Annelise V. (Alumni-M)'s Journal

When I signed up for this program, I simply did it to live up to my parents' expectations. My sister went on Microcampus, and had I not signed up, my parents would have been disappointed. Of course, I was still excited to travel back to this beautiful village. It was just that I did not fully understand the idea of why I was going, and what I was going to accomplish there. I wanted to learn about my topic, and learn how to get out of my comfort zone. Though a seemingly dull goal, this is truly what I wanted to learn. I would later find out that this was not why I came to Microcampus. 

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Today was officially our last day in Xizhou. We spent the morning tying up loose ends. After the daily meeting, we packed our bags and said a final goodbye to our favorite locals here in the village. It was tough to part ways, but I am sure that I will visit Xizhou again in the near future. After lunch, which was made up of everyone's  favorite dishes, we embarked on the hike!

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Today was our last day to work on our Inquiry Projects. However, on top of that, we had to finish up service learning. This meant a ton of stress on our shoulders, so we had to learn how to work with it. I learned a lot about my personal work habits and communication skills today. First, I learned that one of my weaknesses is communicating with my group. This morning, I felt like I had contributed least to the group, which really bothered me. When I did not know how to complete a certain part of the translation, I let my group members know.

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Today, everyone was super wrapped up in inquiry project and service learning dead lines. However, despite these challenges and stress loads, I am still always able to have lots of fun with my group mates here at Microcampus. When I was back in Shanghai, I did not even know some of these people well enough to wave to them in the halls. However, my friendships with lots of kids on the trip have improved a lot, and I feel super bonded and close with them.

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Today was our second last day to work on our inquiry work. I am really excited that all of my hard work has paid off, and that it will all be worth it in the end. However, I am a bit sad that this project is coming to an end. It has been a wonderful learning experience, and since I am really passionate and geniunely curious about my topic, I will miss learning about it. I have also had wonderful interactions with the local community, and I will miss these when I come back to Shanghai at the end of this week.

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Today, the Microcampus students were lucky enough to hear a super exciting talk. Chris, who works at the Linden Centre, introduced us to his friend Forrest when we visited Dali Old Town last week. Forrest had his huge bike with him-but he was not just biking to the old town. It turns out, Forrest is on a 2.5 year journey to bike around the world! He is stopping in various cities along the way to talk about climate change. Tonight, he shared with us some of the stories that he has heard in the three months that he has been biking.

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Today, Mr. T gave our Microcampus group and a few guests the famous genetics talk that every previous Microcampus kid has heard. It was really fun to broaden my foundation of understanding that I built in 7th grade science last year. First, we looked into the science of it. We learned that every single male on earth has the same common ancestor that came from modern-day Africa. We also learned that if two males come from the same family, they will have the exact same Y-chromosome, and unless there was a small mutation, they will have the same DNA. Afterwards, we solved two of Mr.

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In my Day 15 journal, I wrote about finding a starting service learning partner. However, it turns out that Mr. Ming was not available to do service learning with us every day. Therefore, we decided to talk to Yang Nai Nai, who's daughter-in-law is one of my local contacts, Mrs. Zhang. She is 80 years old, and is a great grandmother!

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Yesterday, Luke, Kayla and I tried baba for the first time in Sifangjie, the market square. Baba is a delicious, bready treat that is pretty popular in Xizhou. There are two variations: sweet and savory. Luke and I chose savory, while Kayla chose sweet. Her baba had some sort of rose syrup that made it sweet. My savory baba had ham, scallions, and lots of salt and butter.

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Today, Jamie, Vincent and I biked down to Lake Erhai for our wellness portion of the day. As we were biking down, I found it super fascinating to just see the people in neighboring villages going about their daily lives. In Xizhou, I have not seen as many people doing manual labor. However, when biking down some roads and near a market, I noticed that there were multiple people- both young and old- carrying heavy loads down the street.

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Today was incredibly exciting, as some of the students in our group were able to visit Dali Old Town! Despite being filled with tourists of all nationalities, I really enjoyed getting to spend time in a busy, city environment since I have spent so much time in the relaxed environment that is Xizhou. I spent my four hours with Jamie and Isabelle, and we ate lots of good food.

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This morning, we woke up, but not in our normal environment here at Yangzhouran. Instead I woke up to the sunrise at Lake Erhai (and also due to the fact that tourists tripped over our tent). On Saturday afternoon, the 10 Microcampus students, Mr. T, and our 4 other teachers biked over to the tongue of Lake Erhai. When we arrived, then sun was still shining. Jamie and I tried to quickly set up our tent, and then we ate dinner by the shore of the lake while watching the sunset.

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According to Mr. T, service learning is the most challenging part of the entire Microcampus experience. This is because we have to use our independent social skills to make strong connections with the elder generation of locals here in Xizhou. My service learning group includes Charissa, Jackie, Vincent, and myself. We just got back from the exhausting yet interesting first step of service learning.

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Today marks the half way mark of our trip. Even though I am supposed to be making the days count instead of counting the days, I would like to take this time to think about how my impressions and thoughts about Xizhou have changed over the course of the past two weeks. Before I made the journey, I was honestly terrified. One can easily see this when reading the entry I wrote before I left for Microcampus.

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Despite the fact that today was the 13th day of the 13th group, today was yet another normal day here at Microcampus. I especially enjoyed talking to Zhao Ayi, who is a waitress at one of my favorite restaurants, about my topic, child rearing. But for me, the real highlight was seeing tonight's sunset- and the following thunderstorm! It all started when the sky turned a bright pink after the sun started setting. We were all awestruck, because in Shanghai, the sky goes from gray to pitch black in 10 minutes. As soon as the starts came out, so did the lighting!

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Today was one of my favorite days so far in regard to working on my inquiry project. This is because I finally got to have the type of interactions that I imagined having when I originally chose my topic back in phase 0.  Today, Jamie and I went to have conversations with the principals and teachers at the local kindergarten.

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Today was an extremely normal day here in Xizhou. We spent the morning here at Yangzhouran, our gorgeous courtyard hotel. The view from the terrace here is always super amazing compared to the smoggy days in Shanghai. In fact, last night we were all able to see the final stage of the super blood moon from the balcony that looks into the courtyard! The stars are visible nearly every night, and it is really exciting to see them since it is such a rarity in Shanghai.

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Today was the first day that I simply went out to a public place and had conversations with people about my topic. I cannot begin to describe how nervous I was to do this. I was contemplating every thing that could possibly go wrong: people refusing to have conversations with me, forgetting what I wanted to ask, and everything else that crossed my mind. Ms. Evy and I went out to 四方街 at about 2:15 this afternoon. At first, I could not find anyone to talk to. Then, Ms. Evy introduced me to Ms. Zhang, a mother who runs a restaurant.

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Today, the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration was held at the Linden Centre here in Xizhou. In Shanghai, I just look forward to this festival because it means a break from school. But Xizhou took it to a whole new level! At seven in the evening, the Microcampus students headed over to the Linden Centre. On the way there, we saw at least thirty little girls in colorful pink Bai minority costumes. At first, I thought that they were just dressed like this for the sake of the festival.

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Today marked one week in Xizhou! It was a bit different, however, to have so much free time. We slept in this morning, and we had a special weekend breakfast with bacon! After pitching in (which is a daily requirement) and lunch, we just had a lot of free time. Since Mr. Tafel isn't feeling well, we moved the meeting about service learning down to tomorrow afternoon. Jamie and I went for a jog, ad then I used the weekend to caught up on my SAS Essentials work. We enjoyed lots of downtime afterwards.

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Today was my first day talking with locals for my inquiry project, child rearing. At the beginning of today, I was feeling pretty nervous because I thought that I was behind in my inquiry work. All of my classmates had already had conversations, and today was my first time doing that.

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Today, most places in Xizhou experienced a power outage. This means that we had no lighting, no electricity, and on top of that, no WiFi.  It was only then that I realized how reliant students at our school are on technology to function. Without WiFi, we barely complete any work whatsoever. When we experienced a power outage at school last month, we tried to make due and go on about our days without searching for the nearest WiFi network.

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Today was probably my favorite day so far in the trip. The morning went as usual, with the daily meeting and pitching in. I went through a bit of stress with my pitching in printing responsibilities, but I felt very productive as soon as I got that covered. After a delicious lunch, we went about finishing our Phase 2, and then it was off to tie-dyeing! We met some amazing women who taught us how to create beautiful table cloth tie-dye designs.

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Today was our first normal day at Microcampus, which relieved a lot of potential stress for me. Over the past few days, I was pretty concerned about my committee work, daily video shout outs, and WIPPISS time. But now that we have experienced all of those, I feel like I am very capable of the responsibility. This morning, me and my committee partner Vincent did the Daily Video Shout Out for days 1 and 2.

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If I were to summarize today in one word, that word would be balance. Today was the first day that we learned how to balance and manage our time during SAS Essentials and Inquiry Project work. We also maintained balance when we went on a tiring bike ride, and then had some still time at the lake afterwards. However, the most important thing we learned how to do today was balancing our emotions and our mental well-being. This morning, we received some tragic news about one of our beloved classmates back in Shanghai. It was extremely hard to hear, and even harder to decide how to respond.

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Today was our first full day in Xizhou. We ate a delicious breakfast, toured our home, and then toured the village! We met some amazing people that I am looking forward to making connections with, but we  we saw some things that were a bit surprising and unexpected. Mr. Tafel took us to look at some handmade table clothes. Most were tie-dyed by hand, and showed beautiful pictures of flowers and fish. However, there were some designs that were a little more "out there". First, there were multiple table clothes with large marijuana leaves on them. There were also designs with topless women.

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Today marked the first day of our Microcampus journey!  Arriving at the airport, it wasn't hard to tell that we were all super nervous. Nonetheless, our group had some really good conversations at the airport that brought us closer together and made us feel more comfortable. We all sat in a circle and were asked to think about and answer two questions. First, what could we, as individuals, bring to the group? After hearing everybody's answers, I learned more about each person's strengths and what they could be relied on for. This helped me built trust with my trip members.

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Today is my last day in Shanghai before ten 8th grade students including myself make the journey to Xizhou. Since this will be an extremely new experience for me, I am feeling slightly nervous, anxious, and excited. I am mainly feeling nervous about being away from home. I have been to overnight camp for the past 4 years, but the camp usually only lasts for about a week. However, I think that before I know it, I will be totally used to being away from home in Xizhou.

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Our Microcampus group, the Marvel Musketeers, spent the night at Shanghai American School and participated in a lock-in. First, we listened to presentations from the nurse and the counselor, who introduced us to topics like physical and emotional wellness while we are in Xizhou. These presentations both helped us understand what part wellness was going to play on the trip. Afterwards, we headed over to the elementary school library, where we would later sleep.

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Hello! My name is Annelise, and I'm currently a high schooler at SAS Puxi. I'm from California, but have lived in Shanghai for over 10 years. I took part in the Microcampus program in September-October 2015 in Xizhou, China. I gained so much from experiencing the simplicity, the people, and beauty of the village. For my inquiry project, I chose to study child rearing practices in Xizhou. The connections I made, people I met, and lessons I learned in Xizhou will never be forgotten. I welcome you to follow my learning journey to see how my ideas progressed over the course of the month!