Lauren C. (Alumni-G)'s Journal

I would like to compare the smell and taste of Xizhou to the San Dao Cha tea ceremony, a subject matter that is in fact very familiar to me. I didn't spend an entire month in Xizhou for nothing. 


Besides the Wellness reflection that I had to do, this Sunday was... quite... lazy

But, ah, when I was showering at night, I made some observations. One, it was apparent that I was the only one who had brought soap there. Two, my supply of soap was steadily decreasing, faster than the rate than it normally should be at. Three, Ryane was using my soap. But with the amount that is going down, she would have used enough soap to clean even her nonexistent pet dog. 


Today... was rather...

Void of everything that ever happened.

As implied, nothing really happened today. Well, nothing as in our-service-learning-partner-bailed-out-on-us-and-subsequently-we-had-to-find-another-old-person-who-was-willing-to-be-interviewed-by-out-of-town-eighth-graders, though I would rather not go into detail about that. Matthew, Joyce, and I freaked out. Big time. But I shan't complain about it---the pain is 

Ah. Yes. Nothing happened.

Fast-forward to tonight. It was WWF's Earth Day!


Oh hey there yes yes Dali Old Town it's such a cool place let me write everything about it in vivid detail as I...

Well, sorry. Ignore that first line there. I'm quite mentally (and physically) exhausted, so please, excuse me. 

Well, today was rather normal, save for the fact that all of us were packed into a bus and driven right to Dali Old Town. 

And when Mr. Tafel had said it was a complete and utter tourist trap, I thought, wow, he has never been more accurate about this saying. 


Do you see the sparrow over there, 
Flying so high? 
Do you hear its song, 
And our own deafening reply?

Comply, comply, Comply. 

Do you hear its wake up call?
It's echos kimming over the lake
Above the mountains high 
And in the forests deep

Comply. Comply, oh, comply. 

Do you hear its falsetto?
Keeping its tiny heart beating
And its wings flapping
So, so very rapidly?

Oh, Comply, comply, comply. 



Is Wednesday.

And marks the last day that we are allowed to work on our research phase of our inquiry work.

At this point of time, I have still yet to reach the 20 Local Sources mark. I have about five sources to find within a short amount of time. Do you know what this means, dear reader of my journal who probably isn't interested in reading my journal anyway becuase I seemingly have not been consistently updating it but in fact have forgotten to press the "save" button countless times?


Today, Ye Ling made an appointment with dear Annaliese to show me a san dao cha tea ceremony. Of course, Mr. Tafel was my chaperone for the hour, so I dragged him to the tea room with me to witness a great tea ceremony in the making!

(Do you get the pun I made in my title now? Tafel? Nicknamed T? T rhymes with tea? No? Don't get it? Fine, okay)

But, ah, yes, Annaliese.

Bless her heart. She's such an amazing person. 


After yesterday's utter failure at finding good and useful information, I found another great source. 

Wait. I lie. 

I went back to one source.

And I have never been happier. I almost kissed the ground in front of the Yan Family Compound (I say almost because I re-thought about it. The ground is not sanitary, Lauren. Do not kiss the ground). 


After finding more information about the Bai three-course ceremony, I felt unbelievably motivated to find out more. More more more more MORE information. 

So, naturally, I dragged Ye Ling to 喜韵居, where I had heard from Mr. Yang (the Golden Flower restaurant owner) that they often performed tea ceremonies. The entrance ticket cost 10 RMB per person (if I had gone by myself, the ticket price would have been about 65 RMB per person. But due to Mr. Yang's local... influence and age, we were given lower prices).


Ah. Yes. I have many feelings. Today, I am feeling rather punk rock. Or, rather, I feel quite dehydrated. A note to the parents: Rememebr to hydrate your children, and find a hiding spot within the wastelands for you and your family to hide in, out of eyeshot of mysterious people who might follow you. 

The sky is gray. I am gray. You are gray. In fact, everyone is gray. 


First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Tafel for leading such an awesome hiking trip and giving us a chance to sleep in this morning. I had just returned to Xizhou last night, so very tired and ready for an intimate night with my bed. 

Unfortunately, dear Harry discourteously woke me up by sending a text to me at 7:50 in the morning with the words, "Text me wen ur going to breakfast." Harry, you may be a great person and all, but dear lord, please don't send me a text in that ungodly hour of the morning when we are allowed to sleep in until eleven.  


I have to say, today was definitely one of the hardest days on the hike. My klutziness has finally gotten the better of me. In the time frame of six hours, I had slipped on pine needles and slippery rocks countless times. 

Not cool.

Definitely not cool.



I was quite nervous when Mr. Tafel said on the second day of the hike that the trek would take anywhere between two hours to seven. 

Oh boy was that nerve-wrecking. 

Fortunately, we were able to get to our final destination in an hour and fifteen minutes---not bad, considering that we had to stop becuase of some mule problems. 


Okay, yeah, I was the deliriant.

Anyhow, this day marked the first day of the hike that we Microcampers have been waiting for. We gave each other radio handles, I being "Quixotic Conquistador," Travis being "Dangerous Gerbil," Ryane as "Rap God," and so on. Mr. Tafel had told us that the first day would be the hardest day of all. Unfortunately, he was correct. I had to use my inhaler at one point of the hike uphill, though I was fine after I was in the shade for a while. 


Today, we were supposed to go camping. We had our schedule changed and all---a shorter WIPPIT time, an earlier dinner time...

But we messed up.

We messed up big-time. 

Due to some poorly-made decisions, we ended up not going. I'm not going to mention any names, but I, among eight other students, did some things that risked our safety. 

I do not wish to talk about negative things. Unfortunately, there is nothing else to talk about. What did I do today that is worth mentioning? Absolutely nothing. So here we go. 



I can just about hear my feet weeping in pain. We had went hiking earlier on today, and boy, am I tired. 

However, due to some lack of inquiry project updates, we were delayed for about half an hour, leaving Ryane, Harry, and I vegetating in the main courtyard. Fortunately, before mushrooms could begin grow on our heads, everyone came prepared with their hiking bags. . We did have a shorter WIPPIT time, so we were hiking for a better part of the afternoon. 

The hike was terrible. It was abundant of stupid jokes that were cracked ever-so-often. 


Oh, Tie-dyeing. I remember doing that during the international fair, staining my hands for weeks on end with bright pink and green dye, ugly t-shirts being the final product. I lost interest in tie-dye in general after that.

I never realized that I would eventually develop an appreciation for tie-dying four years later, but guess what? I did. 


As shown on the title, this has been the first normal day on our trip so far. As normal as we could possibly get. 

It was painfully tiring. Ah. 

Anywho, Bryce. He is Bright. Maybe. And he's a person who is a show-off when it comes to hacky sack. And he knows nothing about tea. Or embroidery for that matter. Ryane and I were rather frustrated. He went on Wikipedia and offered to give us some information after scanning through the article, but I left before he had the chance to do anything. 


I had the brilliant idea of getting up at 6:30 AM to watch the sunrise. Of course, it was still dark outside, so I had to grope around silently in the room for my clothes without waking my fellow roommates. It was worth it though---many students were already on the terrace by the time I got there, sitting silently watching the sun peek over the hills by Lake Erhai. 


Today was pretty interesting in terms of what we did today. We started off waking up at about seven in the morning, meeting the rest of the group at the main dining room at about seven thirty. We spent the morning unpacking and settling in, though we did go out for a tour around Xizhou, walking around the marketplace, finding out where the bank was, and of course, eating lunch at Si Fang Jie. My first local meal was a savory baba, which is a local delicacy that tastes similar to the foodstuff that we have back in Shanghai.


Last night, we Groundbreakers stayed overnight at school for Lock-in! There's exactly a week left before we'll be heading to Xizhou---this time next week, we would be on the plane already. The next week is going to be long, waiting for the time we finally head out to Yunnan. I quite like the group of people around me; my fellow Groundbreakers may not be people I am overly familiar with, but I feel like we are going to get along great. 

I am currently thirteen years old and am from Fremont, California. I have lived in Shanghai for nearly ten years now, and since I heard about this Microcampus program, I was set on signing up as soon as I became an eighth grader––for the sake of the learning experience and close interaction with the locals. Initially, I had based my inquiry project on tea processing and its evolution in Xizhou, though it had shifted to finding more information on tea ceremonies.