Anna G. (Alumni-L)'s Journal

During the application process for Microcampus, we wrote why we wanted to attend. That was eight months ago. I stated reasons about getting out of the bubble and trying new things. I said that I had never done anything like this before, and thought it would be different and exciting. When I think back, I really did not know much about what Microcampus was like before comign here. I knew the basic just of it from Mr. Tafel's presentation, but I couldn't truly understand. Applying so early had an affect on me. It gave me time to develop this idea in my head of what it was goign to be like.

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Today Mr. T gave us a quote of the day by Warren Buffet: "Someone is sitting under the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."  I think this applies to microcampus in many ways. First of all, within our own projects and selves. A few months back we began thinking and developing ideas for our Inquiry Project. We did work ahead of time that including dicision making, planning ahead, and research. Some other groups, Mr. T has said, made the decision to slack back on this work, therefore giving them a less relaxed, more work-filled time here.

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During my time here, I met many people. Those who I met for my Inquiry Project basically sat down with me and told me their life stories. Now that I think about, these conversations were probably some of my only chances to do this sort of thing. It's not everyday, not even close actually, that I would be able to talk to a stranger and suddenly know their life better than most people. It was very interesting for me to here these people out, whether they were giving me one side of the story or another.

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At microcampus, we do our own laundry. It may sound like a a very "grown up" thing to do, but it's really quite simple. There are three laundry session per day, during our assigned day. In the morning, we take our clothes to the laundry courtyard, carrying them in very fashionable back-baskets. We try, and only sometimes succeed, to get the door open with one of the four laundry keys. Once in, we fill up the two washing machines with our clothes, darks and lights, and put in maybe a little too much purple detergent.

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Mr. Du is a collector of ancient art. He has all sorts of pots, vases, scrolls, metals, and so much more. They come from multiple different dynasties, such as tang, song, and ming, meaning these art pieces are hundreds of years old. Basically, they were very popular for wealthy famillies and foreigners in these times. However, when that particular dynasty would end (when there was an uprising), the pots would stop being sold, and so there would be thousands of pots left alone.

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The day started out with me forgetting it was the weekend and waking up at 6:40 to shower. It was too late when I realized I didn't need to be at breakfast until after nine, and I couldn't fall back asleep. I knew I would be working today so I was frustrated when I realized I did not get as much sleep as I could have. Nonetheless, I was ready for the day. It was a "chill" weekend schedule, but our final products for our inquiry products are due on Monday, so everyone suspected it wouldn't be very "chill".

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Ma Jiang is a very famous Chinese board game. Many of the villagers here play it in their free time. The Linden Centre has a Ma Jiang table of their own, and thankfully some of my fellow micro-mates know how to play. I had missed a few learning sessions early on in the trip but yesterday and today Alice and Cameron took me right in and taught me how to play.

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Last night, we took our first trip to Dali Old Town. All nine of us climbed onto the bus and were there within 30 minutes. Dali Old Town is the closest "big city" to XiZhou, so we went for a field trip. Dali is quite busy, and yesterday was especially crowded because it is still the Third Month Festival. There were vendors shouting and playing music up and down the street. We hadn't heard that much noise since we came to XiZhou. One interesting story we were told was about one of the street's names. The top part of the street is called HuGuo Lu, or "protect the country street".

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The past two days have been thick with smoke. Crop burning is the culprit. Three foot piles of crops are gathered in bunches and lit on fire. You can see the the thick white vapor slowly rise out of the pile and then creep in the direction of the wind. The smoke is nearly opaque. I was walking back from starting the laundry we when came upon this road block. (I was ecstatic because three of my shirts and my only pair of denim jeans had gone missing at laundry over a week ago and now they had suddenly reappeared.) We held our breaths and sprinted through white.

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Mr. T is extremely interested and knowledgable on the topic of genetics. Tonight, he gave an hour long presentation on his research, and invited the Centre guests to come as well; sounds boring, but it wasn't. In his family, he was assigned to study the history of his mother's family, Lee, while his cousin was meant study the Tafel name. Mr. T's first order of business was to figure out if they are related to General Robert E. Lee, as apparently every Lee family believes they are. Almost all of his research was discovered based on Y-DNA.
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Today I was sitting in the meeting room, updating my Phase Three workspace, when Mr. T walked in with two little girls I have become familiar with over the past week. They are around nine years old and seem to be best fiends; I never see them without one another. Their parents own two restaurants right next to each other in Sifang Jie. I am not sure of their Chinese names, but on the first day I met them, Mr. T gave them English names: Anna and Carrie.

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When we got back from the hike, it was suddenly May. The saying is "April showers brings May flowers" but here it's more like "April garlic brings May rice". All of the garlic has been bagged up in purple bags that line the street from the Linden Centre to Sifang jie. Now, the rice harvest will begin. Rice is amazing, but I'm going to miss the smell of fresh garlic. There has also been another big change in the fields: the irrigation system has been turned on. Water fills canals between rectangles of rice fields.

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As we settled into our sleeping bags the night before, I could already tell this was going to be a rough night. It was freezing cold and the wind was flapping violently against the tent. After lying unamused for around half an hour, we made the adventure of going to the bathroom, which was not a short one considering everyone could see very far in most directions.

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I woke up to the sound of Mr. T's voice telling us to do our count-off. It doesn't help that I'm number one in this endeavor. "One!", I yell, as loud as I can for someone who's still half asleep. Within thirty minutes, our tents and bags were packed up and we were down at the farmhouse for breakfast.

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This morning, we set off on day one of our three day hike. After a short bus ride, we arrived at the base of the mountain. There, we met the three mules that would be carrying our tents plus extra water for us. I am sure they already had some sort of name, but George and I gave them endearments anyway: Michael, Henry, and Walter. Shortly after, we took our first step towards a long, challenging, beautiful, journey.

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Last night for evening activity, we had Mr. T's Allstar Super Duper Wizbang Trivia Night, hosted by Mr. T, directed by Mr. T, invented by Mr. T, and coordinated by Ms. Mai... and Mr. T! It was by far the most fun night I have had here. There were three teams, each with their own costumes and team names. The questions came from a trivia game from 1984, so the host had too skip past many questions, such as ones about which brand of panty hoes the Rockettes wore.

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It is the tenth day of Microcampus, and the second Monday. Many alumni warned me that the first week would feel painfully slow; however, to me, it flew by. At the same time though, I can see where they are coming from. It's like this: I cannot believe it is already day ten, but I have experienced so much it seems like I have been here so much longer. The one really big event of each Microcampus month is the Three Day Hike, which we are rapidly approaching.

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This morning, as we biked back from the tongue of Lake Erhai (erhai roughly translating to ear), I thought about the night before. When we arrived at the campsite, Mr. T and Ms. Mai gave a simple demonstration of how to put up the tent. "Simple." Most of it did end up being simple, too, after we completed step one. Step one is to find a place for your tent, where all four stakes will go all the way into the ground. When Mr. T found his place, he walked around in a small radius and said, "Eh, this area feels good" then stuck his stakes into the ground, without bending them.

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For my second inquiry adventure, I went with Ms. Mai to XiZhou's glass noodle factory, if it can even be called a factory. Basically rice is squished through a metal outline that cuts the sticky mixture through thin, noodle-shaped holes, drying it slightly on the way. These thousands of noodles are then hung up to dry for a night. After this, they are wrapped up in around 200 gram clumps and packaged. They are then sent out, half going to various restaurants and families in XiZhou and the other half traveling out by bus to Xiaguan, Dali Old Town, and even Kunming.

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This journal post is required by my humanities class, to discuss culture here in XiZhou. However, I find this topic very interesting anyway and enjoyed writing about my findings:

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Yesterday afternoon, we set off on a field trip. Six of us went to the tie-dye factory, including me, and two people went to the wind farm. We arrived after a short bus ride and there were huge tie-dyed cloths covering the walls leading into the factory. Most were a beautiful indigo color with some parts remaining white. This is the authentic, natural coloring used for this art style.

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Outside of the Linden Centre, so far Aavia and I have eaten fried noodles (chao xi mian), Mr. Yang's fried rice (chao fan), won ton (hun dun) soup, and noodle soup (mian tao) for our meals. We have also had XiZhou Baba, sweet milk popsicles, and tortilla-like wraps with brown sugar syrup (chinese name pending) as snacks. Today at lunch, we sat with Ms. Mai and ate the fried noodle dish, which tasted great. However, it was loaded with oil, leaving me feeling a bit queasy.

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After completeing our morning activities in the Centre, including our first SAS essentials session, we headed out on our first bike ride. We stacked on our labeled helmet, day pack, and neon safety vest, because safety always comes first in Microcampus! We definitely don't want any trips to the Dali Hospital this trip. We learned the "bike getting" procedure and headed out. We technically were out of XiZhou in just a couple minutes. Breath taking views came into view and I had to moderate my glances while focusing on the task at hand.

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Today, we spent most of the day learning our way around the Linden Centre and XiZhou. The Linden Centre holds a variety of rooms that we can choose to spend our time in to work, relax, or exercise in. This place feels very homey already and I am glad to be spending my time not out in the village here in the Centre. During our "tour" of XiZhou, we learned how to always find our way back to the Linden Centre.

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Day One of Microcampus was, in one word, tiring. It always seems strange to me that people are tired after traveling. After all, it's just sitting on a plane, train, or automobile, but it is very tiring, especially after a crazy busy week of Annie rehearsal and performances. As I woke up at 4:45 a.m., I silently wished that I had just one more week in Shanghai to get myself together before shooting off to XiZhou. However, I was very excited to arrive and maybe even get some sleep on the way.

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From April 10th to the 11th the Limitless group spent our first night together, although not in XiZhou. We had a Lock in at school where we learned a lot of important information preparing us for XiZhou, as well as bonding with our group members. I made my first video reflection about the Lock in and my thoughts before leaving, which can be found here!!!

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Just a little over three months ago, I received an email from Mr. T welcoming me to the Microcampus community. I had been thinking about going to Xizhou since the beginning of 7th grade and was, of course, overjoyed by the news of my acceptance. Last year, a couple of my 8th grade friends, such as Grace S, went away for their month of Microcampus and came back full of smart and fun experiences to share. Since then, I have been eagerly awaiting this amazing trip and have watched friends, from groups Ignite and Jailbreak, come and go from Xizhou.

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I am 14 years old and have been living in Shanghai for about four years now. I go to Shanghai American School in Pudong and went to XiZhou as part of the Limitless group in the Spring of 2015. I learned about the people in XiZhou as well as their role in the cuisine. Microcampus was an amazing experience for me and I will always miss the beautiful views, the people, the amazing food, and I will remember the countless life lessons Mr. T taught us. If anyone needs any advice for their Inquiry Project or going to Microcampus in general, please contact me!