Jason L. (Alumni-B)'s Journal

I came to Microcampus for a different experience, a different point of view.  I hoped to learn a lot more about Chinese culture and traditions while in a small village setting.  I wanted to know what China was like outside the "bubble" that encompasses us in Shanghai.   Additionally, I also wanted to gain a new point of view on China as a whole.

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Today is our last day here at Xizhou.  We finished up our work at Microcampus and packed up, said our final good byes, and also finished up our inquiry work.  

The highlight of the day was the "Jammies Awards", which were held at 8 PM.  We all packed into the TV room and watched a presentation which had some very goofy and not-so-goofy awards that were being presented.  

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Today was our last trip to Dali old town.  Simple as that. We had a great time playing basketball at the local courts.  The courts are made of concrete and have rims but no nets.  The sides are flanked by empty bleachers and lights.  However, Ethan and I couldn't make a shot for the first few minutes as we were badly off rhythm since.  Additionally, we were sliding badly everywhere and having fun with going at it.  Also, Mark and Brandon were running around the courts doing their wellness so we had quite a lot of interference from the two of them, Brandon in particular. :)

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The people in Xizhou are some of the friendliest people I have ever met.  Shopkeepers, rstaurant owners and people on the street all are extremely helpful and friendly. 

They are eager to learn about our story and how we came here.  Mr. Yang, the owner of the Golden Flower Restaurant is the Microcampus group's best friend in Xizhou.  He is always very accomodating, outgoing and friendly.  He's also very funny and shares jokes and stories with us.

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This is the last week of Microcampus, and I am looking to savor the moment, and to make the most out these last few days.  This is the final stretch, and I will be doing more reflecting now than talking about what's happening.  Today was a relatively normal day and we are looking to finish up our inquiry projects and service learning in the next few days.  This will conclude my microcampus experience.  

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Today we made dumplings and had the best social evening so far.  It all started at 5 PM with students going to the tables set up outside.  i had the priviledge to be the DJ as we played music for everyone.  The Linden family also attended and we had a great evening.

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In Xizhou there is a peculiar phenomenon about the weather.  It's raining but the sky overhead is crystal clear.

This is an example.  It's a clear blue day with a few small, puffy cumulus clouds. Huge flat, thick, rain clouds roll down the mountains to the west.  As they condensate and dissipate into smaller clouds, rain falls from these clouds near the mountains.  However, the rain is somehow blown east towards Xizhou and we get rain from the sky.

Even the Sun shines during this saga. 

Changing the subject: 

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Its been three weeks since the beginning of Microcampus and so far, I think Microcampus has been a unique, eye-opening experience for me.  It has so far been a rollar coaster ride filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  

I have been to many places and experienced many moments that would never be found in Shanghai, such as the hike to Hua Dian Ba, and simply going out into the village and asking people about a specific subject. 

Xizhou has truly been a great home away from home and I look forward to spending my final week of Microcampus here.

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Today, the Microcampus group had a karaoke party, in which I did not participate in.  After 7 minutes of bickering and arguing over which song should the group sing, I left the room along with two others.  I left and chose to listen to the groups horrendous singing while eating some snacks bought at the local Si Fang Jie

They went through many different songs using the website karaoke party and I was "forced" to listen to them singing "We are the World", "I'm Yours" and other Michael Jackson songs.  

Mr. Tafel called the singing "horrible but inspiring".

 

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WIPPI is the main block of time during the afternoon.  It stands for Wellness, Inquiry Project, and Pitching In.

Wellness is my favorite part of the day.  We get to do any physical activity we desire, whether it comes to bike riding, jogging, and exercising in the YZR.  

Inquiry Project work time is when we work on our projects.  We often go out and meet with local experts on the subject.

Pitching In is when we contribute in house, whether it comes to daily videos, house work, and committee work.

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Today was a relatively normal day.

We went on a 2 hour bike ride with all of the guys.  Our first stop was a Buddhist Temple near Lake Er Hai.  The temple was filled with the smell of burning incense and the looked like any other mediocre cluster of buildings.  However, once we peered into the darkened, concrete rooms, we saw all of the vibrant, colorful Buddhist gods.  The Buddhist temple was a very intriguing place to be.  

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Today was a day filled with rest and relaxation.  We caught up on work missed during our hike up to Ba Nian Ba and also slept in.  

In the afternoon, the group visited Dali Old Town, a former, age old capital city converted into a tourist attraction.  The streets were converted into pedestrian streets and the old houses were converted into many different shops, restaurants and other retail places.  Ethan and I also found a basketball court in a back alley and played for a few hours.  The court was extremely slippery concrete and we were sliding everywhere.  

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We woke up today to a long, 6 hour hike down the mountain once again.  This time, it was the same routine.  We went down the same way we came.  My ankles and knees were aching, and blisters were forming on my foot.  Nevertheless, we did not run into any adverse weather conditions and descended smoothly back into Xizhou. This time around, the trip was more mentally tiring than a physically tiring.

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Xiao (little) Hua Dian Ba is one of most open spaces I've ever been to.  We hiked through an opening in the mountains and were met by howling, blasting, 50 km wind and were rewarded with a fantastic panorama of the vast valley.  

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A ten minute bus ride led us to the trail head.  I stared up at the near 45 degree incline of the trail and wondered aloud, "this for 6 hours?!"  We were about to start and epic 6 hour hike up the steep mountains north of Xizhou on our way to our final destination of Hua Nian Ba.  The first portion of the trip was a pebbly, gravel filled uphill battle up an incredibly sheer incline.  There was barely any stopping to admire the view, as my head was down watching the ground ahead.  

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Today the Microcampus group visited the Sha Ping Wednesday Market. Ethan and I browsed through the market aisles, gaping at the various goods being sold.  We spent an entire morning at the market, sampling different local snacks and flavors.  A favorite was crunchy, brown stick that tasted like cereal.  We were told that it was made out of peanuts.  Another snack we tasted were long, thin strips of San Zha (sorry I don't know what it means in English).

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Today I finally got to play basketball! This time, when we arrived at the courts, we were greeted by a small group of local kids around the ages 8 to 14 slinging basketballs at the hoop.  We began to warm up and shot a few shots at the rim.  The local people didn't seem to mind our prescence and kept doing what they were doing.

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The weather in Xizhou is very unstable.  Being 6,000 feet above Xizhou, the Sun is very strong and can instantly have a profound effect on the temperature. When it's a clear day without cloud cover, the temperature will soar to over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The Sun is extremely hot at this altitude and can even cause sunburn although it's only around 20 degrees Celcius.

However, yesterday brough thick cloud cover, thunderstorms and wind.  The temperature plummeted and we had to put extra layers on and dress warm. 

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Si Fang Jie is the beating heart of Xizhou.  It is the center of the village and is melting pot for all of the villagers.  Si Fang Jie is an oval shaped square with a Chinese style gate in the center surrounded  by restaurants, shops, and houses.  Notable restaurants include Mr. Yen, who ran the Golden Flower Restaurant for a whopping 35 years.  He is going to be our service learning partner so Nike, Chris, Clara and I will spend a lot of time at his restaurant learning from him.

We spent Sunday getting an afternoon of rest and relaxation at the YZR.  Stay tuned!

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If you look up into Shanghai's night sky, you will gaze at blackness.  If you look up into Xizhou's night sky, something very different will greet you.  Over the course of the trip so far, we have looked up into the night sky many times and have seen many stars, constellations and even satellites.

The most prominent constellations in the night sky are Orion, the Big Dipper and Leo the Lion.  Orion is a constellation which shows a warrior with shield in one hand, knife in the other, fighting a beast. It has one of the biggest stars in the galaxy in Rigel and Betelguse.

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We went to a textile factory in the local Zhou Cheng today.  There we learned that how fabric is dyed and also visited a local kindergarden and the village square.

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Today we had our first few interactions and conversations with the local villagers. Brandon and I were finding out sources for our topic, village governance by inquiring the local people where the government building was, if they knew anyone related to the government, and if they knew anything about the government.  We started out in our mini "bubble" at the Linden Center and gradually moved out to the village.

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Today was our first half day hike to a nearby tea plantation.  The scenery that greeted us was gentle, rolling hills and endless rows of bushes that grew tea leaves.  We had a great time picking the tea leaves and picking them off of the stems and competing against the girls for who had the most amount of tea leaves gathered.  The tea plantation also offered us a splendid view of Lake Erhai and the surrounding area.  I could pick out individual villages and the Dali Old Town Commerical Area.  During the hike, Brandon and I chatted with a local village to-be chief.

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Xizhou is surrounded by vast green fields of crops.  We got a first hand experience of this greenery by taking a jog through the encompassing area.  Mark, Chris, Ethan and I set out through the fields and were immediately confronted with a major dilemma.  A simple explanation for this problem was to look up at the sky. The skies were filled with dark, thick storm clouds bombarding tiny rain droplets  at us. We quickly began running in the opposite direction, away from the rain.

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The Linden Center is in the center of our microcampus life.  It is a hundred year old structure that is converted into a hotel and a haven for tourists and scholars alike.  The facilities in the center include a piano room, a game room with table tennis and pool tables, and even a library.  In the morning, we spend time at the a raised platform overlooking the farm fields, the village and the surrounding high mountains.  This is called "Terrace Time".  Our home, which is called Yangzhourang, is also an age old building renovated into a guest house.

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Today we got a first hand glimpse of the village that we're going to be living in.  We saw many intriguing activities during our tour of the village ranging from street dentists and outdoor markets to horse drawn tourist carts and food stalls.  We also met many people who are big contributors for Xizhou's culture such as people who made rice noodles, a local musician, and even the local dentist who works on the street. Xizhou has been a pleasant surprise so far. Back at our guest house, we enjoyed the movie starring Austin Powers with the group.  Looking forward to tomorrow! 

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3 hour plane ride followed by a 6 hour bus ride.  That basically sums up my first day away from home.  I think the reality of the trip has finally hit me and that I'm "actually" going away from Shanghai to spend a month here.  Hours on the bus and the plane were spent listening to music and talking to my friends, and I've been exposed to the first hand beauty of Yunnan.  The scenery that greeted us included rolling hills, terrace farms, and crystal clear lakes.  I think this was a fabulous start to my microcampus experience and I'm looking forward for more!

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Hey I'm Jason and I'm in Xizhou! I am studying village governance by interacting and communicating with the local people and the local officials. I also enjoy playing basketball and listening to music. Currently, I am enjoying the Microcampus experience and having fun! Feel free to check out my blog posts and inquiry project.