Sara L. (Alumni-J)'s Journal

Before leaving for Microcampus we were asked to think about why we wanted to go to Microcampus. This was also a part of the application proces. Now we are asked to reflect on why we came to Microcampus. From when I applied to Microcampus about three months to about five weeks ago at the lock in. However, this was not a significant change as I had not been to Xizhou. At the lock in, I said that I was going to Microcampus because I wanted to prove that I was responsible enough to handle this experience and I felt like I had not been given that oppertunity in the past.

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Today is our last day in the village and it is quite bitter sweet. While we are all upset that our Microcampus experince is ending, and do not want to say goodbye to Xizhou, we are very much ready for Christmas break. None of us are ready to say goodbye to the spicy potatoes, popsiscles, Tai Fei Chao Fan, or of course, all of our local friends. When I first arrived at Microcampus, I thought that it was going to be FOREVER until I got back to Shanghai, but the time has gone much too quickly. I felt like it was just yesterday that we were sitting on the bus in anticipation.

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Mr. Yang, Our Service Learning Partner

Today was the big day of our Service Learning presentations. We confirmed with Mr. Yang, our service learning partner, that we would pick him up from his shop at 2:40. At 2:30 Max and Noam left to go get him. After they got there he took awhile to get ready. While he was getting ready they talked to him and found out that his wife would not be attending due to the bad weather. We were dissapointed, but appreciated that Mr. Yang still wanted to come.

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This entire trip, the weather here has been impecable. Every day has been sunny and not very cold. We have our daily meeting in the sun and soak it all up. Today, something strange happened, the sun did not come. By the time the daily meeting came around, everyone was astonished at the lack of sun. We did not know what to do. We still had our daily meeting outside, as if it was sunny. During lunch, the sun came out for about 1 minute, and we all ran to bask in it. 

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As today is again primarily a work day, we were all looking for a long lunch. I ate with Alexis, Noam, and Kelly. Kelly Noam and I had to film our Daily Video Shout Out for today, so after we finished eating Alexis agreed to help us o film. After we had gotten through some serious filming, and a lot more bloopers, we set off for an adventure in the Muslim district of town. We first strolled past the Xizhou baba stand on the left of the street and watched them make baba for a little bit. After that we continued down the street.

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I am guessing that you would assume that today would be a very chill day, as it is our last weekend here, but you are wrong. As our Inquiry Projects are due for a first review tomorrow at 2:00, and our Service Learning projects are due on Tuesday, we were all pretty busy. I slept in as late as I could and still eat breakfast, then completed my wellness reflection for Week 3. After that was done, I watched Mr. T attempt to get the hacky-sack off the roof for about a half an hour. Then, I finally settled in to work on my Inquiry Project. 

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As you know, my work group has been struggling to find a Service Learning Partner. We had many options for service learning, but then, all on the same day, they all quit on us. My group was at a loss for what to do. That was, until we met Mr. Yang. 
 

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Last night, we went on a horse cart ride to the tounge of the lake, as I had planned as apart of the evening planning activity. The ride was about a half an hour, and I enjoyed watching the scenery as we went by. After we got to the tougne there was almost no light left in the sky and stars were beginning to appear. After establishing some baseline rules, a few people split off to have some still time or a quiet talk with friends. I initally stayed with the group, talking about things like service learning and inquiry projects. 

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Drinking Water

I have decided to do this final earth journal on drinking water in Xizhou. I have learned that some of the drinking water in Xizhou comes from a treatment plant up in the mountains. Almost all the people who get their water from there boil their water before drinking it. Some people also get their water from a nearby well, and are very confident in its cleanliness.

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Today is the due date for Phase Three! This means that after today there will be no more researching, just sharing. This is quite frightening. You have to understand, for the past 6 and a half weeks I have been gathering information and researching my topic, all for this one project. I know that I have gathered a ton of information, more than I ever could've imagined, but there is just so much more I could learn.

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Today was the day that my learning group and I had an appointment to film some elders for our service learning project. We called them at about 11:00 this morning to confirm our appointment. They responded by saying that they are "busy" this entire week, and all of next week. Mr. T had warned us that this was most likely going to happen, but it still hurt. I really thought that this couple would be our service learning partners. 

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Our group recently went on a three day hike up the Cong Shan moutains. Up there there was a lot to observe about the atmosphere, my chosen sphere. I noticed that around dusk there were huge winds that came through. This made it rather difficult to set up a tent. The reason for these big winds is because warm air rises, so all day the warm air from the group is rising and pushing the cold air up so that it is around the top of the mountains. Then, when the sun goes down there is no more warm air to rise so the cold air falls down the side of the mountain and creates massive winds.

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Today is our first day back in Xizhou, and I'm enjoying it. We started the day with a meeting talking about what we were expected to get done today. After that portion of the chat was over, me, Kristen F., Kristen L., Cynthia, Max, and Caleb were released while the rest stayed behind to have an additional "talk" with Mr. T. Then, I unpacked and cleaned my room. This took longer than I expected because the girls of Room 9 are attempting to win two straight room inspections. 

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Sunrise on the Mountain

After waking up at 6:30, packing up our tents, eating breakfast, and enjoying the sunrise, we began to hike up to the peak of the mountain. The hike started with more than 200 stairs. Yes, I counted. After the 200 stairs, we came to a very extreme path. I lost track of time while we were on that path, all I know is that after that torture, the grassy field was bliss. We stopped and rested at a flat part for about 15 minutes, and then continued. 

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Today was the first day of the big three day hike! We began at 2,000 and then hopped on the bus that was to take us to the base of the mountain. When we got off, Mr. T pointed out a tiny white dot, about 75% of the way up the mountain and told us that that is where we would be staying the night. I'm certain you could hear the groans from that tiny white dot on the mountain. 

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As apart of my inquiry project, I attended a funeral today. It was very very different than I had expected. When I first walked in with Katie we were very, very nervous. We didn't quite know if it was proper for us to be there or what was going on. We first attempted to talk to some of the ladies who were preparing food, but they were swamped. Then, we kind of wandered around for a little while not knowing what to do. After that, a table noticed our lost looks and invited us over to sit with them. We were shy at first, but eventually went over there.

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Mr. T has been giving us some quotes at the daily meetings and today we are required to write about one of them. I chose "We are what we repeatedly do. Exellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." This to me means that you cannot fake exellence when you think someone important is watching. Exellence comes from steady good habits for an extended period of time that eventually add up to one exellent final product. 

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Our group seems to be having some difficulty cleaning the dishes thuroughly. Apparently, there are more fun things to do in Xizhou. (What are they talking about?) Because I am a proud memebr of the dishwashing committee, it is my job to inspect the dishes after the people on dish duty are "finished" washing. Recently they have not been up to snuff, so Mr. T, Katie, and I decided that we needed to have a little talk about dishwashing. I gave this talk due to my supreme dish washing skills and incredible lecturing talents. 

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Yesterday was the first time that the Jailbreak group got to witness the incredible, all original musical, Phantom of the Room Inspector. The opening seen shows The Phantom, played by the incredible Mr. T, walking into a sterile room, ready for inspection when... An explosion of poison! Half of his faced is badly scarred, forcing him to wear a beanie sideways so that it covers half of his face. He can now continue inspecting rooms with only a slight vision impairment. 

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After a long night of camping with many adventures such as, Kelly waking me up because she thought there was a duck in our tent, Kelly laying on top of me, not being able to feel my toes, and a duck sitting on top of our tent for about an hour we finally got the reward we had all been waiting for. First we woke up at 6:25 to see the International Space Station. we sat chattering about 5 meters from the water and watched the illuminated night sky in anticipation. After the initial shock of seeing it I finally realized that there are people up there right now.

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Today we got an introduction to the Service Learning project. I expected this introduction to go something like: Talk to people, make connections x 200. Instead we got a mini-lesson on Chinese History. By mini I mean 3 hours but who's counting? This may sound boring but it was actually fascinating. Of course this is all due to mr. T's excellent teaching strategies. I've never really been interested in history, but that's probably to blame on all the Michiganian history I was forced to learn in the third grade. There's really only so much you can learn about the war of 1812.

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Yesterday Kelly and I combined wellness and still time. We ran about 2 miles to a close by village and sat and did our still time there. As I sat and just observed the people going about their lives I noticed both differences and similarities between this village and XIzhou. I noticed that people there seemed to be rushing around to do things more, where in Xizhou there is a more relaxed atmosphere. I noticed that if I smiled and said ni hao to someone passing by, they would simply return it with a weak smile.

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Today is my room's turn for laundry. This is the first time that I will be doing laundry on the trip. I expected it to be the worst thing ever, but it's not so bad. Hannah, Alexis, Kristen L and I all came over here together. Alexis was filming Hannah and I for our daily video shout out and Kristen was coming along so that we could do the laundry. Our daily video shout out filming consisted of much singing, laughter and an overall good time. The lovely songs include: "We're going to do the laundry", "This road is cracked" and "Get the bucket of water".

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Today is the first day of Microcampus in which we are using our regular day-to-day schedule. This means that today is the first day of WIPPIS time. WIPPIS is a four hour block in which we have time to do Wellness, Inquiry Project, Pitching in and Still Time. This is easily the biggest responsibility that we are given throughout the trip. It is our job to manage our time in a way that we can get everything done. We have to do this without reminders from teachers. This is a huge responsibility in terms of time management.

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Garlic Crops at Sunset

Our science assignment while at Microcampus is to create three journal posts. We must observe the hydrosphere and also choose from the lithosphere, biosphere and atmosphere and observe one of these. These are very interrelated when you think about rain shadowing. Rain shadowing is what protects the valley from storms and rain clouds. Clouds come up to the back of the mountain and then are pushed against it and rise up. Because the air is colder at the top of the mountain the clouds condense and then there are big storms. Then the clouds pass over the mountain and evaporate.

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Today was the day of the daunting 3 hour bike ride. Let's just say that I'm not "the best" on bikes. Let's also say that it wouldn't be unresonable to asume that I was not looking forward to this. While I made progress on my biking "issues", I still didn't feel quite ready for this big of an adventure. We started off the bike ride with heading down the busy street that connects Yang Zhou Ran and Shi Fang Jie. I didn't really "enjoy" that part.

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Because today was our first full day in Xizhou, we took quite a long tour of the village. On this tour we saw many things, such as, expansive garlic fields, some very cute kids, a beautiful embroidery shop with gorgeous trees creating comfortable shade, noodles and blankets being made. Although I thoroughly enjoyed all of these things, my favorite was the small rice factory. It amazed me how such a small family business could create some much product. It was also alarming yet comforting how welcoming this family was to us.

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Day 1 was a day full of much sitting, many bathroom breaks, and even more bonding. As soon as I walked into the Microcampus meeting spot at 5:15 am, I could feel the nervous excitement. It was buzzing from person to person with each connection and realization that we made. As Mr.T "encouraged" parents to let us organize and take care of our bags on our own, we could all suddenly grasp what this month is going to be like. We would be responsible for more than we had in our entire lives.

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The lock in was a unique combination of educational and entertaining that can only be expected from a Microcampus activity. We started with presentations from Mrs. Regan and Nurse Chen. We then ordered our pizza. This may sound simple but a lot of decisions were involved. We had to decide how many pizzas to get. We also had to calculate the budget and decide on toppings. On top of all of this, we had to effectively order without them thinking that it was a prank call. After everything was set to be delivered at 6:15. Mr. Tafel took us through the daily routine.

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I have now offically started my Microcampus work. For me that sentence means many things. It means that I am now an active Microcampus student, something that I have been anticipating for awhile. It also means that all of my friends that have gone on previous trips and throwing advice at me from every which way. In addition, I'm getting questions from my friends going on future trips. Most importantly, I have begun to feel a sence of community with the peers that I will be traveling with.

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Hi I'm Sara and I'm a 14 year old 8th grader at Shanghai American School Pudong Campus. I went to Xizhou as a part of the Jailbreak group in November and December of 2014. I loved Xizhou and am so happy to have had this experience!