ten big questions. These questions were here for help and support throughout the journey of finding the research.
In order for my audience to understand my personal journey, I am going to share my perspectives of China before Xizhou, during Xizhou, and after Xizhou.
Sharing My Learning:
If you are interested in watching my video click here or watch the video attached above.
One struggle that I had as a part of my inquiry research was most definitely finding people to have a conversation with. Usually, people in Xizhou are very welcoming and want to share there stories and perspectives, but there can be some very frustrating time when going out. At the begging for me, I found an enormous range of people to talk to from my three to fives, but as soon as I went out to have a conversation with people in the community, there can be some significant struggles. The first field research day was a success. Mr. Yang the person I had a conversation with was very open and sharing his personal life with me. The days after was not like the first, continually trying to find people to have conversations with they kept saying "I'm busy leave me alone."Everyone will always have at least one or two days like this, but for me, it started coming quite often, later I got used to it and just bite through and start asking questions, they will usually answer a few and then ask to leave, this way I was showing that I was interested in their stories and eager to learn more. A specific hard issue for me was finding a good WIPPIS schedule, this really helps for the topic Local Food/Cuisine, the timing in this topic is really important, because trying to ask questions to restaurant owners, when it is the middle of the day, and everyone in the community wants lunch, the restaurant owners will most likely be busy so they will most likely reject and say "I'm busy." For me luckily I only had this problem on the last few days of field research because before I was always aware that the restaurant owners would be busy during lunch periods.
During my study in Xizhou, my topic did not change. From start to finish I stuck with one of the best topics out there. Researching about Local Food/Cuisine in Xizhou will never get boring because there are so many contacts in the village that has a high chance that you can talk to many locals and always learn more from. During my time in Xizhou, I did have some time where I felt like other topics would have been more interesting. But after I realized that all topics have their more appealing and less appealing part to it, and then realized that the decision I had made was still really. I do feel the if I started creating Xizhou Baba earlier in my field research then I could have created a different final product. If I had known this, I would have most likely started earlier so that I could have a final product of Could I Survive As. Another thing I wished I considered was to focus more on one specific point in the Local Food of Xizhou, such as Xizhou Baba. This would have narrowed down the people I could talk to, but I think it could have been more interesting if I decided to do it that way. After all, I stuck with Local Food/Cuisine for the full 28 days here in Xizhou and am super happy I decided to choose this topic to study.
The biggest take away I had from doing my inquiry project was making astounding connections with the people I had conversations with. I personally never thought that the relationships were so deep and stayed with you for quite a while. I still remember every conversation more or less clearly and hopefully will stay with me for a long time so that I can share those with family and friends. Making connections would have been impossible without the teacher support that translated all my questions and there answers. What was interesting was that some people I had conversations with where so open and willing to answer the questions that at one point I ran out of following up questions.
A significant moment for me while doing my inquiry project was talking about the reasoning why they started the business they now own or used to hold. I could not believe the answers that I got that showed me the amount of love the adults have for there kids. When I ask why they started, the most common solution is to earn money for a living and to provide food for my family. Then I ask when are you planning to stop working, and the most common answer was when my daughter/son have graduate college. Most parents believe that their child should be able to whatever they want to do and find in their dreams. The parents in the family are powerful and understanding. Talking to Mr. Yan, he explained his daughter is studying Russian and should finish college in 3 years, and that is when he was planning to stop creating Xizhou Baba.
Going out into the community and making connections with the locals through my field research better helped to show me their opinions and perspectives of Local Food in Xizhou. Talking to experts gave me facts and views and personal stories of them selfs. When I gathered all the information from my conversations, I started to see patterns in the data I had collected. Seeing all these patterns showed that the time I spent doing my field research was worth a bunch.
Local Food/Cuisine in Xizhou helped me majorly to create many relationships with the external community. I wanted to be a part of the village as soon as I got it into Microcampus. Lucky I got an excellent opportunity to do with my inquiry field research. During the nine hours of the inquiry project I had, I was continually making connections and relationships talking to over 16 people during that time. Knowing that from every person I spoke to, I found different stories and different perspectives about the Local Food. Even though now our field research hours have past does not mean we stop connecting, as said in my video I go meat, Mr. Yan, every day and give him a huge wave and smile showing that I remember having our fantastic conversation. It does not stop there, whenever we go out for dinner, even though my Chinese is horrible the person that I go with will try to get us both connected with the staff member or owner so that every day we see them our relationship builds stronger and stronger.
During my time in Xizhou, I grew as a person finding my strengths and weaknesses. I believe that this experience has made me grow in many ways. Going out making a connection through a significant language barrier was hard, but I think I succeeded and did well. Making a connection has always been a strength of mine and now to put it into a great way of practice is fantastic. Going out doing my field research made me seem like I could do whatever I want as long as I put effort into it. Talking with people in the community can be a challenge, but as long as I try hard enough, they will answer the q questions and start up a conversation.
The topic I decided to study helped me in many ways to show me strength and weaknesses as a learner. I learned that asking questions is one of my strengths but after a while asking questions can become quite a struggle and run out of following up question to ask. I learned that going out into the community is one of my strengths but then to actually be able to talk to them is still hard for me, because I do not speak any Chinese, sometimes I try to say how are you in Chinese but then they look at me weird showing me that they might not want to talk to me. I think that the process of going out and doing the field research is fun and helpful to gain experience and become better at that skill.
If going back to the beginning of this process, I would of most definitely tried to gain a more significant understanding of the local food before we arrived in Xizhou. Another thing I wished that I had known that if I would like to do a Could I Survive As that I should have started creating Xizhou Baba earlier and make my topic more specific. For example, if I made my topic more specific to Xizhou Baba instead of the broad topic Local Food, this could have helped me to create a better final product, but in some ways, this can lead to a negative. Something negative would be that you have fewer contacts to talk to so that there are more or less had to go to the same people every day during your field research. Even though like this I build a strong relationship, I do necessarily increase the number of connections. And I think that making connections is one of the best things about microcampus meeting all the locals and we gain a more comprehensive range if we meet new people during our field research.
If anyone were to continue my research project, it might go in a few ways. One direction my work could take is going more specific and only study one aspect of the Local Food in Xizhou. Such as another student could use the research I found and then go deeper into a particular person or group of people I have had conversations with. I believe that it could be exciting if you compare information from one year to the next so there might be a change in what the experts tell you. What would be interesting what another Microcampus could do with the research I found is, finding information from older adults and younger people. Like this, you could see different perspectives from different age levels.
Throughout my field research and previous research, I have many people to thank for putting their efforts into helping me and wanting to go out and find information with me for my topic. Firstly I would like to thank all the teacher support: Ms. Braverman, Ms. Wang, Mr. Yang, Mr. Tafel, and Ms. Mai. Other huge thanks to all the SAS guest that came to take a look at the research we were doing and watching respectfully at the work we were doing. I would like so say a huge thanks to Mr. Yen for giving me so much information and willing to talk and even learn basic things about me. I would also like to thank Mr. Ma for having a conversation with me even though many customers wanted food Mr. Ma still made time for me and shared his life story of how he got to were he is now. A final thanks to all the people in the community that I have had a conversation with during my field research. These people are Mr. Yang, Ms. Wang, Ms. Zhao, Ms. Zhong, Mr. Li, Ms. Li, Mr. Peng, Ms. Duan, Mr. He, Mr. Yan, Ms. Yang, Mr. Yan, Ms. Ma, Mr. Ma. Throughout my time spent in the community, I have made great relationships with most of the previous people. These people were all very open and willing to share their stories with me. They have made my field research possible without them there would have been no Phase 3 work with all the information which led to me creating my final product.
Overall my Micrcampus experiences have been great. Even though there were some sacrifices made from things back in Shanghai, but there few sacrifices were all worth it. Choosing to spend these 28 days here in Xizhou has been the best decision the past year. I became closer to all the Microcampus students through our time here together in Xizhou. It has been an exciting experience being away so long from home and making all these independent choices and taking care of myself. Here in Micro campus Mr. T and Ms. Mai are not here to be our parents for the 28 days we came out here, but they are merely here to help us guide our learning and making sure we are safe and stay inside the box. I have learned that Mr. T is a super nice guy as long that you do what he asks, and stay within the box. There are many aspects to the box, but as long I care and am always focused it would be impossible to go outside the box. Microcampus has truly changed me and made me a better person. Spending these 28 days in Xizhou has been a once in a life time experience that I was I could do every year. Visiting this beautiful place and making connections gives me an amazing feeling. A final enormous thanks to everyone that made this trip possible for me.