Michael C. (Alumni-E)'s Journal

I came to Microcampus because it is a whole month away from my structered life in Shanghai. In Shanghai I had the same routine for five days per week, but in Xizhou I plan my own schedule and study something that interests me. I also came to Microcampus to learn about the people in the village and their lives, which I found very interesting. I have lived in Shanghai for almost my whole life and have never experienced "real" China. When I arrived in Xizhou, I was shocked by how clean and fresh the air was, as well as the breathtaking scenery.

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Today is our last full day at Microcampus and I am both sad and excited. Today I spent a ton of time packing as well as going out to the village and saying goodbye to local people in the village. It was sort of sad seeing their faces for the last time and I hope that I could come back and see them again in the future. I am excited because I will be able to see my family and friends again as well as my home. I hope that I can come back here to Xizhou and see the wonderful faces of people in the village.

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Today we had some serious work sessions hoping to have our inquiry projects completed. I had done the introduction and reflections before and after the snow storm so I did not have to worry much about it. I started out by fixing the movie portion of Sharing My Learning and making some changes after a review with Mr. Tafel. My video was sort of a documentary about Xizhou Baba, and you can have a look by clicking here.

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Today is day 25/28 of Microcampus and there are only a few days left. When I went out to the village for lunch today I felt something different, a sad feeling that I do not usually get. I realized that I was sad since I would probably not see the people in the village for a very long time. Connections I made with people within the village were strong and now I only had a few days left of seeing them.

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Today we did not do WIPPIT time frmo 13:00-17:30 because the power in most of Xizhou was out due to snow the day before. I woke up at 7:30 and had breakfast like usual, but instead of lights on during breakfast we had candlelight. After breakfast the sun shined brightly into the courtyard of Yang Zhuo Ran and we could see again. Yay! Still, there was no electricity in the compound, which was fine for me because I took the day to rest like a weekend. I went to lunch in Old Town Snacks and had an amazing fried rice that I never had before.

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Today we had snow in Xizhou and every rooftop was white. The usual hard and grey street was slippery and wet, snow began to build up and many stores closed for the night. We heard from others that there had not been snow in Xizhou for years, due to the fact that the mountains in the west took all the harsh temperatures. Today we basically chilled in our pajamas and did nothing, except for meals. For dinner I went to Old Town Snacks with Jacob and Kevin C. I ordered a Tai Fei Chao Fan and a Sha Guo Mi Xian, the fried rice filled my stomach while the noodles filled my body with warmth.

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Today we went around the village talking to our potential service learning partners. Over the past few weeks, I have gotten to know three elders particularly well, their names were Mr. Yang, Ms. Ma, and Ms. Li. Mr. Yang was a show owner that was 72 years old, and he remembers his life back during the liberation. He told me that his father was a landlord and their family was wealthy compared to others, but after the liberation they had lost almost everything and were just the same as everyone else. Ms.

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The highlight of my day today was during dinner in Si Fang Jie. For dinner I had dumplings and a bowl of noodles, for just 14rmb. After dinner Mr. T brought out the hacky sack, which we Microcampus students have been practicing for a while. A group of local kids bunched around us while we hacked around. We invited the kids to play and each one of them had smiles from ear to ear while trying to mirror what we were doing. It was pretty fun and interesting helping out the local children and watching them laugh and have a merry time.

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Today I explored different tastes and flavors of dishes in Si Fang Jie. I already knew most of them since my inquiry project was about food, so I tried new dishes that I would never picture eating. My first dish of the day was Tai Fei Chao Fan, but without the carrots which were a big component in the fried rice. It provided the dish with texture and was also extremely nutritious. After having a plate of Tai Fei Chao Fan, I drank a local mango drink that was in a glass bottle.

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Today at 16:30 we left Yang Zhuo Ran and went back to Dali Old Town. This time the Linden family had left Xizhou and went to Vietnam, so Shane's friend Sam gave us (Julia, Vanessa, Risa, and I) a tour of the place. We ate dinner in a place called Happy Fella, which was probably the best western food place in town. Sam then took us to a shop like Dairy Queen where we got some smoothies and ice creams. After that we went to a bumper car place, and we had a jolly good time there for only 50rmb (3rmb 5 minutes per person).

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Today WIPPIT time was the highlight/main point of my day. I started WIPPIT time by doing 30 minutes of terrace time, I just sat outside YZR (Yang Zhuo Ran) watching locals eating a meal after a funeral. After terrace time I did some pitching in (1 hour), which can include laundry, committee work, room maintenance, cleaning common areas (movie room), uploading photos to the Microcampus hard drive, writing a journal entry, making connections with elders, doing a daily video shout out, touching base with committee leader.

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The highlight of my day was during WIPPIT time when I had a bike adventure to Lake Erhai with Thomas. Tommy and I left Yang Zhuo Ran at 3:00pm and rode to the most DANGEROUS intersection in Xizhou (considered very, very safe in Shanghai). We rode past the Linden Centre and right when we got past, we realized that we were lost, sort of. We peddled around looking for signs that pointed us in the direction of Lake Erhai. We decided to just bike around the areas we were not familiar with rather than waste another twenty to thirty minutes going to Lake Erhai.

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Today is day two out of three of our three day hiking trip in the mountains. Yesterday was pretty brutal since none of use were used to the amount of hiking we had to do. Today instead of carrying heaving hiking backpacks, we just carried our regular school bags with barely anything in it. We hiked from 2600 meters to 3200 meters to reach the top of the mountain we were on, most Microcampus groups hiked up to 3200 meters but we wanted to go higher. Early in the morning we packed our tent and put our hiking bags in a storage locker and set out on our six hour hike.

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Today is our last day in the mountains and I am very excited about getting back to Yang Zhuo Ran. The hiking was not the best experience of my life, so I will be glad to arrive back in my warm room with ventilation. I am saying this because the past two nights camping have not been an ideal camping trip. We were on a slope so all of us were always sliding down one way or another, not the most comfortable positioning. Besides the slanting tents, the ventilation system in the tent was not that great so all of our gasses just stayed in the tent rather than airing out.

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Today we departed Yang Zhuo Ran at 8:30am and got on a bus going to our three day hike, which took place in a mountain just past the three pagodas and the Dali highway. Mr. T told us that day one was going to be challenging, day two was going to be brutal, and day three was going to be better. I thought that day one would be hard, but it turns out that it was 10 times harder than I anticipated. We started hiking around 9:30am with our hiking backpacks filled with clothes, equipment, and food.

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Tomorrow at 8:30am we will be departing Yang Zhuo Ran and going on a three day hike. Mr. Tafel told us that the hike was mostly mental and not that much physical, which means that our minds will determine if we will be optimistic or pessimistic. I am sort of looking foward to this trip because of the exercise and the amazing scenery. For the next few days, I will have to carry my flashy purple backpack while wearing my hiking boots. The hiking trip will not only benefit me physically, but mentally as well.

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Today was like any other day of Microcampus, except for the fact that 75% of us were camping and the other 25% of us decided not to. I was part of that 25% and we got to sleep until 8:00am instead of 7:15. The extra 45 minutes of sleep felt like I was in heaven and was just what I needed after two days of work. During Microcampus, I have been getting 9 hours of sleep daily, and that extra half an hour really did help somehow.

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Today is day 11 of microcampus and in a few days (friday) we will be on a hiking trip for two days. In order to prepare for the trip, Mr. Tafel had us bike to Erhai and set up tents so that we were "experts" at it. We left Yang Zhuo Ran at approximately 7:30pm and rode our bikes to the tongue of lake Erhai. The journey took about 15 minutes, but it felt like more because the roads bumpiness hurt all of our bodies. By the time we got there, everything was dark and we just rode to a flat spot and started to set up our tents. First, we would peg the bottom layer to the ground.

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The most memorable part of my day was during WIPPIT time. For the wellness portion of my WIPPIT time, I ran to the Linden Centre along with Vincent, Thomas, and Kevin T. On the way there, we heard birds screeching, trucks driving, and people talking. Halfway through, we got off the busy road and started walking through a farm (on the walk paths between farmland). When we got to the middle of the farm land, there were no sounds except for the gentle breeze. It was a perfect time to do Terrace Time but we decided to continue on our path to the Linden Centre.

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Today we stayed in Yang Zhuo Ran for almost a whole day and just rested and relaxed. I got up around 9:00am because the aroma of bacon was just too strong, it smelled delicious. It turned out that the bacon was cooked for fried rice eaten during lunch. After breakfast I just chilled in the tv room the whole day with other Microcampus students. At around 3:00pm, I went to play basketball with Bryce, Vincent, Kevin T, and Kevin C at another local middle school. I got in zone for 50 minutes and decided to head back to Yang Zhuo Ran.

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Today we went to Dali Old Town, a main tourist attraction in Yunnan. It is Saturday today so we had a chill day, but Vincent and I woke up at 8:30am to go to the spice market for our inquiry projects. At 4:30pm in the afternoon we left for Dali Old Town in our hiking boots and hiking backpacks, we did this so we would get used to the weight on our backs and the blisters on our foots during the three day hike. Dali Old Town was filled with resteraunts and stores and each one was better than the previous one. There were also vendors on the street selling shirts, hats, snacks, and others.

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Today is day 7 of Microcampus and probably the day that I feel the most accomplished. During WIPPIT time today I left the compound and started talking to people who are "experts" in my inquiry project topic. Usually for me it takes time for me to get comfortable in a new place, but today I just stepped outside of my comfort zone and I think that it really paid off. I started by going to Si Fang Jie and talking to owners of noodle and baba shops. I recorded our conversation and after the first one I thought: Wow, that was easier than I thought it would be.

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Today was like any other day in Microcampus, nothing really special though. We did what we did everyday, and the best moment was probably the extra long wellness. Kevin T., Kevin C., Vincent, and I decided to go back and play basketball at the local middle school located on Dali Street. Like always we checked out bikes and rode to the court, but today was a school day and we were not allowed in. Tuesday was a local holiday and we played basketball that day, so we decided to only come back during the weekends. We left disappointed and biked back to Yan Zhuo Ran to return our bikes.

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Today was not a typical Microcampus weekday. At the start of the day Vincent and I got up at 6:00 and biked to a pond ten minutes away to enjoy the serenity and peace for terrace time. We had been to the pond yesterday, but could hardly do terrace time due to the vehicle noises. Today the pond was very nice and quiet, just as we had hoped it to be. We had the usual breakfast and had our SAS essentials as usual, and had meeting and service learning afterwards as usual, but what happened after lunch was unusual. At 13:15, all 20 of us (including Fay, Annaliese, Mr.

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Today is Day 4 of Microcampus and the main highlight of the day was our hour long mission to find a basketball court. At 3:00pm, Vincent, Kevin T., Kevin C., Jacob, and I left Yang Zhuo Ran and decided to do the Wellness part of our WIPPIT. First we got our heart rate monitors and our watches so that we could record our time in zone (30 minutes). Then we signed out bikes from Yang Zhuo Ran and rode out past Si Fang Jie trying to find a basketball court.

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Today is Day 3 of Microcampus and our first regular day in Xizhou. Instead of tours, we started other important activities like SAS Essentials, WIPPIT (Wellness, Inquiry Project, Pitching In, and Terrace Time), and Evening Activities. Today was like every other morning, we got up at 6:30 and ate breakfast at 7:30. Today Vincent and I started our work as Food Committee, which meant that we had to ask people if they were eating in-house our out in Si Fang Jie.

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Today we spent our first whole day in Xizhou. We began our day by eating breakfast at 7:30am and breakfast consisted of Hua Juan (bun), milk, apple juice, porridge, banana bread, wheat bread, apples, Ersi (soup noodles), and bananas. Everyone was famished and since the food was amazing, we wolfed our food down. Today was my turn to do the dishes along with Vincent and Kevin T., and after everyone left we gathered the piled up plates, cups, bowls, and utensils and brought it to the sink. Vincent was the soaper, which meant he soaped the dishes and passed them down to me, the rinser.

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Today we got up and arrived at the Hongqiao airport at 5:15 in the morning. It was interesting to see many of us with our gigantic hiking backpacks hanging from our back. Checking in was a real pain for us (even more trouble and pain for Ms. Mai) because we had to weigh all the luggage, make sure it is under 20kg, and have one person check eighteen of us in. While the poor guy was busy checking everyone in, us students were sitting in a circle talking about our strengths and weaknesses.

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Now that the Microcampus Lock-In is over I have a bigger understanding of what is going to happen in the 28 days that we are there. Our goal in Microcampus is to have a positive impact, have experiential learning, personal growth, and expanding intercultural understandings. I am looking forward to this experience and hope that all goes well. 

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A month from today the EXTREME team will leaving Shanghai for a month and flying to Xizhou in this magical place called China. A month from today, I will be leaving the “bubble” and will find myself surrounded by other cultures and ethnic groups. A month from today I will be in a program called Microcampus. I am really excited for this and I am definitely looking forward to spending a month with all the awesome people going.

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Hi, I am Michael and I am 13 years old. I am from Los Angeles, USA and so far I have lived in two different places (L.A. and Shanghai). I found out about Microcampus when Mr. Tafel introduced it in 6th grade. When my older sibling came back and told me how amazing the trip was, I decided that I wanted to go in 8th grade. Now that I am back in Shanghai, I miss the clean, fresh air of Xizhou as well as all the lovely people in the village.