Cassandra M. (Alumni-B)'s Journal

I came to microcampus because I wanted to be around nature, because I wanted to see China for what it really was and not from the view that you get inside our “little America” bubble, because I wanted some time to not have to go through life just going through the motions and going “from destination to destination” (yes, that’s right, I just quoted myself), and lastly, because I was itching for adventure!

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Wow. What an amazing day. Today was our day to present our service learning videos and all the hard work was completely worth it.  What service learning is, is where we interview elders in the village and make a video of their stories to preserve their memories and their stories. How amazing would it be for someone long after we die to watch this movie and see what their great great grandfather was like. That's just.... wow.

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wow! Today, we had to get a lot done. I had a hard time focusing on my work but when I did, I got a lot done. Tomorrow is our last day to work on our inquiry projects, then after that we have our service learning day, then after that, we get ready to leave! I my gosh!! Time went by so fast I really don't want to leave!! I feel like I have been away from Shanghai for so long that I don't remember it anymore. I'm not feeling as homesick as I thougt I would be. I think that when we go back, I will be more homesick for here that I have been for Shanghai.

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Change of plans! We are all arriving home a day early because of a storm in Kunming that we are trying to get ahead of! Wow, and I thought that things were going fast before! I can't belive that I will be home a day earlier! Man, I really miss my cats and my own bed and.... just joking, happy April Fools day! 

Anyway, I was feeling a little stuck on my inquiery project. I didn't really know where to go from where I was. I am glad I talked to Mr. T because the spark has been relit. I have plans that I am really excited about how it is going to turn out.

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I feel like we have become part of the community. Now, the lady who sells icecream always clicks her toungue at me and calls me "Mei Nu" (pretty girl). Mr. Yang always plays with me and he always forgets that I'm from Canada. Everytime I see him, he guesses Italy, America, Germany. Today, another thing happened. We went to the dumpling place and they lead us into a bakc room of tables where a bunch of the local teens were sitting. I don't know why that struck me as important but I felt like we didn't just go physically deeper into the town's homes. 

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Yesterday was a pretty low key day. We did go to a Mulsim dinner and the food was delicious. It was a nice change from the regular meals we have every day. We went into what I now realize is the Muslim section of the town. I had never been and it sparks curiousity. I want to go back sometime. We even tried to go visit the mosque but it was closed. Maybe some other time. 

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Today an interesting thing happened. I was eating lunch at Mr. Yang's restaurant and across the square was a woman hitting her child. Everyone at the table gasped and pointed and whispered and I personally think that it is wrong to hit a child but then I realized that it is just a different culture. One I do not know. I tried seeing it from her perspective and I kind of could but then I realized something.

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Today is the first day of Spring Break for the people back home and my parents are going on a trip to a place that will not have internet so today is my last day to talk to them before I get back. I don't think it has really sunk in yet but I hope I don't have a homesick spell this week without being able to call them. I am glad it is the last week because I have settled in and Yang Zhou Ran has started to become like home. If it had been the second week here, then I probably would have been miserable. This is how I have realized the month has gone for me so far. Week one is surreal.

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Well yesterday was a day of recuperating for us all and wow, I really needed it. Anyway, we are back in to our normal routine though today was not very eventful. I am glad it wasn't because I didn't want to jump right back into a ton of work. I was not ready for that this morning. I do seem to have picked up a little bit of a cold but I am not too worried about it. I can expect to be 100% right after putting my body through probably the longest continuous strain on my stamina. All I need is a few good nights of sleep and a lot of water. 

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  • Ba Mu Si temple:
  • Above: This is a community kitchen. Family and friends come here and cook together then they share some of their food with the gods as offereings while they eat together. 
  • Da Ci Si temple:
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After the excitement that took place this weekend, we had a day to just take a breath. That was really needed so I slept in and ate a relaxed breakfast. After a restful day, we all went to the city! We went to a place called Dali to satisfy our cravings for a burger and wow, was it satisfied. The place we went to had one of the best chicken burgers I have ever had! They had some interesting comments on their bathroom walls to keep their guests entertained which was... exciting (?) 

 

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Camping last night was cold. I put on all of my clothes and then got into my sleeping bag but my sleep was still not extremely restful. In the morning, my hands and feet were so cold and I couldn’t tie the knot to put away our tent and so that process took a while even with Alex’s help. Once I finally sat down, my feet were numb and cold which wasn’t so bad, I have had worse but then I started feeling really nauseous. All I needed was to sit down in the sun for a little bit and once I got that chance to thaw out, I was fine.

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Wow! If I thought yesterday was special today has no words to describe it. This morning we couldn’t decide whether or not we would go on another hike up the valley’s rim, or just go back to XiZhou. I wanted to go on the hike and I tried to convince everyone else to feel the same way. I the reason I was so passionate about going was because we went on a three day hike for the adventure so why should we cut it short because we don’t want to go on one more adventure? Anyway, we ended up going on the hike up so we will be going home tomorrow as originally planed.

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Wow. Today was the first day of our three day hiking trip and what a day it was. The trip started off with a bang with an 8 hour hike up to a beautiful valley call hua dian ba. Only the first two hours looked like China. The next three to four hours looked like Canada, and the last two hours looked like Europe. It was really odd. All last night I was worried that I would have nothing to think about during the hike so I thought about different lists and plans I would make during the hike.

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I am so excited for tomorrow’s hiking trip! We are going on a three day trip up to a valley called hua dian ba. I know it will be very challenging but I am excited to stretch my physical and (maybe more importantly) my mental strength. The first day we are supposed to hike for SIX hours! That is a really long time! What am I going to think about for that long? I don’t have my MP3 anymore so I can’t listen to music. I guess I could talk to people but not for six hours! Hmm... I will think about what to think about tomorrow.... well that sentence made more sense in my head....

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What a full day! This morning we were going to the Sha Ping weekly market to go... Shopping! It turns out that the Sha Ping weekly market is on Mondays, not Wednesdays but it was alright because in Sha BA there was another weekly market that was considerably bigger than Sha ping. The Sha Ba market was so full of color and life! What a culturally diverse and unique place! How can I describe this place? First of all, it was bigger than the eye can see! The produce section was filled with every plant imaginable and more plants I have never seen before than those that I did recognize.

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I felt so much better today! I think I just needed to drink more water. Today, there was a BenZhu funeral next door. Although it was sad, it was very interesting for me to watch. They played haunting music on bells and there were people wearing white turbans. In Asian cultures, people wear white instead of black like we do in the west. Imagine burning incense. Do you see colorful burning sticks sticking out of a pot of sand? Yup. That is what I imagine too, and that is what I usually see, but during this funeral, there was a man who poured a bag of them into a pile then burned the pile.

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The day started out great and I had hope but by the end of the day, I lost my faith in Mondays. Yesterday’s restful day must have done me well since when I walked into our ten o’clock meeting my heart was light and I was so happy! I listened to Jack Johnson again and the day was sunny and warm. The whole day was pretty laid back until after dinner when I started feeling a little nauseous. Do not think I have been drinking enough water. I think I was feeling sick because I was dehydrated. The good news is that I am feeling fine now. 

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What a chill day! I feel so rejuvenated for the week. The day started with a laid back breakfast of pancakes listening to Jack Johnson and at that moment, Yang Zhou Ran started to feel a little like home. It is amazing what great music can do for the soul. It was a glorious sunny day and I ate lunch in the courtyard, bathing in the sunlight. We cleaned our room, and I had a long, luxurious shower so my hair no longer feels like straw and my skin feels nice and smooth. I tried out a new restaurant for dinner too and though we didn’t order very well, it was pretty good. 

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I have finally figured out how to post pictures so here are my favorites! (hover over the photo for an explanation)

 

 

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Last night we went camping and it was so amazing! There was a bit of trash but it was not too bad. We set up a fire and I felt so proud because my Kroka skills came in handy. We weren’t able to get a fire started but then I went in with my little fiery teepee and we had a great fire within 15 minutes. Thank you Mishka for your wisdom! 

 

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What an amazing day! We went to the tie dye factory. It was only about as big as the house we are staying in but it was so amazing. When we walked in, the first thing we saw was a small group of Grandmas stitching away at white cloths. We even got a chance to tie dye a cloth ourselves. We stitched it up (with the help of the grandmas) and dipped it in a boiling vat of indigo and though mine hasn’t dried yet, I think (or maybe more hope?) that mine turned out ok. I also bought a beautiful scarf of the same patterns. 

 

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On day 6 I went on my first bike ride in XiZhou! It took us long enough! We have been waiting for a chance to get our turn on the bikes for three days, but it was worth the wait. It was absolutely gorgeous. Alex and I went biking through the little streets of the town then found ourselves on the banks of Er Hai lake. It was so gorgeous! Almost as gorgeous as we all looked in our stylish bright orange visibility biking vests! I haven’t biked in a while and it took that bike ride to remember how much I love to bike. If you go fast enough, it feels like you’re flying. 

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On day 5 we took a hike at the tea plantation up on the mountains. It was a half hour hike and it was gorgeous. We hiked up to a little bubbling brook with perfect rocks for climbing. Really, just heaven. The hike wasn’t that hard but we had our big bags with us which was hard. I understand why, so that we can have a chance to get used to having such a big load on our backs and I know I will thank Mr. T during our camping trip and we will all have to carry all of our stuff. At the tea place, I was so shocked at how many tea leaves it took to make so little tea. 

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Well I guessed right! We ate at Mr. Yang's restaurant today again! It was delicious once again. Tomorrow we are going to Dali which is a big city compared to our little town of XiZhou so here we go to hit the town... but I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with what happened today. My most memorable moment of the day was my talk with a man who’s name may also have been Mr. Yang. Why, you may ask, do I remember this conversation out of all of the other conversations and people I have met today?

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Yesterday was a pretty low key day. We had a delicious dinner at Mr. Yang’s. What a friendly man! He was great and gave us some of his customer favorites. It was delicious and all I can say is full compliments to the chef! Not just that but Mr. Yang himself is such a spirit! He has so much life and excitement in him and being around him just puts a smile on your face. Those kinds of people are special! I will definitely  be going back on a regular basis! Also, I just want to make a comment to the comments... (?) Thank you so much all of you!

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What an amazing day! Today was the day we met our new home, and what a place it is! Our house, Yang Zhou Ran, was dropped from the heavens themselves for us. This place really is like a storybook and I am honored to be able to stay here! We went for a tour around the town and that was beautiful. I was so surprised at how open people are to tell their stories and how willing they are to allow us into their house. One of the places that we went to made rice noodles and the unshaped, raw dough was delicious!

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Though the travel day was long, it wasn’t as bad as I imagined it to be. I imagined lots of music though earphones and short, uncomfortable naps, so thank you Ethan for keeping me engaged during the plane ride! I also realize that I should never doubt the teenager’s ability to find ways to keep boredom away on long trips. There was far too much action for any kind of napping on the bus so I was thoroughly entertained but sluggish when the sun went down. I am so excited for the real parties to begin!

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Here it comes! It is really hard to believe that lift off is so soon! A few nights ago, I realized that a month is a long time! It is a REALLY long time. So I had my first freak out. All I have been up until this point is excited. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm not STILL excited, just that.... a month is a long time. I am actually glad that I had my little nervouse attack because I, and my family, was finding it a bit strange that I hadn't already. I will be so more out of my comfort zone than I have ever been before. And I am SO PUMPED!!

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Hey! I'm Cass! I love exploring and I am loving this amazing adventure! I am so excited to continue diving into the mysteries of spirituality and discovering the beautiful things that the world has to offer!