Marco K. (Alumni-T)'s Journal

In December 2014, Charlotte K and the rest of the Ignite group came back from their trip to Microcampus. As Charlotte's little brother, I was treated to a firsthand account about all the good parts and bad parts about her trip. Fixated on the bad parts, I could only think of Microcampus as this scary trip that only the hardcore, disciplined people would really go to. I was worried about not being able to work well with others, about missing out on my social life in Shanghai.

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Today was a frenzied day of putting our final touches on the Service Learning project. Apologies for continuing to post this for days on end, but the Service Learning has just been so vital to us that we have spent hours every single day making our edits and revisions. These final touches certainly were not minor, as we had three reviews, each of multiple different notes on what to fix. Our presentation of the project is tomorrow at 3 PM - I can hardly wait!

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We spent a large part of today wrapping up our final project, Service Learning. Yesterday, we stopped filming, made a storyboard and sorted through our hours of footage in the afternoon, choosing which parts to keep in a ~5 minute video. This morning, we started to subtitle the clips that we kept. We ran into multiple problems: we had areas where our partner did not enunciate as much, and struggled with properly sizing the subtitles.

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Today marked our deadline for our rough draft of the Inquiry Project Final Product, where we had Mr. T look at our videos and give his "Pearls of Wisdom". Today also marked the deadline of our filming and storyboard of our Service Learning Project. Though these deadlines certainly stressed us, we managed to work steadily and balance these projects well. I am very glad that everyone in our Service Learning group can play a part.

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After failing to find previous contacts for our Service Learning, Mia, Debbie, and I found a wonderful contact in Mr. Yang. As soon as he knew of our project, he invited us back to his house to film. We had a very productive day, with lots of very useful footage. He is a very easy-going person and managed to joke around with us quite a bit - this significantly helped our project. Today was also our final Saturday here, beginning our last week at Xizhou. I will miss this place a lot.

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After finishing our Phase 4 on Wednesday, we had only a few more days to make our Final Product for our Inquiry Projects; all of us decided to make this product a video. This is the toughest deadline I will have for my Inquiry Project, though I am quite sure that I will be able to finish in time. This video is not that hard to make, as I already have an outline and multiple photos to use. I look forward to sharing my video with all of you!

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As the sky finally cleared today, my group decided to find Service Learning partners for the first time since Sunday. Though the partners that we found on Sunday were not there, we found two other, very friendly women. The first, Yang Nainai, was very open to us and asked us multiple questions as well. When we played a previous Service Learning video to her, many of her friends also came by to see what we were up to.

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Today was a pretty productive day, even though it broke the usual WIPPIS schedule in that all of us did Inquiry work at the same time. After being given instructions and explanations by Mr. T, I worked at a breakneck speed, I finished Phase 4 of my Inquiry Project today. This involved a synthesis of my Phase 3 information into a coherent outline for my final product. I look forward to seeing a completed Inquiry Project. 

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Today, I completed Phase 3 of my Inquiry Project. After multiple conversations with different, friendly people around town, I noted down all of their observations and personal experiences of government propaganda, whether contemporary or from the Maoist days. I was completely surprised both by how much I learned from them and how much I already knew about this topic.

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Over the past two weeks, the weather has been comfortingly warm the entire time. Even when it was raining - even in yesterday's thunderstorm, the temperature did not dip below 17°C. Why would it? There is little wind here to drive the warmth away and insulation from the nearby mountains. Yet today, we stepped back to temperatures of February, perhaps even January, after continuous rain all of last night, and we learned to appreciate our jackets and warm socks.

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This morning, I did my Wellness Reflection for the past week and made goals for the next week. Afterwards, Debbie, Mia and I went outside to do Service Learning, and found two potential partners that we talked to for a long time. We got in just before a big rainstorm, followed by a thunderstorm (shown in poor quality above), stopped us from going out to exercise. Luckily, all of us were inside Yangzhuoran and were not affected by the rain.

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Yesterday, we hiked up Cangshan Mountain for three hours, and camped at its base afterwards. The mountain has a relatively easy, though still challenging, trail, and the scenery that awaited us at the top made up for our efforts multiple times over. I am quite happy that the hike was only one day long and not three like earlier trips, and I still regret not taking a photo there. The photo above might help you visualize the scene nevertheless.

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Yesterday, for Inquiry Project work, I went to Mr. Du's house and interviewed him about his old collection of 1970's propaganda. His house is very beautiful, with a large yard and a massive antique collection on the inside. His antique collection is truly spectacular and numerous - his house would be completely covered if he did not have any cabinets to store everything. He also had a huge collection of propaganda posters, glorifying China from the Long March all the way up to the Cultural Revolution.

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This journal entry is a part of my Science SAS Essentials work. I will be analysing the positive and negative effects that tourists have on the local environment of Xizhou.

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Today was my first Inquiry Project day where I did not talk with anyone and record notes about our conversation. Instead, Mr. T and I walked around town and looked at multiple messages, carefully observing how decayed and worn down they were. Some messages were plastered over, but the plaster nearly always faded away before the red paint did. They might even have protected some messages, as natural elements could no longer damage those messages.

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Yesterday, Mr. Kendall Sternberg, an SAS communications officer, came to Yangzhuoran to live in Xizhou with us. He wants to make a movie detailing what we do in Microcampus, which involved him following and filming us during our daily schedules. He came with me to the Linden Centre, where I talked with Mr. Xu the security guard, and to Wellness, when I jumped rope with Debbie and Jason in a nearby playground. It was quite nice showing him around town like Mr. T did a week ago. I look forward to having him around!

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Today surprised us by drenching the village with rain. The Cangshan Mountain around Xizhou insulates the heat, typically causing clouds to quickly evaporate. This is why Xizhou will not rain, even at the height of spring. The sunny days have really our trip incredibly nice, especially when we venture the town ourselves - but the lack of rain also scatters dust all over. Outside of the farm fields and the occasional ficus tree, there are hardly any plants - including grass.

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I can hardly believe that a week has already passed by. Today was our first day off since we got here, and we had the luxury of so, so much down time. We also started our Service Learning projects today, and received a long history lesson of China's past 150 years or so. Luckily, Mr. T made it quite memorable and engaging, so that we could still remember the information. Afterwards, we got in our groups and chatted to locals for our work, and met wild success.

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Today was our first half-day field trip to the Dali Wind Farm. After a regular morning (apart from Mr. T's absence for a Skype conference), we had an Inquiry Project-only WIPPIS time, and at three in the afternoon went to the wind farm by car. The wind farm, to the north of Erhai Lake, was massive. It had multiple turbines, each easily a dozen metres tall with blades that swooped the air around them, making a giant humming noise.

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Today followed a similar schedule as yesterday; the only change was the people who I did things with. The main highlight was my talk with an Inquiry Project source, Mr. Du. Mr. Du was very interesting to talk to, as he had served in the Chinese Army and experienced government propaganda that way. I also managed to practiced my Mandarin fluency in our chat. Our Evening Activity was also very fun, as we got a new ukulele today, and had a good night practicing our instruments.

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After a mostly uneventful morning, I went to Baochengfu (a house that accommodated multiple previous Microcampus students) with Ms. Mai to see if Mr. Brian Linden could help me with my Inquiry Project. Most of my 3-to-5's recommended him, and he did not fail my expectations. In our conversation, he talked about philosophy, his interesting opinions on multiple subjects and his experience in Xizhou. I understood multiple new perspectives and different angles from which I could focus my project on.

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After being here for just half a week, I already notice the differences and similiarities between the food here and food inside the Shanghai bubble. I wholeheartedly agree that food in Shanghai, with few exceptions, is not as good as the food here, and I think it is because hardly any food here is processed and packaged. We eat delicious broccoli seasoned with garlic, bowls of homemade er si noodles, , fried rice with little salt and Xizhou Baba (shown above). Even though I miss the meat back inside the Shanghai bubble, the Xizhou food is wonderfully healthy.

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As the first real workday, today was incredibly fun for all of us. We had our first SAS Essentials time today, which was much more plentiful than my expectations. We did our first committee work today during our first Daily Meeting and our first Pitching In time. Finally, as a reward for a long day, we had our first group bike ride to Lake Erhai (if only I took a photo there!) and experienced the realities of traffic and dusty roads in Yunnan.

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We had our first proper view of Xizhou today, and had multiple highlights from the experience. Those highlights ranged from seeing our breakfast being made, nearly getting lost in the village, and hearing a beautiful concert in the Baochengfu (a Linden Centre building). Throughout all of these experiences, Mr. T managed to teach us about culture, science, history etc. through simple observations.

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Today was a day of multiple firsts. I came to Yunnan for the first time, experienced bumpy turbulence for the first time that I can remember, walked around in the Yangzhuoran building for the first time, and experienced proper local food for the first time. In addition, Mr. T established multiple of the rules and guidelines today that we might have forgotten from the Overnighter. During the afternoon, we had plenty of rest time to establish ourselves in this large, beautiful home.

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Hi! I am Marco, a student of SAS from 2006 to 2017. I was part of the Tactical trip, which was in Xizhou during May 2017. My family comes from Hong Kong. I have two twin sisters who are two years older than me. One of them, Charlotte K, is a Microcampus alumni. I love to read, learn and take risks, all of which I have done plentifully in Microcampus. I have had so much fun in Xizhou, especially as I improved myself and realised so much about rural China. What I have learned in Xizhou is truly unforgettable and important to me.