Vanessa L. (Alumni-E)'s Journal

I signed up for Microcampus to expand my abilities and to get out of my own tiny bubble of Shanghai American School. My expectation was pitch black until the day I stepped off the bus. Xizhou is the side of China I’ve never seen before, the fresh clean air and the hospitalized villagers. Not selfish nor impatient but hospitalized. After 28 days, I have changed in so many ways that it would take me a century to list them all. Part of me still clings on to this Microcampus experience, unwilling to leave Xizhou, my home. The other half is ready for a winter break, back in Japan.

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For the last time, I visited Mrs. Huo to say good bye. While I walked into the old wooden house, I found a metal pot with sand in it. At first I thought that it was a cooking pot. However, I found out that it is a fire pot. Mrs Huo invited Amy and I outside the room to start the fire. “I don’t want any smoke to be in my room” said Mrs. Huo repeatedly. First, she took out a bag of shaved wood skin. Than she lighted them with a match. The fire gradually grew bigger and bigger until finally she put in a ton of coal. After 20 minutes or so, she asked me to help her move the pot inside.

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Happy Birthday to my dear friend Benjamin!!!!!!! I begun my day with a cheerful happy birthday and ended my day with another happy birthday. At 7:45 PM, Mr Tafel and Ms Mai lead us into the kitchen for a surprise party. On the side of the room were a few candle placed in a chocolate cake. Half of the candle were lit, yet the others were blown out by the wind. The chocolate cake was covered by layers and layers of milk chocolate. It seemed tasty though to me Chinese cakes are disgusting. Benjamin cut the cake into 18 pieces and handed to each students and teachers.

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The papers in the toilet swirled around and around, as the water get sucked into the underground pipes. The papers were stuck, the toiled was clogged. Mr Tafel walked into the room with his squishy yellow gloves and wooden toilet plug. For some reason, he was talking in a Kardashian accent. It was hilarious. He stayed in our room for at least twenty minutes, fixing our toilet while entertaining us with what he calls science knowledge. It was mostly about old TV shows and sport stars.

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I woke up in the dark without electricity. Yesterday, the light flashed on than off. It was completely unexpected. I was unwilling to wake without my baby heater, though I was still able to go to breakfast on time. For the whole day, I wasn’t using the laptop or at least until now...I taught my roommates how to do embroidery and had a lot of fun staying in the dark. The sun was out yet it was still comparably dark. At about four in the afternoon, I found out that the light in the bathroom was on.

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I picked up my spoon to scoop up my curry and within a blink, the light was off. Is this a prank in the middle of dinner? No, the power was off. Today was special day not only for me but for the whole village of Xizhou. Eighteen years, that is how long it have been before the last snow, eighteen years. This morning started off sunny than gradually the clouds covered the sun. It was chilly, I was shaking, and for a second there were pieces of ice falling from the sky. Hail, that is, I stood in the terrace as the small pieces of ice hit my head. It hurt just a little, yet it was fun.

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Today I got “rejected” by Mrs Huo and met Mrs Dong. Mrs Huo was my group’s first choice for service learning. We visited her every single day for past week and she reject. Mrs Dong loves the camera. She is 61 years old this year and lives 2-3km away from Xizhou. She visits Xizhou every saturday and monday. Mrs Dong have one son and is not living with her. She have two grandchildren, they are twins. When Mrs. Dong was 20 years old she was a fisherman. Each more she would throw the net in Erhai than after a while she would collect it and sell it in Xizhou.

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“Sit” said Ms. Huo, an 65 years old woman living pass Si Fang Jie. She is my service learning group’s target partner. She is willing to talk, she is very open to us, and she like us a lot. However, she have an extremely low self esteem. Yesterday, she said that she was too ugly to be on the camera. Therefore, today we showed her sample projects made by other groups. After she saw Mr Yang in the movie sing, she sang a song for us. When we asked if we could film her while she answers questions, she denied. She said she is too stupid.

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Today was a big day, getting my phase 3 and 4 completed and approved. At 1pm the Extreme team sat quietly in classroom one waiting for Mr Tafel to give us instruction. “First, you...secondly, go to...” As the instructional period came to an end, I had loads of ideas that floated in my mind. For exactly 90 minutes I typed on my phase 4 work space about my ideas. This might seem like the biggest event of the day, yet it is not. I lost my pair of shoe! I seriously don’t know how it happened but I woke up finding that my shoes were gone.

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I rush passed Si Fang Jie to find Sean for Amy. She is determined to finish her inquiry, which was due at 4pm. Sean was a local middle school student and he is the son of a local antique shop owner. Amy and I half jogged from the market street to Si Fang Jie. On the road I saw a funeral and some girls gossiping. It seemed to have taken forever, though at the end we reached our destination. Mr Yang’s antique shop. For a tinge of a second, we felt joy. However, we found the gates closed. We gently knocked on the door, yet no one answered.

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“Exponent is a power given to a certain number.” I never viewed myself as a teacher, I am substandard at explaining and showing my thinking. However, today I was a teacher of four students. I woke up in the morning thinking about the math test today, exponent and scientific notation mid-module assessment. Two to the power of two is four, three to the power of three is twenty-seven. The class started at 8:15. It started of with one student, than grown into two, three and four. I guided each of the student through the review guide and taught them the basic concepts.

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Today was just a casual day...or somewhat a casual day. The schedule was normal, the activities are normal, the foods were normal. However, I had to linger around YZR and Xizhou with a sour leg. I am a person who can easily receive a painful leg by exercising, and hiking definitely made my legs sick. As I poke my finger on the quads, I feel a sting throughout my whole, entire leg! The hardest part of all was climbing down the stair, it usually takes me 10 seconds, and today it took me a minute.

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The day started with a sour hamstring and blisters. As I pushed myself out of the sleeping bag, I felt an unexpected sting on my leg. Every inch I moved, I felt a sting followed by another than another. Final day of the hike, I will definitely make it. I slowly unwrapped myself from the 10 pieces of clothe to 2 pieces, from 5 pair of stocking to none. I saw my feet, red and swollen, blisters were everywhere. I was panicking when I headed south toward the Dali town, and for a moment I thought that I will not make it.

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    I woke up in the mist of darkness, surrounded by a crowd of snores. I felt like using the bathroom, yet I am afraid. Outside the tent were trees, lines and lines of trees. There can be anything awaiting outside the tent, and I felt a shiver running down my spine. I gently closed my eye to a nice dream, though the chilliness conquered me. Around 7:30, sunshine lit up the tent. Another day of hike. The second day was slightly more tired than the first day, my legs were shivering as I moved uphill. Finally, after hours of walking, I reached the tip, or somewhat the tip.

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I sat on the bus compacted with hiking bags and students, awaiting for the deadly hike to begun. I cannot do this, I will fail was all I was thinking about. With this pessimistic thought I carried the King Kong sized hiking bag and stepped on the sand pavement, burnt by the bright red sun above me. I was assigned as the altitude person and was apart of the lead pack. I dragged my feet upward and upward until it suddenly felt relaxed. From that moment on, I barely felt tired anymore. I walked at a steady pace and rested when the group did. Sweat dripped over me, though I felt fine.

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Today, I started working on my embroidery piece. It is a purple morning glory with twisted leaves surrounding the sides. I started my process by tying the different colored strings into a special kind of braid. It started of hard and slow, though it gradually became better. As I finished braiding my strings, Ms Li, the owner of Happy Embroidery taught me how to weave. I started of with the white parts on the flowers. However, I couldn’t match the outline well. Therefore, I was taught to make a frame of the outline. It was a really exciting day, I really enjoyed embroidery.

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I walked down Ran Yi Xiang, with Ms. Mai, Risa and Benjamin into Happy embroidery. I haven’t been there since the first day in Xizhou. As the view of the door became bigger and bigger, I realized that the door was closed and locked. Ms Mai gentled tapped on the door three times. No answer. As we turned around to leave, the door creaked open. Ms. Li, a teacher in Happy embroidery opened the door. I quietly walked into the door and started to gaze out at the wonderful silks.

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I walked through the wooden carved door, the one I have been continuously visiting for the past two days. As usual, the elderly man sat behind the counter of the antique store, patiently waiting for a customer to walk in. “Sit,” said this hospitalized man “I remember you from yesterday.” Yesterday, I talked to him about his recent life, about his antique store, and about his moved from Dali old town. Today, I was going to take a step forward, into asking him about his youth, about the communist party, cultural revolution, hundred flower movement and etceteras.

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    I slowly walked into the metal gate, a gate leading to a local middle school. I was standing in front of a garden of bushes with Fay and Benjamin. A hospitalized English teacher invited us to join the Geology teacher in her office. I was extremely excited since my inquiry topic is “How does the geographical features in Xizhou affect local life?” As I walked on to the stair from first to the third floor, I felt eyes on me all across the building. Was it because I wasn’t wearing a uniform? or was it because I didn’t tie my hair up? I don’t know.

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    Sunday, the day of the week where the sun inside me is the brightest. Why? Because there is no schedule and school works! I woke up at 9:10 feeling rushed to get to breakfast. I speedily tied myself and ate a banana. For an hour, I was working on my wellness reflection with a bottle of Vanilla soda by my side. During lunch, I went to Si Fang Jie to have ErSi. In the afternoon, Amy and I went outside to do some service learning and inquiry project. However, we accidentally spent an hour in the super market.

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    Dali was a lot like Lijiang. Small wooden houses owned by local residence, with handmade manufactories, yak meat, and famous snacks. I walked around the pavement street with Shone, Abbi and Benjamin. Shone is the son of Mr Ma, he was somewhat like our tour guide. After being released from the group, we traveled to the XinHua bookstore, to by a book. Than, we walked to the front gate of the old town and walked back. I was asked to buy an extremely expensive medicine called Zang Hong Hua by my mother. Therefore, I searched every medicine shop to find a trustworthy owner.

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Bravery is a goal and a challenge in Microcampus, and today I was brave. Through the bumpy roads of the central Xizhou I was lead into the narrow pavement street in Dongcheng. Risa, Benjamin and I rode the bicycle pass white bricked houses and a field of crops. Suddenly, the road ended, we went to wrong way. I turned my bike around and started to ride backward, than to my right, than into another road, slightly wider than before to the East, where I will be able to see Erhai. To my surprise, today was full of funerals, festivals, and marriage on the streets.

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     Two hours, two hours is how long it took me to cook coca-cola chicken. I started my cooking process at three fifteen, than it prolonged until five. First, I washed the chicken wings. The wings were covered with a layer of goofy, white skin and a tinge of blood stuck in between the bone and meat. I circled the wings in the water until all the blood drizzled off. It was a lengthy process. Next, I tried to cut two lines on the chicken wings, so that the flavor will “sink” in. I used three different knives for the two lines. I used a fruit knife, butter knife, and a Chinese chef knife.

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    ZhouCheng’s first impression was tie-dye. Colorful pieces of cloth, hanging on top of my head. The factory was a family owned business. Pieces and pieces of artworks clipped to a wooden stick. As I scanned across the works made by the experts in the factory, all of them were fresh with colors and had complex patterns. My favorite tie-dye piece was a leaf with green, yellow and red piece. Therefore, when I was authorized to make my own tie-dye I made the leaf too. First, I folded each leaf in half. Than, I stitched the dots on the outline. To me, this was the hardest step.

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     I lay down on the balcony gazing at the azure blanked packed with puffs and puffs of cotton candy like object. It was clouds. From the left side approached a unicorn-shaped cloud, with the side gradually branching out to smaller shapes. The particles of the white gas moved gently away from the bunch of whiteness, some vanished into the air, others generated another shape. I saw a crab as it cut into half and resized into a monster. Than, the monster stretched and stretched until it quietly disappeared into the sky. From the right side came a Long, a Chinese dragon.

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“Follow me,” expressed an elderly woman inviting Benjamin and I to visit her house. Should I go or should I not was the first question that popped into mind. The pessimist side of my brain told me to stay away from the stranger who unexpectedly asked me to her house. She might have some evil tricks; The optimistic side of my brain told me to follow this hospitalized woman who have just invited me to her house, it is a part of pitching in. I struggled to make a final decision, yet as I looked at Benjamin’s eye I knew what I had to do.

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Up to down, north to south, I dragged my feet along the stone piled pavement as Annalise guided the 8 of us through Xi Zhou. It was a two hour tour below the ball of fire, burning harshly on our feeble skin. The tour started as I turned left from Yang Zhuo Ran; I lingered across the Ran Yi Xiang into the embroidery house. Inside the court sat three woman weaving carefully on fabric made out of silk. The products were elegant and exquisite, the color of the pieces matched in a perfect shade with tinges of detailed that made the artwork come to life.

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I stared out the bus's window, into a section of China I've never been to before. The ground was covered with a shade of red soil, packed with iron. Through the soil grew trees and grasses, bright green figures blown by the gentle wind, dancing and prancing. The bus drove on a narrow street constructed from densely packed sands, bumping up and down as we traveled by. From Kun Ming to Dali, than from Dali to Xi Zhou was the ride. It took us forever. My “home” for the next month was separated by a thin sheet of glass,  it was less than an inch alway!

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November 1st to November 2nd, was the first time the Extreme team worked together for a day and a night, 19 hours to be exact! We learned about our daily schedules, commitees, service learning, and the four main factors of microcampus: experiential learning, personal growth, expanding interculatural understanding, and positive impact. To me, this lock in is a semi-official beginning of our microcampus trip, we interacted with the local people in Chinese, was responsible for our own food choice, and had to exercise for at least 20 minutes.

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Time pasts so fast! I can't believe that there is one more month until microcampus starts! I feel like I am quite prepared for this trip, although I haven't chosen my inquiry project topic yet -_- Soon, it will be the microcampus overnighter, the parent meeting and etc. (I am very busy these days :D) I have already started my count down, there is exactly 31 more days to go. This is definitely worth waiting.

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It appearts that the countdown have already begun, there is only one and a half month until I will be leaving for Yun Nan. I am so excited to be apart of the Winter 2013 Microcampus trip! I felt passionate to be apart of it since the second I learned about it. Even though I don't know what will happen in XiZhou exactly, however, I do know that I will be learning new knowlege everyday, and will be interacting with people outside of the SAS bubble a lot.

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Hi! My name is Vanessa and I am 13 years old. I was a part of the winter 2013 microcampus trip. I was born in Nagoya, Japan on March 28th 2000, and I moved to China in 2006. This is my 7th year in Shanghai, and 3rd year in SAS Puxi. I was extremely excited to be in the microcampus trip! I felt passionate to be apart of the trip from the second I heard about it. To me, this trip is about leaving the bubble of SAS, and experience the life in the "real" China. I loved discovering new knowledge to expand on prior skills in Xzihou. The trip to Xizhou is definitely a trip and memory that I will cherish forever. I really miss my time Xizhou and I wish I can revisit Xizhou again.