Mark L. (Alumni-B)'s Journal

Today is when we get back. Again, we have the 6 hour bus ride. After arriving at Kunming Airport, we are to take a Boeing 737 on a 2 hour 55 minute flight to Shanghai. Come to think of it, after so much time has passed, "normal" school seems like a distant memory. 

Now it's time to ask myself, why did I come here? Why did I come all this way? 

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Today is the last full day of being here in XiZhou. We leave this village early in the morning tomorrow. This is time for me to say all my goodbyes to the people I have met in XiZhou. When I look back at all the memories from the past 26 days, I realized that at this point, I have come VERY VERY far. I think this is a bit similar to what astronaunts feel like when they have to leave the moon. When the time comes to leave, you realize that you've come this far, but at some point, you must go back.  But in some ways, I don't want to go back. 

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Today we presented our service learning projects to all of our service learning partners in a small celebration here at the Microcampus. My group's service learning partner is Mr. Li, who is the owner of a restaurant at SiFangJie. He really nice person, and has a good sense of humour too!

 

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For the last time of Microcampus, I stepped into Dali Old Town at about 15:35. At first, I went to the basketball court to do exercise for my wellness plan. After that, Armin, Brandon, and I went to a restaurant called "The Not Bad and Civilized Primate" to get burgers. At this point, I probably should explain that "The Not Bad and Civilized Primate" is not the name of any restaurant currently in existance. It is what we Microcampus students call the "Bad Monkey" restaurant.

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A few days ago, I was getting very anxious about how my service learning project is going to turn out to be. We were quite behind schedule, and Mr. Zhao, our service learning partner declined our offer to interview him. So our group once again, walked back to the campus worried and the mood was very dull. And then, I had a brainwave. There was a very nice restaurant owner in SiFangJie. I went to his restaurant once, and the first time I went there, he greeted us very warmly. He also was very hospitable, and he really like to talk about his life.

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Today has been another work day for me. Although it is Sunday, work has piled up a bit regarding my inquiry and service learning project. I have still yet to film my service learning elder. As for my inquiry project, I am still pursuing my goal of creating a book. So far, I have 11 pages counting a front and back cover. I  have created a template where I will type in my information. I feel that my book idea has very great promise. It's actually something I can keep. Also, it'll be like a souvenir which will remind me of what I did here in XiZhou.

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Today I finished up my last bits of research for my inquiry project. Well, when I say finished.....I don't really mean the end of research. Technically, research can go forever, and ever, and ever. But unfortunately, out time here at the Microcampus is limited, so at some point we must stop and report our findings. When I think about it, there is just so much more to research. Although I'm quite satisfied with the information I gained, I still think I can do more. It's abit like studying space.

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Today, I have finalized what I'm going to do for my final product to present my inquiry project. At first, I decided to make a powerpoint. I got started abit, but very quickly, I got bored. The thing about powerpoints is that they are usually really boring to watch, AND very boring to make. And then, in the middle of typing, I had the most brilliant idea I've ever had in the past 21 minutes and 48 seconds. I could make a BOOK!!!!!! And inside, people can read about my entire learning journey here at the Microcampus.

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Our inquiry project pahse three is due at the end of this Thursday. I still have some information to collect. I decided on a final way to present my project. I'm thinking on comparing the diversity of plants to the different altitudes here in this area. As I went up to the mountains the flora started to change around me. In XiZhou, I see lots of a specific kind of tree called "Rong Shu". I'm not sure what it is called in English. It is best I find that out soon. But anyways, up in the mountains, most of the trees were Pine.

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After the hike of a lifetime and a good day of rest, I am finally ready to return to our normal schedule. Now I have to start worrying about acedemic stuff again instead of hunger and warmth. To be honest, I would have wanted to stay up there at Huadianba for longer. It seems like a bit of a waste to hike up through all this rough terrain for eight hours, and only stay up there for two nights. If I was up there for longer, I would have more time to take in the amazing view.

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Having just arrived back in XiZhou from our big hike, everyone was completely exhausted. Despite being Monday, we were allowed to sleep in unti 9:00. This is yet another great thing about Microcampus. The schedule is flexible and can be easily changed according to our needs. We surely don't get that freedom at SAS. That is probably one thing I'll miss very much when I get back to Shanghai. Today is more of our relax and rest day, so nothing much has been scheduled, except a visit to Dali Old Town.

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This is the second day of our long hike up at Huadianba. According to my watch's altimeter, our altitude was about 9,500 feet about sea level. I enjoyed my morning at 9,500 feet. The sky was quite clear, and the sun was really bright. From our position at the logging camp, there were mountains on both the south east and north east side of us. Between the mountains was this flat plain that stretched up until the horizon. 

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So today is the day we have all been waiting for. A couple of days before, we were presented with the option to take a 6 hour hike up and camp in Huadianba, one of the very beautiful places up here in Yunnan. It was either that, or we can take a short hike to the tea plantations and camp out there. We chose to go on the 6 hour hike, knowing it would be rewarding. Except it turned out to be an 8 hour hike through sun, wind, rain, and hail. Literally.

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Today we went to ShaPing to go Shopping. Note how the word "ShaPing" sounds like  the word "shopping". Get it? Shopping in ShaPing? Except we didn't...because ShaPing was closed today, so we went to an alternate market called ShaBa. Anyways this market his huge. Everything you need to survive in XiZhou is here. Stores sell different items all the way from herbs, to humungous rocks, to small sunglasses that are too small to really fit anybody and make you look like a fortune teller. I bought some crackers, and they were quite nice.

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The food here in XiZhou is, simply put, really awesome. One of my favourite foods is ErSi, which is basically rice noodles with some sauce, and some spices for seasoning. So far, I have really enjoyed the food here, and I think I'll miss it when I return to Shanghai.

However, there is something quite mind-boggling that I am almost completely baffled about. And that something would be the flavouring of potato chips. 

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Puns. The 2nd worst jokes in the Galaxy. If there was an organization called the "Intergalactic Association for the Artistic Over Usage of Puns for the Purpose of Trying to Make Students Laugh But Not Being Able to Do So" then Mr. T would be the supreme chairman of such an organization. It seems that in whatever situation, Mr. T is able to make a joke out of the words we use by making a pun. And the puns are just continuous. To be honest, it is a very good way of passing our time. During long hikes, we can tell pun after pun to keep our spirits up.

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It's raining again. Again, it happened during my wellness workout. I was outside biking with three other friends at the time. We were planning on going to Lake Erhai to see the view of the lake and collecting some samples of take pictures of the plants around the lake. At first, it was raining, so we decided against biking and cancelled our plans. But the rain stopped and the sun was shining, so once again, we prepared for departure. It was going pretty well, until the rain kicked in again. We were quite far from the campus, and it would take us 20 minutes to get back. But then, disaster.

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Our first relaxing Sunday in XiZhou turned out to be very warm. The sun was out the whole day, and it seems like the weather here is starting to warm up. The past week's mornings and nights have been fairly chilly, but sunday morning was much warmer than usual. There aren't many clouds either. The camping trip went very well. We managed to build a small fire at our campsite. Our campsite was in a small, slightly swampy, tree filled area of grass very near Lake Erhai. The water was literally 5-7 meters away from my tent. We saw lots of different bugs, which was abit frightening at first.

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It's Saturday, the start of the first weekend of Microcampus where we can relax and enjoy the sky and weather of XiZhou. I spent the morning working on some of my inquiry work. The afternoon marked the official beginning of our service learning project. My group and I still haven't decided on a single service learning partner, but we are reviewing our choices to find which of our options fits us best. Yesterday night, there was a forest fire on the mountain on the other side of Lake Erhai. Lake Erhai was between us and the fire, so everything on our side of the lake was completely safe.

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We followed our basic morning routine today, and we went out to a nearby place called Zhou Cheng to learn tie dyeing. It was quite interesting because it involves almost complete concentration on the task at hand. I was given a peice of fabric with the picture of a butterfly on it, and to sew it in a way that when the lines are tied together,and dyed, there will be little white dots that form the butterfly picture when the process is finished. What I discovered was that it is harder than it looks. The professionals made it look so easy.

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With all the bikes set up and working, Chris (who is also studying plants) and I were given permission to ride our bikes and collect samples of plants near the mountains where I expect to find a greater variety. It was more of a gathering and collecting "mission", and not really a studying one. I plan of taking the samples and bringing them to a local plant expert to gain some information about the plants we collected.

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I finally got my chance to go up the mountains. But the purpose was not to collect samples, it was to look at the tea plantations. We were told to wear our big camping backpacks and fill them with "ballast" so that we get used to carrying lots of weight. First, we hiked up the mountain to a natural water pool where the rainwater from the mountains is collected into a stream and runs down the mountain. During our hike on the way up, I was able to witness the variety of plants that live in the mountains.

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Today is day 4, and this is our first "regular day" at the Microcampus. Today was more of a work day. During my workout, which is part of my wellness plan, my friends and I encountered some rain. However, the farther away we ran from the mountains (also known as the "ChangShan Mountain Range"), the less overcast the clouds were and the less rain there was. And the nearer we got to the mountains, the heavier the rain. So we were sorta stuck out in the fields that stretched away from the mountains. That evening, Mr.

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Today is day 3 of our Microcampus adventure. I finnished settling in, and started working on my inquiry project. I'm also starting to think about my service learning project. However, I've got to keep up with school work as well. That will be a bit of a challenge, but I'll think I'll get used to it. The pollution in the sky has begun to clear up, and the sky is becoming less and less hazy. Perhaps we will be able to see much more stars at night when we learn about astronomy. We will be studying astronomy by looking at constellations, stars, and planets.

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Today is our first day where we are truly in XiZhou for the whole day. During the morning, our chaperones showed us around our campus and the village. We familiarized ourselves with our surroundings, and got used to interacting with the local people. Building up our socializing skills will make interviewing others easier and more comfotable. We also had our first meal away from our "home away from home". I had some local dishes, and I'm quite suprised at how it tastes. Local dishes taste different, but it was easy for me to get used to them because the local food tastes pretty nice.

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It took our group about 14 hours to get from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport Terminal 2 to the campus where we will be staying for the next 27 days. During the landing when we looked out the window, the first thing we noticed was the soil colour. The soil, in relation to the soil in Shanghai, is the colour of red, suggesting the presence of iron. When we stepped outside into the open air, the air felt dry so we had to drink lots of water. We took a 7 hour bus ride from the airport to our campus, stopping along the way for breaks.

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Here is some quick info about myself. First of all, my name is Mark, although at this point you probably know. I attend 8th grade at the Shanghai American School. I'm very passionate about science, although I enjoy others as well. My greatest interests are: aerospace, aviation, go-karting, cars, space, Boeing, and NASA. Some of my hobbies are: Flying my flight simulator, Biking, Go-Karting, and model building. I am here at the Microcampus mainly because I want to experience something different, something outside the confines of my home and community in Shanghai. I am studying plants because I am quite interested in biology, although it's not one of my top interests, it's still something I like to study.