Phase 1: Posing Real Questions
In Phase 0, everyone going on the March 2016 Microcampus trip narrowed a long list of choice descriptors down to just one. The topic is to be the main focus of our 28 days in the tiny village of Xizhou. For me, that topic is the Visitor's Lonely Planet Style Guide to Xizhou. In Phase 1, I am about to find out more in depth about my topic. As usual, I will be updating my progress along the way. By the end of this Phase, I should be able to explain what I would like to find out about my topic, and where to focus my effort on in the village.
What do I already know about the topic?
My prior knowledge of a Lonely Planet Style Visitor's Guide is kind of limited, but not nonexistent. I know the basic structure of a guidebook, and the basic idea of how it is organized. First, the book is divided into rough locations. Then, it is arranged in the smaller sections by places of interest, accommodation, food, etc. People want to know about honest reviews of different places in their guidebooks, not the tourist traps on so many advertisements. About Xizhou's tourism industry, I am absolutely clueless, save for reading some student projects in Phase 0. Before hearing about this trip, I did not even know Xizhou existed.
Where did I learn these things?
During winter break, I went on a trip to Australia. I had never been there before, and prior to leaving I borrowed a Lonely Planet Guidebook on Australia from the library. This was my biggest source of information on how their guidebooks are structured, and gave me an idea of what mine should be like. At the time, I simply borrowed the guide because it was long and detailed, but now, it has also helped me understand more about my topic.
What do I want to find out about my topic?
This question is kind of difficult to answer, as there is not much to know about writing a guide, only the actual content that will go in it. I would like to further understand how guidebooks are structured, and what makes a guidebook great. I would like to write mine in a professional tone, so I also need to find out what that means. About the content of my guidebook, I would like to know what locals think are the best parts of their town, and what actual tourists have to say. I would like to find out the best local places to eat, and drink. I need to find a variety of places, because I might want to divide the guide by price.
Below is a list of Big Questions I developed after some background research (see that in Phase 3), and the purpose of these questions is to give me an idea of where to start on my Inquiry Project when we get to the village. I have arranged my questions according to general categories. Please note: the parts written in italics are only possible answers to the questions, and some are made up, as I have no prior knowledge regarding these topics.
General Information on Tourism in Xizhou:
1) Why do tourists visit Xizhou, and what do they come to see?
Tourists come to Xizhou to experience 'real Chinese culture' in a place relatively unaffected by the modern world. They come to see ancient Chinese buildings and to interact with the locals.
2) How big is Xizhou's tourism industry, and how much has it grown?
Xizhou's tourism industry is still barely existent, but it grew from being totally non-existent not long ago. People used to focus on farming.
3) In what ways has tourism and modernization affected Xizhou?
Just a decade ago, Xizhou was a remote unheard of town, but today many places like the Linden Centre have been set up as a result of modernization and the attention given to Xizhou recently.
More Specific Areas:
4) In locals' opinion, what are the highlights of Xizhou food?
The locals love the Tafel fried rice and babas, as they are unique only to Xizhou and are a combination of pig feet and radishes.
5) How is Xizhou architecture unique and noteworthy?
Most Xizhou buildings have a distinct honeycomb pattern on their walls and are primarily blue and white, featuring many doorways connecting courtyards.
6) What are things civilians do for entertainment?
Civilians, primarily children, like playing hopscotch in their rare free time. Adults will sometimes join in the fun by cheering on their favorite kids.
7) What are some 'hidden gems' of Xizhou known only to locals?
Beyond 5th Avenue, there is a secret garden behind a tapestry that most visitors don't know about. It features plants native to Southwest China and an impressive pagoda.
8) Are there any notable places to visit near Xizhou?
Lake Erhai and Cangshan Mountain are locations most visitors who come to Xizhou also go to.
9) What is a day in the life of a Xizhou local like?
A day in a local's life primarily consists of getting up extremely early, preparing the entire day's food, and doing work, rarely having the luxury of free time.
10) Is what locals know of Xizhou different from what visitors think of it?
Visitors only see the best side of Xizhou, featuring beautiful scenery and delicious food, but locals know the incredible amount of hard work they must do to maintain themselves.
What else do I need to know about Xizhou before departure regarding my topic?
I think I need a general understanding of the town, not even particularly on tourism, to make the most of my time there. This will prevent me spending a long time, possibly even days, trying to figure out how everything works in a rural Chinese town and possibly have many awkward situations on the way. I also want to know more about the Linden Centre and why it was established and what it does for tourists, as I think the owners could be a valuable resource to me, considering the fact that one of the Inquiry Project Topics consists of finding out their story.
I have now completed Phase 1 and am ready to move onto Phase 2, where I will be finding helpful resources.