Lucas P. (Alumni-C)'s Journal

Today was the last day of Microcampus, and I'm really going to miss this place. In the afternoon, Mr. Tafel took a group of students out to go antique hunting, and I managed to buy a 600 year old vase and a traditional CHinese painting, all for only 250 RMB! There is such an abundance of antiques here in Xizhou, antique dealers are able to sell extremely valuable pieces for ridiculously low prices because they just have so much in there inventory. I think it is amazing that I can just walk into a shop and just buy a 600 year old vase without it being a big deal at all.

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Today marked the final day to work on our service learning videos, and everyone worked furiously to get them done on time for the 3:00 PM showing. Hannah, Natalie and I were in a group together, and our service learning partner was Mr. Yang, a 94 year retired accountant. Sadly, when it was time to go and pick up our service learning partners to show them the movies, only one showed up, Mr. Zhao, the security guard here. Either they weren't home, they had just disappeared, or people couldn't get in contact with them, and in our case, Mr. Yang had a fever and had to stay home.

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Today was our final day to work on inquiry project work, and although it ment spending a lot of time behind a computer screen, it was worth it, and I'm really quite proud of my work. I spent a lot of time just refining and editing, because the meat of all my work was already finished. As I looked over everything I had written, I was able to notice little details that I hadn't before, and make sure that they meshed with the overall feel of the project.

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Today Colton, Jorge, and I went running out to the fields and artificial ponds down the road from the Linden Center, and we had a lot of fun just messing around. We came across a little stream connecting two ponds that was just a few meters across, and we then had the great idea to start jumping over it. We then spent the next 15 minutes jumping over again and again, and luckily only one of us fell (cough, cough, Jorge).

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Today was a busy day for me, starting off getting up early to make pancakes, doing my laundry, finishing up my Phase 4 to get ready for the final stage of my inquiry project, and finally heading out to Dali Old Town for a fun half day trip. I woke up at 7:10 this morning, only to realize seconds later that Jorge and I were supposed to be early to breakfast this morning so could make pancakes for everyone. I managed to squeeze in a quick 5 minute shower and get there ten minutes early.

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Although most of my day was pretty uneventful, because I spent most of it just working on finishing up my Phase 3, I still had a lot of fun making the daily video shout out with Katie, Aakshi, and Colton and then hanging out on the terrace trading jokes with everyone. I was up for video shout out duties today, and Colton and I were entertained by Aakshi and Katie's "amazing" performance.

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Today I went to the mosque for the sixth time, and the timing was perfect. After the daily prayer service, many of the members of the mosque had gathered together to vote for a new representative of the mosque's community. This is something that happens only every three years, and I somehow managed to stumble in at just the right time to catch it! Mr. Yang the antique shop owner was also there, and he was the one who informed Mr. Tafel and I about what was happening.

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Today I tried to pay another visit to the local mosque, but when I got there, the doors were locked, and I had to change my plans. Instead, I went to talk with Mr. Yang the antique shop owner, because I have talked to him before, and he has given me a lot of good information on Islam here. After about 15-20 minutes chatting, Ying Yang and I went back to Yang Zhuo Ran and I got together with my service learning group: Hannah and Natalie. We then went to go pay a visit to another Mr. Yang, the 94 year old retired lawyer.

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We spent most of today just treking downhill, and stopping only a few times, because we all jus twanted to get back to our warm beds back at Yang Zhuo Ran. On the way down, I tied with Grace for the prize of most falls, with the grand total coming to 5, and I now owe Jorge 500 RMB (just kidding, the bets off). Most people complained about knees, hips, and feet hurting, but the only thing that was really causing me pain were my shoulders.

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Today we all woke up around 8:00 so that by the time breakfast arrived on the mules, we would be all packed and ready to go to our next camp site at Hua Dian Ba. We only had about two hours of hiking before we reached our destination, and it was definitely worth all of the blood (not really), sweat, and tears. We stopped at sort of hill that went above the rest of the plains to take a ton of pictures, and one big group picture. As we reached the camp site, we were greeted by a herd of Yak and the generous amounts of their poop dotting the landscape.

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Today we started the three day expedition into the mountains, and we definitely got what we bargained for. We hiked up the base of the mountains, reached a long stretch of fields, and mother nature then decided to do her best to keep us from getting any farther. After hiking for four hours under the cover of trees in sunlight, we proceed to head into the plains and get pelted with hail, rain, and lightning that was way too close for comfort.

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Today I went to Wu Li Qiao for the second time, but this time with Yin Yang acting as my translator. Mr. T had gone into town to run some errands, so it was just me and Yin Yang at the mosque. After the prayer service, we sat down and had a nice long chat with Mr. Ali about his religion. He answered a lot of questions I had about certain customs and the significance of certain actions during prayer. When I got back to Yang Zhuo Ran I had amassed a good solid block of information to put in my Phase 3, and Mr.

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Today I originally intended to go to the mosque to see the Ahong and ask him some questions, but when Mr. Tafel and I arrived at the front gate, it was locked, and we couldn't hear any activity on the inside. Although it sounds like bad news, things took a turn for the better when Mr T. decided to just take me on a walk. As we walked around XIzhou, we talked about many different things, and many of these were very personal things you don't just casually talk about with someone.

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Today Mr. Tafel took Alisa and I to Dali Old Town, where each of us had something to see for our inquiry projects. I went to go see the biggest mosque in Dali, called Wu Li Qiao, and Alisa went to go see all the wood carvers, most of which have conviniently set up shop on the same street. At Wu Li Qiao, we watched a prayers service that was identical to what I'd seen at Wu Qing Zhen Si, although the mosque was filled with adolescent students clad in white robes instead of a bunch of old men. After the prayer service, Mr.

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Today started out pretty interesting, I woke up at about 3:00 AM to the sound of what I thought was the weirdest burp ever, only to realize 30 seconds later that Colton was puking in the bathroom. While he was doing this, Jorge told me that he had also been throwing up around an hour before this, but I had somehow slept through all of the commotion. I also somehow managed to sleep through Mr. Tafel coming in to check on him and make sure he was ok. Once Colton had finished throwing up, Jorge called Mr.

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After waking up early to watch a spectacular sunrise at our campsite off of lake Erhai, the group headed back to Yang Zhuo Ran for a huge breakfast. I had time for a quick shower before me and the other catholic students had to get on a bus to go to Dali Old Town for sunday mass. THe rest of the day consisted of chillaxing back at Yang Zhuo Ran until Mr. T decided to take a big group of students to go see a very special man. His name is Mr. Yang, he is 94 years old, and he has spent the better part of a century in Xizhou watching China undergoe enourmos change.

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Today the whole Microcampus group went on a camping excursion on the tongue of Lake Er Hai. After a short bike ride there, we started setting up tents. My tent mate was Jorge, and we got the tent up pretty fast, but then we had to put the last stake into the ground, and our progress was completely stopped. We proceeded to spend the next half hour attempting to jam the stake into a patch of ground that was almost solid rock. After bending, un-bending, bending, and un-bending the metal stake about 20 times and only managing to get it about a centimeter into the ground, I had given up.

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Today Ivy and I went to the mosque to attend the Friday Juma'ah at the mosque, and Mr. Tafel caught up with us about halfway through. In total, we were there for over an hour, and it was really cool to watch everyone praying. Today there was a lot more diversity in terms of age groups at the mosque, with the youngest member of the congregation looking to be about 9 years old, and the oldest at a ripe old age of about 90. For the first 30 minutes or so, people were praying as they waited for everyone to trickle in and the Ahong (Imam) to start his sermon.

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Today Mr. Yang, the owner of an antique shop in Si Fang Jie, took Mr. Tafel, Ivy, Vincent, Hannah, and I to the local mosque. It is a five minute walk away from Si Fang Jie, and it is called "San Qing Zhen Si", which means simply, the third mosque. We got to the mosque about half an hour before midday prayers, and during that time I was able to ask the Ahong some questions using Mr. Tafel, Ivy, and Vincent as translators. Ahong is the Chinese word for Imam, which is the leader of a mosque, and the Ahong has a similar role to a priest or preacher in a Christian church.

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Today I just took a breath and spent the day just soaking up my surroundings. Most of the group was a little behind on inquiry project work, so we all just used the day to catch up. It was really great to just have time to slow things down and have time to think. After a delicious lunch at the fried rice restaurant, I headed back to Yang Zhou Ran and chilled in the piano room with Ying Yang. Ying Yang is a great pianist, and he was unsuccessfully trying to teach me the piano part from the movie Cloud Atlas.

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Today Mr. Tafel took the guys and me (plus Ivy) on a two hour long bike ride that took us all the way to lake Erhai. Our first stop was at the Bamu temple, a Benzhu temple just off the shore of lake Erhai. The temple was chock full of depictions of deities from Buddhism, Taoism, Daoism, and even some local deities that are unique to just that temple.

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I started off the day with an early wake up to snap some pictures of the beautiful sunrise, and you can see my best picture above. It was very peaceful to watch the sun's slow ascent above the mountains, with the birds providing a relaxing soundtrack. Today was really just about laying down the groundwork for how we were going to spend the next month here in Xizhou. We spent quite a bit of the morning figuring out our daily meeting responsibilities and discussing how we were going to do our committee work.

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My first real day here in Xizhou, and my expectations have already been blown out of the water. After a short tour of the Yang Zhou Ren living space, Mr. Tafel took a group of catholic students including myself out to a church in Dali Old Town. The church is an amazing building, built in the traditional Bai architectural style, and it is decorated with colorful paint. We arrived a little late, but we got there in time to have Communion and here some of the local Chinese versions of gospel music.

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After a long day of flying in crowded airplanes and staring out the window of a bus, I'm finally here in Xizhou, and all I can say is, it was definitely worth it. The day started with a 3:40 AM wake up that left the whole group dragging their suitcases into the airport with bleary eyes and shuffling feet. Soon after a quick goodbye to our parents we found that a few of us (definitely not me) were a several kilos over the bag weight limit of 20 Kg, with one of us exceeding the limit by six kilos (not me at all). Then all boarded the plane to Kunming and settled in for a long flight.

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I'm 15 years old and I am really happy that I went to Xizhou. I was born in Mexico, and have lived in three other countries since then, including Shanghai. I chose to study the diverse religions here and I hoped to gain new understanding on my own faith, and what makes spirituality such an important part of people's lives. I looked forward to fumbling my way through conversations in Chinese and learning as much as I can over the weeks I was at Microcampus.