One More Xizhou Sunset
It is hard to imagine that the month is coming to a close so soon, but in less than 40 hours the first group of Microcampus students will leave Xizhou and begin the long journey back to Shanghai. It has been one amazing month for all of us, and I am at a bit of a loss when it comes to the next steps after our return to Shanghai.
The past several months have been building toward some fairly significant events that have recently come to pass: my 40th birthday in late February, followed two weeks later by my wedding, followed soon by the launch of the SAS Microcampus. If there has been a more interesting, exciting, exhausting, emotional two-month stretch in my life, I sure cannot recall it.
Life here has been a wonderful but enormous struggle on so many levels, seeking balance in managing the process for the students, the other chaperones, our partners at the Linden Centre, the staff back at the "Mother Ship" of the SAS-Puxi campus, and taking care of some family situations back home in the States. There have been blog posts to moderate, inquiry projects to support, toilets to unclog, upset stomachs to soothe, camping trips to plan, s'mores to cook, meetings to arrange, stars and planets to point out, websites to tweak, history to learn, and the future of the program to design.
Having spent the past two-plus years planning this experience, there were still plenty of surprises. The students, by and large, needed much more guidance than I had expected they would, and it was fascinating to see the ebb and flow of their emotions as the month progressed. The students took tremendous care of one another, and my sense is that no matter where they go, they will always have a connection with one another as a result of this experience.
The students and I have had some conversations about the next stage of thing--re-entry back into the once comfortable routines back in Shanghai. For me, it will be back to softball games on Sunday and the relatively predictable schedule of a middle school science teacher. For our students, it will be back to the "four walls" of the regular classroom routines for the final two months of their middle school years. Xizhou will keep being Xizhou: quiet, slow, and the home of some of the most wonderful people and picturesque scenery in the world.
This has been, without a doubt, the most challenging project I have ever taken on, and I am very much ready for a bit of a rest. Given this, though, I have a feeling that the relatively light schedule will afford some chance to look back on the time as an important step in my life, both personally and professionally.
Bedtime now--the next to last before the trip back to Shanghai on Saturday and the end of the first Microcampus experience.