Annie Q. (Alumni-P)'s Journal

It is easy to say that I came to Microcampus to challenge myself and to grow as a person. I could also say that I came to Microcampus to learn about migration, my Inquiry Project topic. But honestly? I came to Microcampus to try something new and have fun with my friends. Looking back on my short but wonderful 28 days in Xizhou, I can see that Microcampus gave me so much more than that, more than I could ever imagine. 

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Today was bittersweet, one I am not quite sure how to describe. Our journey has ended; we have wrapped up five months of work. It is hard to believe that in just two days, I will no longer wake up to the cuckoo bird or slurp papaya water at Old Time Snacks. Nor will I clench my jaw shut, reminding myself not to make a sound when the daily meetin facilitator asks, "All opposed to adjourn the meetin say 'nay'." I will no longer walk through Si Fang Jie, greeting the locals we pass.

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Seeing Grandma Li and her husband watch our final product was worth all the effort and time we spent. When we came to the temple to pick her up, she was hesitant to leave. She told us there was work to do, but in the end, she agreed to come. When the video first started to play, her eyes became transfixed on the screen. After the sharing, she stood up, shook our hands, and heartily thanked us. I could tell that she genuinely meant it.

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Picture this: four musketeers, clad in the finest armor of sweatpants and T-shirts, pioneering ventures into the depths of the rice fields. Their quest was a perilous one, but they knew it was worth it. Off they journeyed, trudging through the mud and towards their final destination: the legendary Linden Centre. Step after step, the four gazed upon the vast ocean of rice seedlings and rich soil. Songbirds dove past, rippling the mirrors of water below. Alas, their journey proved to be a treacherous one, as their socks were thoroughly soaked.

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Today Mr. T shared his grandfather's famed words of wisdom: "The worst time to fart is when you're leaving the party." And it's true! When you're leaving the party, saying your goodbyes, and remembering the night's fun, farting ruins it all. Right now, our group is at the point where we must look to our short-lived future in Xizhou and make every moment count.

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I can see everything, from the towering, mighty mountains to the weak rice seedlings. Even the distant wispy clouds drifting above are within my grasp. The rice seedlings tremble with each footstep I take, rippling the otherwise still reflection. I can see everything, and the world is at peace.

It's hard to think that just a few hours ago, we were all scrambling around for our Inquiry Projects, making last-minute fixes and vehemently denouncing our computers for their lag.

Yes, Still Time is great.

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Risa Y. and I did not expect what ended up happening. We originally set off for Service Learning to film our partner speaking about her life. What happened was something we were very grateful for filming. Since our partner Li Nainai spends her time helping out at the temple, she helped clean up an incense burning station near the pavilion. We were filming her, a bit disappointed that the only footage we had was Li Nainai shoveling around piles of ash.

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The sky last night was beautiful. After a very exciting Movie Night, we were all tired and ready to go to sleep. But as I was walking down the stairs, I looked up and saw a sky of dark, ominous clouds. Previously, Mallory B. and I had decided that this kind of sky was like the underbelly of a really mean sheep. At first, I was disappointed - there was no chance for stargazing. On a hunch, however, I laid down in the courtyard for a while. I noticed in the corner of my eye, there was a sudden bright spot.

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Blue skies, we meet once again. It's been a while since we last met. Times have changed. For one, the Phenomena group you once knew ceases to exist. Over the course of just a few days, we've recognized our mistakes and learned from them. Fittingly, our toughest days were under skies of dirt gray and tumultuous clouds, days of harsh rainfall that seemed to deliberately soak the day's laundry. Today, however, I see you. You've graced our presence with a wide expanse of blue, with the exception of the occasional fluff of cloud.

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After a rough day, today was a great way to lift our spirits. Grace W. and I spent our Wellness and Still Time in a field 15 minutes away from Yang Zhuo Ran. At first, we were discouraged by the time it took to arrive; we thought we were lost. However, after some persistence and aimless wandering, we found the fields. It was so worth it. The sun had just come out, and the clouds were reflected in pools of rainwater. The fields were a lush green, swaying as birds dove through.

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With the right amount of rainfall and sunshine, one of nature's grand phenomena reveals itself: the rainbow. Today, one appeared, a perfect representation of how the day had gone. In other words, today was not Phenomena's best. We struggled to follow instructions and use technology responsible. On the bright side, we were able to take this day as a learning experience. Just like the rainbow can only appear with the right amount of rain, it took us a day of mistakes to understand where we were as a group. 

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During Still Time today, Nicole F. and I visited The Cheese Factory. After listening to friends raving about The Cheese Factory, we had to go check it out. The first they we heard when we stepped through the gateway was a deep 'moooo' and the (very organic) smell of cows. Once we spoke to the owner, we learned that they raised the cows here and made cheese, hence the name. In addition to cheese, however, they also made tie-dye pieces and other accessories. I was mainly struck by the large spreads of tie-dye hung across the walls.

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As part of our Service Learning project, my work group and I set off today to talk to some villagers we had met yesterday. Although we couldn't find the two villagers we met previously, we stumbled upon Yang Nainai. Yang Nainai sells Bai-styled baskets and shoes in Si Fang Jie. She openly welcomed us into her home to drink tea, and we readily accepted. After a fascinating conversation with her, we learned a lot about her life. She has no regrets in life, she is one of her three remaining siblings, and she loves children.

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Nicole L. and I woke up to the sound of rain pattering against our tents. As I zipped open our tent, delirious from just waking up, I couldn't help but gasp. The view from our campsite was breathtaking; the Sun had just risen, its warm rays illuminating the lake below. I could see the entire valley - every rooftop and every road was within my reach. A light drizzle fell from the skies. Only the birds and the breeze disturbed the silence. 

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As a part of our overnight camping trip to Jade Belt, we created a new recipe for S'mores: the Phenomena version. With crackers of unknown brand, melting Dove bars, and un-roasted marshmallows, we made (surprisingly) delicious S'mores. Thanks to the Positive Impact committee, we were able to enjoy Phenomena S'mores after a hike up to Wu Si Temple. In addition to great food, our campsite had a fantastic view. It was truly a great experience seeing the entire valley from our tents. 

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The tourism industry has become a huge part of Xizhou's economy, especially in the past 2 years. Xizhou has witnessed rapid growth with a constant flow of people entering and leaving. As a part of my science work, I investigated the positive and negative impacts of tourism in Xizhou on the environment. The following is what I found.

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Today marks the 12th day of Microcampus, almost half of the way through. Interestingly enough, it seems that time has slowed down in Xizhou. Thinking of Day 1 brings me way back, even though that was less than 2 weeks ago. Perhaps it's the lack of the Shanghai busyness, where everyone rushes to and fro. We're all getting used to the Microcampus schedule, slowing down to the Xizhou rhythm.

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It started with a rumbling vibrato, and the tables trembled in fear. A strange silhouette emerged from the shadows, half of his face masked with dark fabric. "Behold: the music of the night!" It did not matter that it was 11:25 in the morning. We all knew: the Phantom had returned.

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I could ramble on and on about the great things about Xizhou - the weather, the people, the environment - but one aspect of Xizhou's culture stands out: the food. From the rice noodles to the fried rice, almost every dish I've encountered has made my mouth water. Today, however, I hit a new high.

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Stars are strange to think about. They're these huge, incandescent balls of gas trillions of kilometers away, yet we can see just a a handful here on our puny planet. Last night, seven of us lied down in the middle of the courtyard, just enjoying the silence and the stars. When we went up to the terrace to get a clearer view, Rachel B. pointed out the Big Dipper. With the help of Google, we also found the North Star, Cassiopeia, and Ursa Major.

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The first time we walked past Lao Mao, my Service Learning group and I were intrigued. The second time we walked past, the four of us knew we ought to talk to him. As Risa Y., Tiffany Z., and Michael W., and I approached, Lao Mao greeted us warmly. I couldn't help but notice his sunglasses, his rough beard dotted with white, and of course, his Chairman Mao hat.

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To create something beautiful out of leaves, string, and cloth truly is an art. Today, six other students and I visited a nearby village called Zhoucheng to see the tie-dye process in action. Turns out, the process starts with the harvesting of indigo leaves. After a full 2 years of fermenting, the rich indigo dye is ready to use. Next, professionals meticulously tie knots into the fabric. They submerge the fabric in dye and reveal an underwhelming blue cloth tied up in strange ways. Only when the strings are taken out is the tie-dye piece revealed in all its glory.

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It's an amazing experience to learn of someone's life story, to walk in their shoes, to live their life. You can never fully comprehend the nuances and complexities of another human's mind. Nevertheless, it's still a very valuable experience. Yesterday I spoke to my first local contact, Mr. Du the antique dealer, and my meeting with him was extremely helpful. As a part of Phase 3's work, I interviewed Mr. Du with the guidance of Mr. T and Mrs. Yuqi. It was so interesting to hear his story.

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It's interesting how your surroundings can affect your mood. Today, Xizhou boasted clear skies, dangerously fluffy clouds, and air so fresh, Shanghai would be put to shame. Trees gently sway with the flow of the wind as songbirds dive through. It almost sounds too good to be true. Meanwhile, Phenomena as a group was experiencing vast improvements. We're doing what we're supposed to do, and we're treating mistakes as opportunities for learning.

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As strange as it sounds, Xizhou holds both clouds in the sky and clouds in the field. Just minutes ago, Marie W., Steven Z., Rachel B., and I were taking a run around Xizhou for Wellness time. As we picked up the pace during the run, I started to really take in my surroundings. I remember looking up to the sky and thinking, "Wow." I saw these magnificent clouds.

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Put simply, today was hard. All paths have detours, and this day was ours. Day 3 was supposed to be our training bike ride, where we were to learn how to be safe and thus get our biking license. Unfortunately, that's not what happened: my group did not get our license. We weren't being attentive, we weren't communicating, and we weren't doing what we were supposed to do. Later on in the day, another mistake was made. After one of Mr. T's lectures, every single one of us understood that this kind of behaviour had to stop.

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This day and age, nobody really tells you to 'first attack American imperialism, and then attack Taiwan!' After all, it's quite a controversial sentence. Nevertheless, a wall a few feet away from Yang Zhuo Ran - our living space - proudly displays the aforementioned sentence in crumbling red paint. Today, when we passed by on a village tour, Mr. T explained that this is one of many propaganda messages in Xizhou.

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After spending half a day scrambling to airport gates, stumbling through an active construction site, and finally settling into our rooms, we could finally say our journey was complete. We had arrived in Xizhou! I must admit: I am excited to call Xizhou my home for the next 27 days. Just by taking a quick walk through Xizhou, my brief glimpse revealed a colorful and bustling village. Passersby cheerfully greeted us, and businesses on the street displayed an array of local delicacies.

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Hello! My name is Annie, and I am 13 years old. I have spent most of my life in a quiet, suburban town in New York until my family and I moved to Shanghai five years ago. I enjoy art, music, volleyball, the outdoors, and reading. My 28 days in Xizhou have been life-changing, and I hope to return soon. It is incredible how much I learned in just four weeks.