Katie C. (Alumni-J)'s Journal

Some may recall, I have had a post about why I think I came to Microcampus. However, after I have attended this amazing program, I realize that some of these reasons differ from the reasons that I originally thought that they would be.

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Today was a day of goodbyes and conclusions. For instance, one of the assignments we recieved were to change all of our profiles into past tense, in preperation for being alumni of Microcampus. This was extremely symbolic for me. However, I am also excited for being labeled as alumi after this trip. Today, we also finished our final packing and shopping. A couple of students and I went on an antique run lead by Mr. Tafel.

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Today, we presented our Service Learning projects to our Service Learning partners. It was also raining today, so our group and I put on our rain gear and headed out to pick up our partner, YangGuoLiang. We approached his house and knocked on his door. He eventually came out of the door, and invited us in again to see his dog's newborn puppies. Obviously, we went in. The puppies were adorable, as they were born two days before. After our fair share of gushing over the puppies, we left for the Service Learning sharing.

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Today was the due date for our Inquiry Projects. Also, this was the day all of our Service Learning was due. Several of us were extremely stressed because of these due dates. Unfortunately, I was one of these people. Due to the fact that I am one of the only Chinese speakers in my Service Learning group, I went to interview our Service Learning partner for one last time. 

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Today, Sara and I went in search of the Muslim mosque, QingZhenSi. Because I have been to the mosque at least three times, I thought that I would know the route somewhat well. However, we ended up going in a cirlcle and getting lost. Actually, we were never really lost, from past experience, I learned that in XiZhou, everything leads everywhere. Also, the people here are extremely welcoming, so I could always ask for directions.

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Today was when the full impact of all the work we had to do hit me. There are two very important things due on Monday: Our final product of our Inquiry Work (for teacher review), and all the footage for Service Learning. Although there was nothing really special about today, we were all very busy and trying to get most of our work done. However, we still had some down time to just enjoy being in XiZhou. 

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Today, we are required to write about the hydrosphere in XiZhou. Obviously, the hydrosphere is a very broad topic, which is why I am going to focus on Lake Erhai in XiZhou. Lake Erhai plays a huge role in both the human and the natural part of XiZhou. For instance, the side of the mountain facing Lake Erhai has completely different vegetation than the other side facing away from Lake Erhai.

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As the deadline for Service Learning is coming up, many of us are becoming more stressed about this. Therefore today, Kristen L. and I went to our potential Service Learning parter and interviewed him, to secure him as our partner. Our partner is a tailor, and each time we go and talk to him, he is always on his sewing machine. During today's interview, we learned that he can speak English, and that he is very knowledgable in general about the humanities.

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Today, most of us boarded the bus at 5:45 headed "all the way" to Dali Old Town. In actuality, Dali Old Town is not that far away; a 30 minute bus ride, maximum. This is intended as a break from the busy work we have had, and finally being able to be a tourist in a tourist town. After Mr. Tafel has sufficiently cautioned us with stories of the misadventures of the other trip groups in Dali Old Town, we guardedly walked down the bus. Mr. Tafel then gave us a quick tour of the streets in Dali Old Town, then we were off to explore by ourselves.

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Because we are required to eat outside of YangZhuoRan for at least one meal per day, the students here at Microcampus has discovered many of XiZhou's delicacies. For example, one of the popular snacks are the famous XiZhou baba. This is essentially a round piece of dough with additional toppings added on; rather like a pizza. Like a pizza, there are also different flavors o the baba. There is the normal salty flavor, salty with egg, and sweet.

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Today, we were required to write about a chosen sphere we observed, and our additional observations during the hike. The sphere I chose to observe was the atmosphere, and people can see my initial observations about the atmosphere in journal 7

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The people of XiZhou are very welcoming and warm to strangers. On the first day, Mr. T told us that we could step into someone's courtyard without being yelled at. At first, I doubted his words. But after spending 16 days in XiZhou, I believe that the people at XiZhou really are that welcoming. For instance, many of the people I talked to for my inquiry work were helpful. The elders that are candidates for service learning were also very forthcoming. Sometimes, we would even have to extend our etr (estimated arrival time) because we were talking to a local.

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Today is the first day of our hike. Some of us were excited, and the others dreaded this day. We put on our overstuffed hiking backpacks and proceeded to walk to our bus. The bus ride lasted approximately 20 minutes; long enough for us to feel sleepy, but not long enough for a full nap. Before starting with the hike, Mr. T pointed to a white structure on the mountain surrounded by a forest of green. He told us that that was our destination of the day. The sheer height of where the structure was located intimidated us, nevermind the slope of the mountain.

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Today was the second day of the hike. We all sleepily climbed out of our sleeping bags after Mr. Tafel acted as a human alarm clock. We put on all of our layers, and commenced to pack our tents, sleeping bags, and day packs in order to begin our most extreme day of the hike.

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Experts' finished tie dye

Yesterday, we went on a field trip to see hand made tie dye, a XiZhou specialty. In XiZhou textile shops, you can see a lot of tie dye hung up on the side of walls with elaborate patterns all over the place; but I never fully appreciated the amount of work and time it took to produce such beautiful designs. As these designs are hand-made, they are one of a kind, an you will not find them anywhere else. The people literally have to sew everything, then tie it all together. Of course, the dying process is now much shorter due to the use of powder dye.

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"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle. As many people know, Aristotle was a Greek philosopher that specialized in many topics, one of logic. He established a pattern of thought that is now labeled and widely accepted as the basis of all thinking. This quote is what Mr. T brought up today at the daily meeting. To break it down, this quote essentially means that your habits define you. Patterns of behaviour, patterns of thought. Of course, your actions would have to go through a thought process at first.

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The weather here in XiZhou is exeptional. First off, there is close to no pollution at all. People do not have to worry about wearing masks when they step outside. The air here is relatively clean, except for the occasional incinerating of garbage or farmland, and the occasional truck that would often leave behind a foul smell. Also, everyone bikes everywhere, which also means that there is less pollution.

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Painting in our room

Today marks the start of a new week. This week, we start planning our own WIPPIS times. WIPPIS stands for Wellness, Inquiry Project, Pitching In, and Service Learning. For the past few weeks, we have all been assigned schedules for our WIPPIS times. Starting from today, however, we recieve the privilege and responsibility of being able to choose how we spend our own WIPPIS time.

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Today we got back from camping. Many of us were tired due to being up by 6:25 to watch the International Space Station streak across the morning sky. Thankfully, today is a pretty laidback day with only pitching in and down time on our schedule. After we rested for a bit, Alexis decided to take a couple of us shopping. 

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Today was the practice camping day. We all were pretty excited as we packed for our trip, anticipating the adventure. What we did not anticipate, however, the freezing temperature. My bag was already overstuffed with my sleeping bag and my mat, so I was unwilling to bring more layers. And off we went, riding off on our bikes to the tongue of lake Erhai. It was tough at first, with our heavy hiking backpacks and trying not to fall off our bikes. Later, we got used to it. We finally somehow made it to the camp site, and Mr.

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Helping with the flower petals

Today is Thanksgiving. Because of this, we are all in house for dinner. This means that we all have to eat out today for lunch. After walking around SiFangJie for a while, we decided that we would eat at the Golden Flower, a popular place between past Microcampus students. I ordered the famous beef fried rice, as recommended from previous students. While we were waiting for our orders to come,  Mr Yang, the owner, called us over. He told us about how the Golden Flower has a memo book from all the people that ate at his restaurant, including the alumni and the chaperones.

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Today during wellness, Kristen Fu, Kristen Lee, Cynthia and I headed out on our bikes to the basketball court in hope that we would get 30 minutes in zone. I was in charge of bringing my backpack containing the basketball. It took about 10 minutes to bike to the court. However, I got no time in zone, and started to get anxious. Then, we proceeded to have a game of basketball. As it progressed, it began to become more and more intense, as I tried to make up my lack of time in zone during biking. At one point, I was holding the basketball and Kristen hit it out of my arms.

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Today was the first normal day of microcampus. We finished the orientation part and finally got started on our lives here. A normal day of microcampus usually goes like this: Eating breakfast, SAS essentials, daily meeting, pitching in, lunch, WIPPIS time, 545 check in, evening activity, then sleeping.

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Instead of writing a normal journal, today we were requested by our teachers to write a science journal including observations of our chosen sphere. I chose the atmosphere to observe. 

During still time here at microcampus, I would sit at a quiet place and watch the clouds. I noticed that the sizes of the clouds varies in types and size depending on the time of the day and where you are. For example at dawn, the clouds are a bit bigger and fluffier, much like a cartoon cloud; and during the morning, the clouds are wispier.

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Today, we learned the ropes of biking. We all put on oversized helmets and chose our bikes, checking if they have light reflectors and working bells. Next, we embarked on our adventure to Lake Erhai! We rode in a line, then eventually reached a communal area of a village. The locals there were selling food and all talking with each other; just generally socializing.There, we timidly approached the locals in pairs of two and started talking with them. By the end of this process, some of us really made connections with some of the locals. Mr.

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Today was all about getting to know the procedure and how things worked here in Xizhou. We went on several tours, including one of the village. During the tour of the village, we had our first meal outside of YangZhuoRan. Not that the food at YangZhuoRan is not good; no, on the contrary, the food here is quite delicious. However, I was pretty excited about being able to travel from restaurant to restaurant with my service learning group, deciding on which eatery to dine at. 2 of us from our service learning group decided to try the special bean noodles that we found at a local vendor.

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After waking up at 4 in the morning, 14 very exhausted microcampus students embarked on a journey to Xi Zhou. Due to the misty fog (or pollution, we will never know), the airplane was unable to take off for one entire hour. We waited "patiently" with minimal complaints; each of us found entertainment in different places. Some of us pulled out a book and started reading. Others were engrossed in their laptops, watching their torrented movies. Some others found solace in finding the grammar mistakes on the airplane instruction brochures. I, however, fell asleep.

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My name is Katie, and I was 13 years old when I attended Microcampus. I was born in Virginia, but moved to Shanghai ever since I was one. Because of this, I consider myself as almost fluent in speaking in Chinese. I enjoy reading fiction, playing sports, listening to music, and travelling. Microcampus was truly an unique experience. I would definitely do it all over again if I could.