Brandon W. (Alumni-B)'s Journal

Today is the last day here in Xizhou. We went around town and said our good byes. I ate dinner at the golden flower where Mr. Yang, the owner, invited only us. We chatted and exchanged phone numbers. We said our good byes to him and hugged him too. All the other people such as Mrs. Dou, Mr. Li and Mr. Yang were not at the square and I was disappointed when I found out they were not there. It was my last day and I have not bid farewell with them yet. When I get a chance, I will definitely come back to Xizhou no matter what it takes. I will miss everyone who made a positive impact on me.

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When I first heard of Microcampus, it was a hard decision whether or not to go because I want to stay with my friends but I also want to experiment this great opportunity. I decided to try it out and completed the application process. When I found out that I was going, I was surprised I got chosen because I did not know I had a chance. I was happy because I would be going but also sad that I was going to leave my home for a month. During the trip, I felt grateful that I completed the application because it was a great experience and being away from Shanghai was not that bad.

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Around 2:30, we started to retrieve our service learning partners. My partners went to help Mrs. Dou with her tofu cart while I gave Mr. T our final video. Mrs. Dou brought a friend along. We served some tea, oranges and bananas to the guests. The guests started chatting with us and with each other. When everyone gathered in the dining room except for Mr. Yang the restaurant owner, Mr. Tafel gave his introductions and a few people seemed eager to continue. Mrs. Dou looked like she wanted to be back in Si Fang Jie selling tofu but she kept her smile.

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If everybody was able to finish their work, we were going to Dali Oldtown one last time. Some people were far behind but used their time wisely and we were all able to go.

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On the way to the laundry room, my second time in three days, I saw some chickens on the fields pecking at an empty tofu container from Mrs. Tofu Dealer, my service learning partner. They were really cute and some small chicks came closer to the bigger chicken and started fighting for the leftover tofu. I kept walking and then, suddenly the chickens were pecking in a grass pile ahead of me. I didn't know that chickens can walk faster than me. I ignored the chickens and kept walking with Ethan.

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Today, at lunch, my service learning group and I arrived at the square and saw Mrs. Tofu Dealer. After our short lunch of fried rice, we found out that another group also made an appointment with her. After an argument, we went out and met her. We were pretty sure she remembered us. Suddenly, she said that she was an old tofu seller and could not speak a lot of Mandarin. We were almost out of hope until Mr. Yang, the antique dealers husband, stepped up and helped us translate. We set up an appointment and we were excited that we finally got a partner.

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Today, we had an hour and thirty minutes working on our service learning project. Our partner, Mr. Su didn't come and meet us during lunch and we couldn't find him later. Before we tried several elders, Mr. Zhao, Mrs. Liu, Mr. Yang the shoemaker, Mr. Li and now we can't get more out of Mr. Su. We waited for Mr. Su at the square while eating some chocolate ice cream. After thirty minutes of waiting, Mr. Su still didn't arrive and we stopped waiting.

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Today, I learned that I couldn't go to the government and ask random questions. In order to do that, I need to fill out an application explaining what I want, why I am here, who I am and many other questions. That application will go to the Xizhou government. They will hand it to Dali and Dali to Yunnan province. Then Yunnan will check the application and accept it under certain conditions. For example, they might say I can only ask for an hour, or I can't ask questions 2, 6 or 98. This takes time and I won't be able to interview the mayor.

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We got to sleep in until nine o'clock to catch up on our missing sleep time. We had breakfast and we all ate a lot to make up on our missing eating time. We had to get four objectives finished, catch up on our journals, nurse check in skype call, wellness reflection and regular school homework. After that, we traveled to Dali Old Town.

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Today was day three of our big adventurous hike and we woke up in a freezing, hard and uncomfortable tent. Even though the sun was out, it was very cold when we woke up from our camping site. We wore every layer we had but our toes and fingers were frozen and had a hard time tying our shoes. After a hour and a half trying to get our tent in the tiny bag, we started heading back to the hostel and ate our breakfast. We sat around the courtyard drying ourselves, getting warm and eating noodles and oatmeal.

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We had two options for the day, one was to return to Xizhou earlier or we would go hike up more and come down to camp in the courtyard of the place we stayed. Many people wanted to hike up and camp up there instead of in the courtyard and that was why they came. Some people just wanted to go down to Xizhou because it was too tiring. We finally decided to hike up because the trip was supposed to be a three day hiking trip anyway.

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At breakfast, we ate some bacon and eggs for breakfast. Everyone got at least two pieces of bacon. We would all fight for the last piece even though there was a whole plate of steaming bacon in the kitchen. We ate a lot and stuffed our tummies for our "six hour" hike. We got our hiking backpacks and got ready for the hike. We took a bus to the start of the hike and unloaded our items. The heavy items were packed on the mules such as a big water container. We started hiking and after a few minutes, we realized the terrain was rocky and rough.

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Today was a regular day with the same old schedule. For lunch i ate some noodles that were only six RMB. They were actually pretty good with some unique Xizhou spice. The noodles were wide and thick and were really good. After that I bought a drink that was only three RMB. I drank some and bought mym dessert before camping, a bag of chips that costed six RMB. In total, I only spent about fifteen RMB, which is really cheap. After some piano and inquiry project work, I played badminton with Armin but after ten minutes of playing, we stopped because I hit all the shuttlecocks on the roof.

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Today we went to a place called Shaping. It is an outdoor mall that sold mainly vegetables and fruits. There were also some small items, antiques and snacks. We split into 5 groups and went separate ways. My group and I wandered around and bought some snacks. The snack we bought looked like rice crispies but when we took a bite, it was too sweet and didn't taste good. We keep going and many shopkeepers wanted us to buy stuff. We ended up at a small shop where they sold small handbags. We looked at them for a while and tried them on. They were okay and we bargained for a lower price.

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Yesterday, I tried to interview people about my project. According to the first person I met, I was not at the right place even though two of my previous interviews said that I should be there. Another two interviews told me there is another place just ahead. I traveled there today. It was a long walk, almost around twenty minutes. Next time, I would take a bike. After twenty minutes of walking under the boiling sun, we finally reached the place. I asked one person at his office and he said that I should go down stairs.

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In the morning, the weather was nice and as usual, a bit chilly. There was a light drizzle around ten to eleven. Then after lunch, the rain was out. I went out to go interview some people. On the way, there was a slight drizzle. After a few minutes, the rain stopped. Then once I was about to enter the house, it started pouring again. I entered and I was safe but they said I went to the wrong place. It started pouring again, but this time much more. I still had my sunglasses on and everything was a blur. My hood was already too wet so I walked all the way back, a twelve minute walk.

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Today was the weekend where everyone gets to sleep in. The whole day, we could do anything we want to. There was only a few things that we needed to be on time for; lunch time, dinner time and the five o'clock meeting. I slept in but i got waken up at nine by my roommates. After lunch, I went biking. This time, I went all the way down the empty highway. I even saw Mr. Yang, the horse rider. The highway wasn't that crowded this time with at least five bikers with me. I turned around and followed the highway the other way. It led to a bigger village and another long highway after that one.

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Today was a weekend and we got to sleep in. Except for the people who haven't finished their Phase Two of their project, which included me and thirteen other people. Before noon, I finished Phase Two and our group started on our Service Learning. We had an hour and thirty to go around town and socialize with the local people their. We should at least talk to three people for at last ten minutes. We first stopped at another Mr. Duan who constructed doors. We talked to him and asked him about his childhood, his job and other things.

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After finishing up interveiwing six people, Jason and I went biking with the new bikes that we got yesterday. We set out for Lake Erhai only knowing the direction. We went in that direction but we ended up in a huge field with many farmers. We turned around and tried another route. That route led us to a road next to the big field. The road was deserted with only just on obstacle; a pile of brown stuff. The road was really long and soon we went into another village. The village was almost like Xizhou but a little smaller with narrower roads.

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Hiking up a mountain in Xizhou was really facinating and fun. On the way, we could see the town of Dali and Lake Erhai. It was a wonderful view. It was a quick twenty five minute hike up to a waterfall. At the end of the trail, we rested a little, relaxed, skipped stones and took some pictures. Even though the view up at the waterfall wasn't that great, we still had fun taking pictures of each other. We hiked down to a tea plantation where we were able to taste different types of tea and even pick tea leaves. It was cool to be like a farmer and collect tea leaves out in the sun.

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Yesterday was a starry and clear night so the heat escaped the village. We woke up in the cold, and had another delicious breakfast. We had our first room inspections made by the master of room checks: Mr. Tafel. He made everything out of order a big deal. For example, he picked up a wrapper and was so overwhelmed by it. He sniffed everyone just to make sure it was nobody in our room. He threw the wrapper in the trash and asked us when was the trash last emptied. We said that it was emptied at least 2 days ago. He finally sighed and yelled at us that we should have emptied it.

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This is the first regular Microcampus day where we plan out what we do and we start our projects. In the morning, we discussed about time managment and what we should do during WIPPI time. WIPPI means Wellness, Inquiry Project and Pitching In. The time limit is usually from 1-5 and we do what we need to do such as our wellness plan, project and committee work. I went over to Lindon Centre to practice my piano. The piano was a keyboard and the pedals don't work. The sound coming from it was different and I just had to get used to it. I biked and played ping-pong.

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We explored Xizhou and I was surprised that the residents there were really nice and had a huge history to them selves. We met a person who was from Hunan and he sold caramel candy shaped like an animal to us for five RMB. He was really nice and I want to learn why he came to Xizhou and how he makes a living by selling candy. We arrived at a square and we ate lunch. I ate lunch at "Golden Flower". I really liked their beef with onions. Next time I go there, I might even order two plates of that dish while I try something else. We walked back and had sometime to rest a little.

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I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to catch the plane. I arrived to Hongqiao to find 15 more sleepy faces accompanied by their parents. We checked in 18 suitcases and all but 2 were under 20 kg. The plane was 3 hours long and I slept half the time. We ate hamburgers at Hamburger at Kunming Airport. The restaurant name was called Hamburger and was almost like Chinese McDonalds. Then we went on a 6 hour bus ride to Xizhou. On the bus, many people were 'hit'. That means they realized that they are actually here and that it will be different in Shanghai.

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It's already almost time to go to yunnan. Seems like just yesterday that Mr. Tafel introduced MC to us. I am excited but I am going to miss my friends in shanghai.

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I am from Chicago. I have two other siblings. I was new to SAS and China. I have lived in Chicago all my life. I play piano, tennis and enjoy basketball. I also love traveling but I have never been away from my home alone for more than one month. Xizhou was a very beautiful rural town and I got to appreciate the weather, air and scenery during my stay there. I haven't been to a lot of places on the west side of China so the trip was valuable to me. I learned as much as possible here and took a lot back with me to Shanghai.