I chose this topic because I was interested in governance. I also thought that this topic would be interesting. I learned a few things about governance in Ancient China and Modern China. I wanted to expand my knowledge on governance and I wanted to see if governance in Xizhou is similar to Ancient China or Modern China. Government meant managing a village and city to me before I came to Xizhou. At home, I am the oldest child and I need to help my parents manage my siblings and other jobs. Learning more about government might help me understand what I should actually do. My siblings look up to me and if I do something bad, they will follow. I also wanted to interact with the local adults in Xizhou and village governance will give me many chances.
My first week at Xizhou, I was looking for sources by asking others. I found a few people who knew where to go. Many people at the Linden Centre told me to go visit the general manager. A few people directed me to the Village Government Building and others gave me directions that were incorrect. One of my sources were Mr. X who was going to be elected to become a new mayor of a village near Xizhou. I think this source is very valuable because he is going to be elected as the new mayor and I learned from a professional. Another source was Mr. Z. Mr. Z is a former government official and soldier. He fought for Vietnam and a few years later, fought against Vietnam. He worked for the government in Xizhou for quite some time. He had a specific job of being an approval officer for marriages. Finally, I spoke to Mr. L. Mr. L knows quite a lot about the government in Xizhou since he interacts with them a lot.
Three-Fives are small interviews with some locals in Xizhou. Each interview is three-five minutes long and I must conduct three-five of these interviews. Most of the people I interviewed told me where I should go. For example, Mr. Zhao, a casket maker, told me where the village square was. Some other sources did not know about the government in Xizhou because they had other business to take of. A few sources directed me to Mr. L and others gave me directions that did not help a lot. I chose Mr. X during my half day hike. He was there to meet us and it was a good opportunity to get a head start on collecting information. Mr. X also seem reliable because he was a new mayor, young and experienced. He knew a lot about government and I needed to interview him because I would never get another chance to meet a fledging like Mr. X. Mr. Z was introduced to me my Mr. Tafel. Mr. Z is a former government official. Before my predicament, my main topic was to look into the evolution of the government here in Xizhou and also compare it to Ancient China. Mr. Z should know about the government when he was working, about twenty years ago. I would be able to compare that to Mr. X's information and the evolution in governance will appear. Finally, I made an appointment with the mayor and the government but they would not accept us and I understand. So I interviewed Mr. L and he told me some information on governance. Mr. L's information was more in depth and I chose him because his relationship with the government is good. Mr. X, Mr. Z and Mr. L are all pseudonym's of my sources.
Most of my questions was about the mayor and what he does. The most basic question was what the mayor did everyday. Then I focused in on the topic about laws, election and jobs in government. I wanted to understand the procedures and the structures of the government here in Xizhou but the information was harder to collect than I had predicted. After experiencing some obstacles in my research, I focused my topic on the mayor himself and his job.
My final product was going to be a comparison between Xizhou and Ancient China governance. With my limited information, I cannot do that. My product will be an analogy between my prediction and reality and a story on my journey in researching in Xizhou.
Sharing my Learning
In every country, state, province, county, town, village and sometimes neighborhood, there is a governance system and a mayor. During my stay at Xizhou, I learned a lot about governing a village. Even though, sometimes it was hard to get the information but I still learned quite a few things.
I traveled to Xizhou to learn more about government. My main focus on village governance was the mayor and I actually got to speak to a mayor. His name is "Mr. X". Mr. X says that his main job is to change the point of view of the people in his small village neighboring Xizhou. Some elders have live through tough times and have learned to earn money whenever they can in order to survive. Now, the new concept is that there are many other things out there that should have more attention such as education. Mr. X has been campaigning about this new concept but some elders have been stubborn. This new concept can change their living conditions and even thinking (1).
Another main job that a mayor might want to do is to unlock a great achievement. Every three years, a new mayor is elected and the current mayor wants to have an achievement to make them well-known around town. There are many great things to improve in a village but the mayor, sometimes selfish, wants do something achievable in three years. For example, if a village is well known for their pizza's and has a good cotton production, the mayor will choose to improve the pizza industry. In three years, it is possible to improve the pizza industry. It is quick and will attract tourists. If the mayor chose to improve the business in the cotton industry, it will take time. Many people from different parts of the country will hear about the cotton and go to Xizhou. This is a big achievement but it takes lots of time to get the word out. There are some tourists in Xizhou. If they hear that the pizza and the cotton production is good, when they get home, they will announce that the pizza is good in Xizhou because cotton means nothing to them. That is why the mayor will choose pizza (3).
The mayor has a few responsibilities. One is to approve anything from the citizens. The mayor needs to approve all actions that the citizens want to do. For example, if a citizen wants to build a house, the mayor will know about the action and approve it if he likes the idea. Without the mayor's approval, the citizens in his village will not be able to construct the new house. The mayor also needs to get approval from the central government in order to become elected as the new mayor (1).
Another responsibility is to improve the living conditions of the citizens. The mayor needs to change the thinking of this citizens in order to improve the living conditions. Others might demolish an old house and construct a fancy modern house. The mayor also collect taxes from the citizens. A large amount goes to the central government and the provincial government. The rest is used to pay the government workers and improve the village (1) (2).
Even though the mayor does not make any laws, the mayor needs to enforce the laws from the central government. The central government passes the laws down to the province. The province passes it down to the city, then to town, administrative village and finally the natural villages. Once the natural villages get the laws, the mayor either paste the laws on a bulletin board in a public space or pass the laws down to a few representatives. The public space is a place where everyone goes to check on the news and other important information. I think this method is a bit too informal and I thought that they had another formal method such as sending letters to every household (3).
Every three years, a new mayor is elected. Similar to USA, everyone above eighteen on election day may vote. This is a new system that differs from a few decades ago. This system is similar to a democratic government and different than the central government (1) (2) (3).
There is a hierarchy in government in Xizhou. Splitting into two parts, one part is like the "police" of the government and the other part is where all the work takes place. The "police" of the government also splits into two parts. One part changes the workers thinking and makes sure everyone knows what they are doing. The other part of the "police" is similar to our parents. They go into the workers faces and asks them if they finished their project, objective and work. They will ask for data and information and look for improvement (3).
The second part of the government does all of the work. There are different departments that focus on one part of the village. One department is in charge of civil affairs. Another department is the education office. All these are in charge of different topics. Every time a new mayor is elected, the jobs are rotated. Since this is government, is managing a village, all the workers must understand each part of the government. Once the workers go through all jobs, they will still be rotated. The next time, the worker go to the job that they were already at, they are placed at a higher level. For example, if Bob worked for the government and started as a small boss at the education office, he would be rotated to another office three years later. If Bob loves his job, he will stay in the government for a long time and soon, he would have been though all the jobs in there are in place. The next time Bob goes to the education office, he will be placed at a higher level than before. He would probably become a bigger boss or general manager of the office (3).
Finally, I tired to speak with the government officials and even to the Xizhou mayor. Unfortunately, because I did not have the proper preparations in approaching the government officials such as an introductory form, I was unable to contact the mayor. I understand and respect that and I hope, future groups will have a chance in speaking to the mayor. My focus previously was to compare Xizhou's government with Ancient China and see the evolution. Without sufficient information, I was not able to understand Xizhou's government. Instead, most of the information I collected was about the mayor. I switched my focus quickly after I found out I had no chance to speak with the government. My new focus is on the mayor and his job.
1. "Mr. X". Personal Interview. March 13th, 2013.
2. "Mr. Z". Personal Interview. March 20th, 2013.
3. "Mr. L". Personal Interview. March 26th, 2013.
This unique experience was valuable and I took a lot away from it. The knowledge was priceless. I learned a lot about China that could not have been learned or observed in Shanghai. I learned many things through practical work and sometimes, it has nothing to do with my major project. I picked some tealeaves, made some tea and climbed some mountains. I also learned that I could do many fascinating things if I put all my effort to it and this experience proved that. I was shy to talk to the people in the first week here. I was more confident in talking later on in the trip. This can help me later in life when I need to go up to someone who I am not confident in talking to. Sometimes it was interesting to talk to them and other times it was fun. Occasionally, it was be a little bit awkward when the conversation comes to an end and we have nothing else to say but the person looks eager to keep talking. I took away some life skills and valuable knowledge during my stay in Xizhou.
Once we had been in Xizhou for a little more than two weeks, everyone settled in his or her project, Xizhou and being away from home. I was determined to talk to the mayor and a few government officials for the last section of my topic. It was unfortunate that I was unable to talk to them. The data I collected was not enough for my original product. I had to narrow it down so the main topic was about the mayor himself because I did not have enough information to continue with the government. With less than one week left, I did not have a lot of choices for my final product. At Shanghai, I was prepared to research about governance and collected some background information on Ancient China governance. I did not have any background information on the mayor. I did have my predictions so I thought of a new final product, an analogy between my predictions about the mayor and the actual information and a story about my journey. An essay did not seem to fit for a final product especially when the interviews are conducted in a town like Xizhou.
Throughout my time in Xizhou, I learned that the dialect that everyone speaks is hard to understand. Most of the local citizens in Xizhou are able to speak the Bai dialect and a few had accents when speaking Mandarin. Some people could not speak Mandarin because of their education and childhood. Most of my sources could speak Mandarin and one could even speak English. But when I was interviewing people with heavy accents, it was took a long time to translate and get full meaning out of the words that they spoke. Sometimes, I would even need a translation. Most of my final interviews were not recorded and conducted away from any of my electronics. I could not remember some of the information my sources explained to me but I could remember most of the important information that was relevant to my questions. Smaller details were too specific to remember. Once, I almost forgot one of the most important pieces of data I collected from "Mr. L". My sources were very patient and helped me understand everything they said.
I had only one major discovery. One was where the government did not want me to question them. It was day eighteen and I had less than two days to finish collecting my information. In order to interview the government, I must fill out an introductory form to explain why I am here. The Xizhou government will send the form to Dali, who will send it to the Yunnan government. If Yunnan accepts my request, I would be able to interview the government officials. In the last seventeen days, I was very eager to talk to the mayor and government officials and have a nice chat with them. I would be able to find out more about the government because most of my information was not enough. My plans were ruined and I had to think of another product. I was very surprised by this information and I was worried about my project.
This project helped me understand my topic a lot more. I did not learn a lot about government before and had just a slight idea of what Xizhou's would be like. However, mostly everything I had in mind was wrong or out of date. Everything piece of information was new to me and I was really interested in talking to the government. The interviews helped me understand the way a government works and I was interested because I have never seen or learned about that.
This project also helped me interact with the local people in Xizhou. At first I was a bit afraid to talk to my three to five people, but after a few, it was easier to go up someone and ask them about governance. This was easier because there was a specific topic to talk about. If it was just socializing about anything, it was be hard because I would be afraid to ask some questions. Talking about governance was easier because once they told me some information, I was able to think of more questions about the data and ask them. I would be able to talk to them for a long time as long as there was time. This project also helped me connect with the people in Xizhou. Before interviewing “Mr. L”, I thought he was going to be the sort of manager who did not have time for teaching students but once we started the conversation; we made a great relationship and became good friends. Finally, it boosted my confidence. I was confident that I was able to talk to any person on the street in Xizhou. I started talking to Mr. Yang the horse cart driver during lunchtime. This can help me in the real world when I need to interview more people.
Finally, this project helped me understand myself a little better too. I learned that I could do anything if I put some thought to it. I was unable to interview the village officials and I did not have enough information to continue my planned project. I thought for a long time, a couple of days and I did not change my project. I changed the content that will be going into the final project and I was satisfied.
If I could go to my beginning of my project, I would have liked to known that I might not be able to talk to the government officials. I talked to a mayor of a smaller town so I thought it would be okay to talk to the government officials in Xizhou. I would have planned ahead and would have more time to collect information on specifically the mayor himself instead of trying to collect small pieces about the government. I would have also liked to know that not many people liked to talk about the government in Xizhou. That would have helped me because I tried to interview a few people and mostly everyone did not know anything about the government and their motives. I would have changed my focus and interview people only about the mayor. Now, I have limited information and have a hard time to complete my final project.
I have learned that I need to fill out an application form to give to the Xizhou government stating my purpose and my background information. Anyone who wants to continue on with my project would want to fill out an introductory form in order to talk to the government officials and collect more information than I have collect. I would also try to focus on my project in the beginning of the trip. I was focused on the structures and procedures of governing Xizhou but the topic was too broad and not many local people knew about that. Finally, I would want to have an earlier start with interviewing to collect more sources. I only had a few sources and it was not enough. If I had more time to interview, I would be able to find more sources and verify my information.
There were many people who helped me with my project. Firstly, I would thank Mr. Tafel for making this trip possible for us. It was a great experience but hard work for Mr. Tafel because he needed to take care of sixteen eighth grade students. I would also thank him because he gave me lots of help. He made sure everyone felt like home in Xizhou and knew the town well. Finally, he introduced me to many people and one was “Mr. Z” who had some information on my project. I would also like to thank my sources. They opened up to me and gave me information about my topic. They seemed eager to pass some information down to me. Sometimes it was hard to understand my sources but they took their time and helped me understand the data when they could have been doing some work and other assignments. “Mr. L” was very patient with us and seemed to be a busy man. He took and hour out of his day to talk to me. Before our interview, he had a meeting with a few people and hurried to us when it finished. He could have been doing his job, but he took his time and talked to me. Overall, many people in Xizhou helped me on my project, including my three to fives, personal interviews and everyone else who helped me make this experience a memorable one.