Taylor F. (Alumni-F)'s Journal

Today was our final full day in microcampus, and I cannot believe tomorrow we will be getting on a bus and leaving XiZhou! Today we packed our bags and finished up some work before we left. Then after dinner and our final room inspection, we had the Jammie Awards! For the Jammies, everyone gathered in the TV room wearing their most fashionable pajamas and we were given different awards for different subjects. Jing-Rong even had a special surprise for our final day here, and not to mention Mr. T's birthday.

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Before I came on this trip, I did not know what it meant to expand my intercultural understanding, have personal growth, do experiential learning, or have a positive impact on the places I go or people I see. I knew from the informational meeting that this was all a part of microcampus, but when Mr. T talked about these things I had no idea how these were a part of microcampus. Now I do, and I have changed as a person.

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Today we completed our final service learning video, and we presented to our fellow students, partners, Linden Center Staff, and friends. Mr. Ma could not make this event, as he was out of town. We invited one of his friends, but he did not come. We used the TV room for our presentation. On the table there was fruit and tea for our guests, and though only one partner could attend, all the oranges seemed to disappear by the end of the presentation. It was interesting to see what other groups learned from their partners, compared to what Mr. Ma taught us.

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Today, the weather cleared up and was much better than yesterday. Our inquiry projects were due and you can see my final project here. After we turned in our projects, everyone felt a weight lift off their backs, and now we just have to prepare for Service Learning!

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Tomorrow is going to be a very stressful day for a lot of people. Our inquiry projects are due at the end of WIPPIT time, and our service learning is due Wednesday morning! Wednesday afternoon we have our service learning presentation, and tomorrow my group and I need to invite Mr. Ma to the celebration. We could not do much today because there was a steady rain all day long. We had a lot of time to do some inquiry work, but it was my room's laundry day and nothing dried all day!

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Here in XiZhou, the weather is usually amazing. Before today, I had not seen it rain once. However, lately the weather has changed a lot. Ever since we got back from the hike, there have been more clouds in the sky and less sun. This morning as I was walking to SiFangJie for lunch, I noticed that I could only see the outline of the mountains through the dark clouds. I assumed since there is not much pollution here, than they must have been rain clouds.

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After many failed attempts, today we finally found a service learning partner! It started with Ms. Mai offering to take us to the mosque after my group telling her about our most recent attempt. We were supposed to eat dinner with our partner, but we found out from their son that they had gone to Dali for the weekend. Everyone in our group was very stressed at that point, and we had no idea what to do next. That is when Ms. Mai saved the day and suggested taking us to the mosque at 1 this afternoon.

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Today is Valentine's day, and I am spending it here in XiZhou! Today is also the lantern festival, which is a popular Chinese holiday. It in a way signals the official end of Chinese New Year, even though most people have stopped celebrating. In honor of tonight being Valentine's day, and also the day of the Winter Formal at school, the evening event programmers (Grace, Henry, Vanessa and I) have organized a small dance in the main courtyard of the Linden Centre. We have invited a local dancer to teach us some traditional Chinese dances too.

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It's almost time for the end of inquiry work, and everyone is getting anxious. Tomorrow we start our final projects! Our Phase 3s were due yesterday, and we completed our Phase 4s today. Right now, my plan for my final project is to make a PowerPoint, and illustrate or in some way model three different shops.

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Earlier tonight we finally went on a trip to Dali Old Town! It was really cool there, and they had so many shops. They were selling embroidery, jewelry, records, and so much more! I had a great time walking around with my friends. I even bought some really cool pants. For dinner we went to a pizza restaurant, and I ordered an Oreo milkshake(something I have not had in a long, long time!). I also has some cheese pizza and some spicy Indian pizza, and it tasted pretty good. It was really cool to the Dali Old town, because I had heard a lot about it from previous groups.

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Today was our first full day back and XiZhou, and it was great to be back. I've noticed so many things that I didn't even think about before the hike, such as the use of a shower, a toilet, a bed, hot water, and more. Just being away for 3 days made me miss the rice fields and my friends here in the village. I saw Mr. Yang the antique shop owner and said a friendly hello. Now I am just sitting outside my room watching the clouds move, and it makes me so happy just seeing their shapes change as they cross the sunny blue sky.

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Today felt like the longest hiking day, but in reality it was the shortest. We left at noon from our campsite, and only hiked for 3 1/2 hours, but it felt like a lifetime. We had to hike downhill for a hour and a half through trees and rocks, then through streets full of leaning trees and my bag kept on hitting them. I think the reason today felt so long was because I was looking forward to coming back to the Linden Center and taking a hot shower, and also because I had so many things in my hiking bag that by the end my shoulders felt like they were about to give out.

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Today was our biggest day of climbing yet, and we climbed all the way to 3,150 feet! The views were amazing, and we could even see into the next valley! We stopped for a long rest at the very top of the mountains, and there we could see the clouds being broke apart by the peaks of the mountain, and we could feel the wind. It was freezing up there, and it was grey from all the clouds. I was surprised to see how well the mountains help the weather down here in the valley be so sunny and calm, because it was scary up there.

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Today was the first day of our big three day hike! We set off right after breakfast and took a bus to the foot of the mountain. We hiked for about 6 hours up the mountain, and it was exhausting. There were times I felt I was going to be crushed under the weight of my bag, but we had enough breaks that I did not completely give out. Mr. T was right, it is mental wellness that is very important and that keeps you going. You have to keep telling yourself to keep pushing on, and to keep good form or it gets even harder. Especially when you are climbing to 2,000 feet above sea level!

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Today, Shirley and I went on a nice jog through the garlic fields. At first I took a wrong turn on the street to the lake, but then we went back the right way. We crossed the street where we turned right on on the way to where we camped, but went straight across into another long stretch of fields. It was nice running in fresh air compared to what I am used to in Shanghai. It seemed like I could last longer without having to stop. After another few minutes, I made another wrong turn, and ended up in a little town.

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Today Mr. T gave us a lecture about genetics and family history. It was very interesting, and I made a connection to what we are learning about in science(DNA, chromosomes, mitosis). We learned that males can trace their family history through their Y chromosomes, but this is only father to son. Women must trace their DNA in other ways. It is the similar patterns in cromosomes that show how closely related men are. We also learned that every living person originated from Africa, although the Chinese believed all Asians originated from some fossils found near Beijing.

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Today, I interviewed two people for my inquiry project. The first person worked at an embroidery shop, and her name was Mrs. Xu. She once worked as a farmer, but lost her job and starting selling and making embroidery. She started out with selling items on a table in SiFangJie, and now has a big shop just outside the town square. She hopes tourism in Xizhou will grow, so that more people will buy things from her shop. The other person I interviewed was Mr. Li, an antique shop owner.

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Last night we went on a camping trip to lake Erhai. We left after dinner, and had to ride our bikes there in the dark. It was scary; hardly anyone could get their flashlights to stay on. At one point we even rode through 2 feet of water! Eventually we got the the end of the peninsula and locked our bikes to the trees. Then we set up our tents. We first had to watch Mr. T and Mrs. Mai demonstrate, then it was up to us to do it ourselves.

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This afternoon we went on a four hour hike in the mountains. We had to bring our hiking backpacks, and we put our sleeping bags and warm clothes in to make it feel about how it will on the three day hike. Although the hike was tiring, my bag did not feel too uncomfortable on my back. We started by visiting a mosque, and ended at a temple. The hike was mostly uphill, and we went at a very good pace. About two thirds of the way through, we took a route uphill to get a better view of the lake.

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Today Grace and I went to the morning market before lunch. We walked the opposite way from  where we usually walk in, which is through SiFangJie. (The town center) We saw the noodle making house that we walked into during our first tour of the village. When we looked in, it looked like they had finished making the noodles for the day, but there were still a few people doing small tasks inside. We also walked through the fish section, and I held my breath as we made our way through the crowds of people buying fish.

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Today we had a 2 hour bike ride along lake Erhai, all the way to Butterfly cove. Butterfly cove is a popular tourist attraction and is the place a scene from the movie Five Golden Flowers was placed. It was crowded on that side of the lake, and we had to weave our way through lots of people. However, almost every other road we biked on was clear for the most part. It was really nice when we were on the road right next to the lake. We could see people catching fish on the rocks, and the water was so blue compared to everything else I have seen in China.

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Today was another busy day in Xizhou. We started out with SAS essentials in the morning, which is just so incredibly fun... Then we had our daily meeting and talked about our committee responsibilities. However, the main highlight of my day was our trip to lake Erhai to pick up trash. We rode a horse cart over there, and we saw fields and fields of garlic. We also saw many new Xizhou homes. There was a lot of work to do when we got to the lake, and we spent about a hour just picking up trash along the peninsula. There was a lot of glass on the ground, and many firecracker bags.

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Today we took our first trip around the village. We saw the town center, and ate lunch there. I ate lunch at a restaurant that served fried rice, and it tasted delicious. I also ate a popular snack called Baba. It had a salty flavor, and was like a big round piece of bread. After lunch my group and I took pictures at a little shop and each bought a sheet. The pictures turned out really funny, and it was lots of fun taking them. It was such a cool experience walking through the village as if I was a part of it.

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I cannot believe I am finally in Xizhou! After a long day of travel it is nice to be able to just relax and get some rest. I cannot wait to visit the village, and I feel like there is so much to learn. It was hard saying goodbye to my family, but at least I get to Skype them every night. I have a feeling this week be the coolest month of my life, and I cannot wait to see everything, try new things, and meet new people. 

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My name is Taylor, and I'm 13 years old. I was born in South Africa, have lived in Georgia most of my life, and moved to Shanghai at the beginning of 7th grade. My hobbies include swimming, volleyball, softball, and playing the viola. Microcampus changed me as a person, and I learned so much from this experience. I hope to one day return to XiZhou and to again enjoy the fresh air, friendly people, and delicious food. This was a month I will never forget.