Alex L. (Alumni-B)'s Journal

I had been imaging about what Microcampus was going to be like for weeks, even months before I had arrived. Now I have come and experienced things I would have never imagined. We spent more time being in nature, exploring, questioning, pondering, eating, listening, and just being. I came here to meet my dreams and experience my desire to learn more. I wanted view mine and others inside the bubble’s life from outside the bubble.

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Final day here in Xizhou! (tear tear) I am going to miss this place like crazy when I leave. It sort of grows on you. At first it was a new place, exciting yes, but nothing too special and meaningful, yet. After the weeks went by I learned more about Xizhou and the life their is here. And what I discovered is beyond belief. My perception of this place that I have dreaming of for the past few month pre trip was most definitely not the reality. It is even more extraordinary than I pictured it. I desperately wanted to say one last final good bye before we left.

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This is the day that I really felt like, “Wow, we have left a positive impact on Xizhou.” This afternoon my group, Vicky, Brandon, and myself, presented our video we made to our Service Learning elder. Their was some misty eyes in the crowd today. All of the partners that each group had were amazing and inspiring. Mrs. Dou, our partner, was non stop smiling during the movie. She loved how we showed her that even selling tofu for 30 years of your life that their is a lot to say.

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I worked so hard to go to Dali Old Town. We were suppposed to finish most of out final project for our inquiry work before we left to hit the town and then Mr.T said most of us might not go because we weren't finish. "That's it" I said. I non stop worked until I was completely satisfied with my Imovie. Once done, I showed it to Mr.T and he said I was doing great, that I was on the right track. Well, yes! Now I could enjoy my evening. We arrived at Dali around 3:30pm. Nike and I were missing coffe, so like usual, we hit a coffe shop to get our fix and pre diner dessert, beesting cake.

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Finally, after multiple trials to find the right canidate we have found an elder to do for our Service Learning. She's a pretty cool lady. We had our cameras near her and she was completely comfortable. We thought we had our partners set earlier, but it turned out that a lot of them didn't want to be filmed and photgraphed. Bummer! Mrs. Dou is kind and very open to conversation. She sells tofu in the square every single day for most of her life. I am sure she has seen plenty going on in Xizhou during her time here.

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Dumpling Night! We all worked together to make dumplings for dinner, like a team. All of us, or at least me, jamming out while rolling out the dough. It felt like home. Me cooking and singing along to my tunes. When I could no longer roll out another dumpling wrapper, I went to the courtyard where I played some badminton, in particular star shaped badminton. Yes people, believe it! It exists. We invented it ourselves. It consists of a 5 pointed star. From there we switch spots while playing badminton.

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Ok. So yesterday we were pretty darn sure we had a person for our service learning project, turns out not. Mr. Su never showed up today for lunch. We waited and kept showing up hoping he would come to the town square, but he never did. During that time we discovered a new ice cream shop that opened not too far from us. We gave it a try and results...delicious! When we returned, still no sign of Mr. Su. Later, in the afternoon, we returned to the square to find a new partner and cam across the tofu lady.

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We thought we had our service learning partner set, but when we went to his house to interview and he didn't want to. So off we went to find a new person for our project. Mr.Yang, the man we were going to interview, was funny and apologetic for not being able to do it. Instead, we found a man named Mr. Su. I can't wait to interview him. His story sounds quite interesting. He fought in Tibet during the uprising in 1959 for China. And he seems to be the happiest man.

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This is our last day for our phase 3 inquiry work, which was gathering information in the field. This was my favorite part of the inquiry project so far. We got to go out on our own and talk to whoever we wanted to talk about for our projects. Their was so much to learn. I talked to everyone I could, so I just wrote up my information on the website. I was done with my work for the afternoon when Mr.T asked our guard who was the oldest man he knew. he said their was a man who lived only a couple of houses over from YZR.

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Us girls finally got our own girl time today. Mr.T and Ms.Mai took us to a Bunjoo temple, which is a form of Buddhism. My friend Cass is studying this and explained to me the different gods. Interesting stuff! They worship local heroes. For example, if someone were to rescue a little boy who was drowning they might be like a hero. I like that idea of anyone being worshipped. You don't have to fly and ride on dragons and all that. The people their were so kind. they invited me to eat at the community lunch at the temple.

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Today was back to our regular work day, WIPPI, early wake up, etc. Nike, Cass, and I went out with Amy, a woman who works at the Linden Centre, to do some more research for our Inquiry projects. There was plenty of people to talk to and learn about their stories. We walked around near the square and stopped at each table that was playing Mahjong, men and women. For my final project, I ma trying to make a timeline about Mahjong in Xizhou, so this is what I mainly asked about. Also, for my final project, I want to get some stories from the locals about Mahjong in their lives.

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After our 3 day hiking trip to a tiny place called Hua Dian Ba, we got to go to the “big” town tonight. This was our second time to Dali. This time, fortunately, we got to have more time to walk around and enjoy the sights. Cass, Nike, Peyton, and I went shopping for some hippie pants, funky bags, patterned cloths, and punk rock spiky bracelets. We happened to find all. Their is some decent shopping in Dali, so we want to bring back some gifts for our family and friends. It nice to see city people again, with the crazy outfits and funny hair.

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We leave today to Xizhou. I've enjoyed my time here. Last night, we went camping out in a field. It was apart of our last hike we took to the top of the mountain. It was -1.2 degrees Celsius during the night! I was trying to use every single piece of clothing I had to my advantage. Shirts as scarves, socks as gloves, etc. I was all bundled in my mummy sleeping bag like a cocoon of warmth. In the morning, we struggled to pack up our tents and sleeping bags. Eventually, we just wrestled them inside. Once packed we said goodbye to our campsite and our little farm house.

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Today, we were all debating about if we should hike up to this mountain or go back down to Xizhou. Our final descision go up. It was a tiring hike. Basically, it was all uphill and the sun had come out today, which meant it was hot. Once we go to the top I felt so proud. You never forget the feeling you get when you work hard form hiking and then finally make it to the top. Some of us crazy kids wanted to go to the very tip top of the mountain. I climbed hand and feet while lying down to scared to look down.

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Their we were.  Backpacks as big as us on our backs ready to climb, water bottles filled, and the unbreakable determination that no matter what we were going to get to Hua Dian Ba. All of us were a little nervous about the hike. Some people had never even been hiking before. To me hiking isn't about physical (well...a little bit), but more about your mental determination. So, we started  up the mountain. We huffed and puffed through the windy roads, traveled through the forest (almost all uphill), and pushed through the wind. We were almost unstoppable!

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Since I am studying Mahjong, I thought it might be a nice idea to learn how to play. Amy, one of our chaperones, took me out to to find some people that were playing. Their is a never-ending supply of Mahjongers in Xizhou. First, we went to a table of men who, by Amy’s standards, were incredibly fast. I enjoyed watching them shuffle around the blocks and hearing them talk about how they were gonna beat their friend. The second table we went to was a group of middle aged woman. They played a slower game except more challenging. The last table we went to was at the community center.

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We were swarmed with tuk-tuks and the scents of the Shaba market. I was overwhelmed with the varieties and colors of fresh vegetable that lay before me. Their was constant sounds of chickens screaming, cows mooing, and old woman chattering. Everything was so colorful and vibrant, you were never bored. My service learning group went out to explore on our own. We definitely saw some things that you wouldn’t usually see at the Jingfeng Lu wet market. I saw at least 3 cows being put into tuk-tuks. One section of the market was for Chinese medicine.

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My inquiry project is starting to come along. Today was probably one of the most successful days I have had for my inquiry work. Some of us game studiers went to a toy store owned by one of the frivers. Their we learned about what is the common game for girls and boys at young ages. Guns, guns, and guns was the reply to all the questions we asked about boys, however, girls enjoyed playing with dolls and decorating things with stickers.

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For some reason Cass, Nike, and I decide that biking in the rain would be a great idea. We were all packed up and ready to head out and as soon as we were on the road it started to rain. It was drizzling on and of the whole day, but it hadn't had a hard rain yet. At first we didn't want to go out because it was drizzling but what the heck. We are teenagers and we act on impulse. It was raining diagonally so no matter where we were it seemed to go into our eyes. All I could see was grey and Cass's orange safety vest. We had the best time ever.

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All of us camping folks woke up early to see the sunrise over Lake Erhai. The sky was filled with oranges, and pink and blues. That was our terrace time for us. Terrace time is like meditation. We arrived right in time for breakfast. All of us smelled of campfires and our hair was gritty. I personally like the smell after you have been camping. It smells like pure simple nature. All of us were missing home and somehow putting on Jack Johnson made us feel at home.

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An adventure indeed! We are going to scout out a completely new camping sight for us Micro kids. Last year’s sight is swamped over. This is going to be either the greatest or the worst experience ever, but that is the best part about adventures. You never know what is going to happen. My curiosity always gets the better of me. Well other than that, today was our first sleep in. I can not express the joy that all of us felt. We did have to get up early to work a little. I got right back into bed as soon as I was done.

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Pow! Pow! Pow! It was me against the whole kindergarten class. At first, when Cass and I walked in, some of the kids were hiding underneath their desks because they were so afraid. But, being a little kid myself, it is easy to understand children due to the universal understanding of smiling, laughter, and silliness. Soon after, I was being chased around in the classroom by 15 little boys and girls shooting arrows at me.

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Cass and I being the adventurers we are decided to go n a lovely bike ride. Super weather like always. Almost nothing in the sky except mountains which looked a little intimidating so that is why we decided to bike to Lake Erhai. We had to bike fast to get our 20 minutes in the zone, but still saw everything. Today, was pretty chill. I feel like there is nothing unusual, which is a sign that each day is starting to become a routine. I can not tell you how great it felt to have the wind whipping around you and the sun shine on your head. Almost never do we get this in Shanghai.

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Night out in Dali! We all got our western fix and sweet tooth satisfied. We sat outside and just watched the people go by as the sun was going down. There was some good people watching and interesting night life. When we arrived back in Xizhou, we went star gazing. Let me just say the day was great as usual but the stargazing made it even better. There were so many stars in sky.

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This was our first real Microcampus day. This means we were given the day to basically do what we needed to do at our own pace. My friend Nike and I got out into the village to explore and sort of got a little lost. We were searching for a place to eat but found the local kids getting out of school. So disorienting! It was fun though to  feel like you were really doing something. Basically, the reason we are here in Xizhou. When we were sort of dazed, we look up and felt reassured from all the smiling faces. Ohhh, I am just oozing with excitement.

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Day 3 here at Xizhou! We finally get to be free and take care of ourselves. We have been given great responsibilty which is sweet yet scary. The first thing I did with my freedom is take a walk to the Linden Center. I am currently sitting in the courtayrd as piano music fills the air. As you look up, the sky is blue and cloudless, which is usual Xizhou weather. I still can not believe I am here at this beautiful place. I keep thinkng about all my friends back at home in LA class but I am here. Day 3 has been nice. Tomorrow is our first day of total responsibility.

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Well, first day out in Xizhou and what a beautiful village. We did not meet a single unfriendly person the whole day. We constantly asked questions about them, what things are, and basically everything there is to know and they didn't even mind. One memorable time was when we went on a horse ride out to lake Erhai and around the other villages. The architecture is so gorgeous. You can really see history all throughout the village. Now we have to go figure out our laundry situation. Hope tomorrow is just as great as today!

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3.5 hours by plane and 7 hours by bus... WE MADE IT! I can't believe we're here in Xizhou. My dream of Microcampus has now turned into reality.I guess this is my first day although we've only been in the village about 2 hours now, but it already feels like home. The place is amazing! Everything is so anicent and ligit almost like a museum. Everywhere you look there are historical artifacts like a budha statue, traditional chinese medicine cabinet, wooden folk art trinket, or ancient sandscript stone.

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Hey guys, I'm Alex! I lived in Washington D.C, US for 11 years and have lived in Shanghai for almost 3 years now. I love to travel, eat, and learn about new things! I am here at Xizhou and loving it. The highlights are the kind people, the blue skies and starry nights, delicious food, and the outdoors. So far, thumbs up! It feels like it is going by too fast