Audrey T. (Alumni-T)'s Journal

The first time I heard of Microcampus was when an 8th grader in my Spanish class disappeared for a month. When I was in 7th grade, I never really knew Microcampus in depth, neither was I interested. The concept of leaving the comforts of home for an entire month to a rural village was difficult for me to fathom. But as 8th grade came, I realized it was a something that looks good on an application, especially since I was starting my high school application process.

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As the final full day in Xizhou, we were all busy with packing and saying our goodbyes. Microcampus has been a unique experience for all of us. And we are all not ready to say goodbye to this wonderful village. Today's work included final reflections, reviewing Inquiry Projects and Service Learnings, packing bags, and cleaning the area we have been using for a month. This afternoon, Jason and I are planning to have dinner with Mr. Yang at the Golden Flower restaurant as a celebration and a goodbye. Mia, Debbie, and I really wish to visit Mr.
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As we brought Mr. Yang into Yangzhuoran, he was excited to see the other Mr. Yang (a Service Learning partner from the other group) being welcomed in. He told us that he recognized him, and his family used to be landlords. As we brought him into Classroom 1 for the showing, he sat by the door since he is uncomfortable with large crowds and tight humid areas. He sat by Mr. Yang and they discussed architecture, tea, and life around Xizhou.
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After receiving the pearls of wisdom from Mr. T, Jason and I spent the rest of the day editing our Service Learning video. The main issue with our video were subtitles and photos. On Jason's laptop, where we edited the video, subtitles were disappearing here and there, which made us pretty frustrated. The other difficulty with subtitles was that it was difficult for us to understand our Service Learning partner. Jason and I had trouble interpreting Mr.

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The day proceeded with Service Learning video editing, which, to our surprise, took a long time. Deciding which scene, which detail to include required a lot of thought. The five of us were very grateful for Ms. Mai's treat today: getting pizza from Old Town Snacks. After a long day of working and editing, we were treated to cheesy pizza and icy lemonade. The dinner tables were filled with energy, joy, and puns. Which was no surprise since most meals with Mr.

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As the third week of Microcampus comes to an end, we all rush to complete our Inquiry Project and begin our Service Learning. It was a stressful day, all of us with our noses in our laptops. In the morning, we had to meet with Mr. T for the pearls of wisdom on our final product. The goal of this was to get feedback on our inquiry video. I ended up with an abundant amount of feedback for my video since my product lacked personal journey.

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Today, Jason and I visited Mr.Yang again, this time with an urgent purpose: Service Learning videos. Today we met him by the ficus tree in front of Chengdong. He invited us to his house again, and let us set up by his fountain. He did not mind the two of us moving stools around the courtyard and walking around with bulky cameras and laptops. Despite our worries with sensitive topics, he was open to answer all questions, and cleverly dodged the ones he felt uncomfortable with.

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Ever since I have arrived here in Xizhou, I have not had a single sip of tea. This was slightly upsetting for a tea fanatic like me. However, I had the opportunity today to visit Mr. Huang, a tea shop owner. I was introduced to him by my fellow Tactical member, Mia, who she met from her Inquiry Project. After dinner, Mia, Debbie, and I visited his shop because Mia wanted to purchase some 普洱 tea. He was very kind and welcomed the three of us to drink tea.

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For Service Learning, Jason and I visited Mr. Yang again, and he told us some interesting stories. We found him by his usual spot in Chengdong, and he invited us into his house. He was really open about his life and told us a lot about his family, especially his grandson. Although we have met and chatted with him couple times already, we were still very surprised by his hospitality and how welcoming he was to us.

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The day started off full of promises. The reason I am saying this is because of today, it finally stopped raining. Or so we thought. When we completed our Phase 4 work today, we were all really excited because we finally get to go outside to do wellness again. But when we left the classroom, it began to drizzle. Disappointed, we spent the rest of WIPPIS time in Yangzhouran.

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Ever since we came to Xizhou, we have been working on research for our Inquiry Project, which is evident in Phase 3. However, the research has come to an end. Just today we finished adding some final touches to our Phase 3 work. As my final teacher support opportunity, I visited Mr. Zhu's antique store again. There, he showed me photographs of portraits from the Qing dynasty, which were really interesting.

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During teacher support, I visited Zhao Nainai, an elder who embroiders for local stands to sell. We visited her in her courtyard, which, with many others, are shared with other families. She was really kind and showed me some of her work in progress: a 绣花球 and children's shoes. The embroidered ball were extremely detailed, with 牡丹,桃花,and 菊花. I was surprised, since I saw smaller embroidered balls being selled by Sifangjie.

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We were all very thankful when the weekend came. With the hike and Inquiry Project, we were all very glad to finally have a break. The plan for today was simple: to go to Chengdong to do some wellness with Mia and Debbie. So in the afternoon, I waited patiently as they first went to so some Service Learning. After an hour and a half of waiting, I heard them return. But as I went outside, I noticed that rain was falling.

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Yesterday, we hiked up Cangshan to the Jade Belt. The hike up was extremely tiring and exhausting, especially for me, someone who has no cardiovascular and muscular endurance. The trail was coated with slippery stones and untamed branches. But just when I thought my legs and lungs were going to give out, we reached the Jade Belt. We were all relieved and began our way south on the road. Walking on flat land suddenly became an easier task, and we rested our bodies while continuing.

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When morning came today, the sun did not. On a typical day, the sun bathes our room with the warm glow. Today that did not happen. Layers and layers of cloud blocked the sun and the bright blue skies. While working on my SAS Essentials, my fingers were freezing off. Throughout the daily meeting, I was complaining about the cold. According to the weather forecast, the following weeks would be rain.

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Today I finally decided to do some exercise. Debbie and I biked to 深江村 at the edge of Xizhou. Instead of making a right on the main road (which leads to Erhai), we made an early right into a small village. The village looked vastly different from Xizhou, not in terms of architecture, but in terms of the streets. They were narrow and empty. There was not a sigle shop in sight.

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During wellness, Mia and I visited the ficus tree at the very edge of Chengdong again. This time, we brought exercising equipment and watercolours. It is clear to those who know me, the equipment was not meant for me. I sat down by the tree, with my brand new watercolour brush in one hand, notebook in the other, and painted little doodles. The ficus tree was a great place to focus on reading, writing or drawing, because of the peaceful surroundings.

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During SAS Essentials, Mia, Debbie, and I visited Sifangjie for research regarding our science assignment. Our goal was to interview and ask local townspeople about the topic we chose on global warming. We met a friendly shop owner, Li Ayi, who seemed really glad for a couple of students to ask her about plastic use. She even introduced us to the rest of the cooks and offered us to go back. And we did.

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There are a lot of ficus trees in Xizhou. I never really understood the meaning behind them, but I've heard it holds some significance in local legends. Two of the ficus trees introduced to us on the first couple days were the one downhill from Ranyixiang and one uphill from Sifangjie. After a couple adventures, our group often goes into a village behind the ficus tree near Ranyixiang. As mentioned in previous journals, the village was Chengdong. Today, Debbie and I visited the town again.

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Finally, the weekend has come. After an exhausting week of interactions and work, we finally had the chance to catch up on our rest. Most of the day was spent indoors in the living room or the classrooms. But the times we did leave the compound, the wonders of Xizhou still continue to amaze me. To start our Service Learning project, I embarked on a trip around town with my Service Learning partner, Jason M. We began with the town by the ficus tree, Chengdong, looking for previous contacts.

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Today we went out to the wind farm north of Xizhou. We arrived at the foot of a wind turbine, where we watched the blades of the wind turbine rotate before the bright blue sky. We even had the opportunity to climb down the edge of the mountain and enjoy still time before fields of solar panels and distant towns. That was by far, my favorite still time.

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After our daily meeting, the group was frantic due to the sudden realization on the amount of work we have. Specifically on the local contacts assignment. The requirement was to gain 15 local contacts to prepare us for the Service Learning project starting this Saturday. So far, all of us have around two to three contacts, and reaching fifteen by Saturday seemed impossible. So my day continues with multiple outings with multiple people. The first was with Debbie, as part of our food/menu committee assignments.

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The main purpose of Microcampus is building connections in the rural China. It is really easy to forget that in the first couple days of the trip. Today we were reminded of this after a sobering meeting with Mr. T: our Inquiry research has begun. Starting today, we will be interviewing local experts on our topic. With little experience in starting conversations, I embarked on an antique hunt with Mr. T. He first led me to Mr. Zhu, an antique dealer who was familiar with the Microcampus students.

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Today was the first official day of Microcampus work. We were introduced to the WIPPIS (Wellness Inquiry Project Pitching In and Still time) schedule, where we were given a scheduled 4 and a half hour block to complete our work for the day. As part of our assignment, I visited the Linden Center for the first time today. The center itself was similar to Baochengfu and Yangzhouran, but there seemed to be a lot more energy and excitement in the courtyard.

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Today we started off our day like a typical Microcampus day: breakfast, SAS essentials, the daily meetings, and pitching in. We were even able to squeeze in some Inquiry work after lunch. The Inquiry work we did today was an insight to what we would be doing for the rest of the month: starting conversations, introducing myself, learning from the experienced. Another thing we did today was biking all the way up Erhai to a town called Renliyicun.

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Xizhou alleyways are filled with wonders and stories. That was a thing I learned today while on a tour around town with the group. We began down from Ranyixiang to the ficus tree. From there we visited Mr. Yang, Happy Embroidery, the er si factory, the morning market, and then finally Sifangjie for lunch. Throughout the tour, Mr. T repeatedly brought out the difference between the old and the new that are evident in local buildings. He told us the unfortunate reality of traditions and cultures being destroyed due to the rise of the tourism industry.

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After a shaky flight and a lengthy bus ride, we finally arrived in Yangzhouran, our new home for a month. Although we were not able to bond much with the locals (since we spent the rest of the day in the compound), we were able to bond with each other. We were given time to rest and get used to our new surroundings, the five of us eventually ended up all together in the instruments room. Majority of the time were spent on individually playing our prefered instruments.

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I am Audrey T, an 8th grader from Shanghai American School. I have returned from a 28 day trip to Xizhou, and it was a wonderful experience! I will never forget the friendly locals and the stunning view. Special thanks to Mr. T and Ms. Mai for making this wonderful trip happen!