Shiny H. (Alumni-V)'s Journal

As I stepped off the school bus on a typical afternoon, the city of Shanghai towered upon me. There were the tall metropolitan buildings, the booming noises of the cars, the suffocating traffic, the people with their earbuds on, going on their own roads and softly singing along to their tunes…and then there was me, my feet coming to an abrupt stop and gazing at the pinkish, orange sky of the evening. The clouds were low as the ground, clinging to the buildings while the sun was sliced in half and gleaming with a lighter shade of yellow.

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Today, I devoted most of my time to packing my bag, cleaning my room, and reviewing previous work. As I packed each item to its original places in the suitcase, I reflected back on the memories of the past 27 days at Microcampus. The daily routines will be replaced by the busy life back in Shanghai. There will be no more room for Still Time or walking around the village and observing the beauty of Xizhou. There will be no more common blue tie-dye skies or people who would reply my greeting with a warm smile so easily. I have learned to cherish moments, the people, and the environment. 

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Today's a day of celebrating the successful completion of our service learning as well as the past days of staying in Xizhou. It is showing gratitude and appreciating the Xizhou community for supporting our stay. There will be a number of guests from a variety of connections our group has made as a whole. I am both excited and nervous to share our video because we have put in a significant amount of effort for the past few days and playing the video in front of Mr. Du, our service-learning partner. 

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Life in Microcampus is like this. We can crash down into the ground in the mornings and recover again with light and hope in the afternoon. My mood fluctuated severely today. Due to some conflicts and hardships, while finishing our service learning project, I faced some instability in terms of my emotional wellness. 

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As the Microcampus trip is coming to an end, I decided to purchase some souvenirs to remember my stay in Xizhou. To remember the taste of sweet Baba, I decided to visit a shop that sells rose-related products. Once I stepped into the shop with three other peers, there was a large variety of rose based products, such as rose jam, candy, tea, and so on. We all decided to buy a jam among the three different types - honey rose jam, black sugar rose jam, and red sugar rose jam. To imitate the original taste of Baba, the black sugar jam was the ideal choice.

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As soon as I got up today, I started writing my reflection for the final product. I was in a rush because I did not start on the reflection portion the previous day. A lot of things were going on at once, for I had to work both on my inquiry project and service learning project. (Click here to view my final product). While I was working on the two, I realized that Microcampus was really coming to an end. This was the last Sunday before we went home.

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1 o' clock, after arriving from lunch, I begin working on the final product for my inquiry project. I gathered photos and clips, I reviewed my recordings and edited them, and adjusted the duration for each section. I was so deeply engrossed in the work that I didn't realize the dilemma I was stuck in. I had made a video more than 10 minutes when in reality, the expected length was 6 minutes. I was devastated and shocked because I had spent a lot of time working but I had to redo the process by reducing the length, which was definitely a harder process. 

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I got a sore throat today not because of a cold but rather because of recording my final product's voice over too many times. As I finished typing up my two and a half page script, I spent at least an hour of recording. I attempted to finish each paragraph without speaking too fast along with a formal tone of voice. However, I was not able to complete it within a short period of time due to my frequent mistakes. After taking rests in intervals, I managed to finish the recording portion of my work. 

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For Wellness, a peer and I visited the temple nearby. One was entirely Buddhist while the other one was a temple worshipping a local god. Although my family is Buddhist, I never had a strong faith or connection to religion. My view towards religion was not the most positive, and sometimes I was just indifferent to it. However, for an unknown reason, I felt very calm and peaceful today when I visited those two temples. 

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Today’s a day of clear blue skies and a bright sun in Xizhou. As a group, we finished our Phase 4, which is a stage of planning before creating our final product. My final product is going to be a video that consists of footages and photos and a voice over. Besides preparing for the final product, we also filmed our first footage for Service Learning. Our first filming didn't go very well - we had a lack of preparation and planning. The video was choppy and the interview wasn't smooth enough. We had a lot of work to do and a lot of effort to put in as well. 

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A cloudy day always ought to bring a different feeling. Today, I have interviewed two other people for my last inquiry project field research. Because it was rainy, there weren't a lot of horsecart drivers. Instead, as planned, I interviewed a cart driver near the embroidery store Happy Embroidery. He didn't really give me abundant information, but I also got to ask a few questions to the customer of the cart.

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I woke up with mixed emotions today. I had a queer premonition that something significant was going to happen, perhaps a crucial turning point in our Microcampus journey. Without any precedent, the mind-blowing event happened as our morning pitching in ended. 

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Any sort of group work requires effective communication and careful planning. Last night, our committee group encountered some hardships regarding last minute planning. This particular experience alarmed us that we should conduct quick and efficient communication with each other because they can foreshadow a sloppy, unprecedented result. 

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The altitude was high and the winds are wild on the mountains. Our 6-hour hike ended as we dashed down the stairs, eager to find a place to halt our sore legs. The hike started off by climbing a steep hill for 2 hours. We pushed up the rocky roads with force and effort to reach a temple that was above 260 meters from our starting point. As I exerted my force on each step, sweat started to form on my back, soon drenching my T-shirt in haphazard shapes. The moments of gulping down water were such a relief and a temporary escape from the aridness of the land.

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For my inquiry project field research, I decided to visit the Lanxu tie-dye place and interview one of the employees. The factory itself seemed nothing like a factory. There was a terrace that was open to an endless canola field, the light tie-dyes were swaying with the wind, and the decorations were all light blue. As I was waiting for my interviewee, I watched her teaching and demonstrating some visitors on how to tie-dye. It seemed like the tourists were more focused on getting the perfect shot rather than fully engaging in the process of learning.

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The 12th day of Microcampus was indeed a tiring day. I had an interview with Mrs. and Mr. Linden, which was supposed be one of the events that I most looked forward to gaining the most information. However, I felt drained out and challenging to keep a fruitful conversation ongoing. I do not know if it was because of the heat, but I felt a little hazy and hard to focus on anything. However, there were moments in which I was able to visit places I have never been before, such as the cheese factory I visited with several other peers.

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It was a bright, sunny day. The canola fields were blooming with a sweet fragrance of March. The mountain ranges were so clear that I thought I could feel their rough textures, and the sky seemed so silky as if it were dyed with a traditional light blue color of indigo. In fact, it was an ideal weather for going on a short bike around the village. During Wellness, a peer and I went biking to the canola fields, which I visited previously. We spent still time and took some photos of the canolas while the sun was beating down on the bare fields. 
 
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I can confidently say that I pretty much settled in Microcampus. The environment, the schedules, and the community itself feels familiar and part of my life now. Today was the first time I took part in the daily video-shout out too, and I briefly shared that we went to the traditional music festival at the Linden Centre yesterday. On the way, two other peers and I bought some Baba, a special Xizhou snack. While enjoying the Baba, we realized that we could not finish the entire piece - we were stuck in a dilemma.

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I have a confession to make: I love the number 9. The number 9 has been the motivation and the spirit to lead my life. In other words, I am on the road to perfection:10, and I am soon getting there. Nonetheless, I believe imperfection is a necessary component to reaching our ideal destination.

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Saturday! I got an extra few hours of sleep today, starting off the day from around 9 a.m. It was also my day of dish duty as well, and I got to wash the dishes this time, which was more entertaining than rinsing. Surpringsly, the highlight of my day was listening to Mr. T's exclusive lecture - "150 years of Chinese history in 150 minutes". My favorite subject is history, but I never really got to learn about Chinese history, maybe because I am so used to living in this country that I solely focus on the present moment rather than its past.
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Life in Microcampus is unpredictable. My emotions surely fluctuate from time to time, but I have a feeling that today was the most difficult to handle. In the morning, the evening committee, which I was part of, had to make adjustments to which movie we were going to play during today's evening activity. Although we had several different options (Kungfu Panda, Wall-E, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Inception), we were not able to conduct an entire group vote because we accidentally decided upon Kungfu Panda a few days ago.
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Today was a day of different colors. The day started off pretty well - the usual routines in the morning were completed and I was ready for my second field research. Accompanied by Ms. B, I visited two shop owners around the Linden Centre to gain a deeper understanding of business interactions with tourists. Both shops were quite empty, so I was able to conduct a very thought-provoking and efficient interview.

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It was now time to put my plans into action. My first official interview was accompanied by Mr. Chen, one of the teachers that had a thorough understanding of the village. I would say that my conversations with two business persons went pretty well. The first person I met was Jiajia jiejie, a woman who ran a shop selling attractive goods to tourists. The other person I interviewed was Li Ayi. Although they had very slightly different views on the issues I brought up, I was able to gain a common understanding of the notion of tourism in the perspective of business people.

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It struck me that in a 28-day-trip, brevity and efficiency were the key factors to get our tasks done. Before the trip, the ideal scope of my topic covered many different aspects of tourism and development. As I finished my last 3-to-5 interview today, I realized that I needed to narrow down my topic to something more specific that directly addresses an issue of my interest. I was offered with many options, such as a closer inspection of the Linden Centre's role in the Xizhou Community and the Erhai Lake policy.
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Monday has arrived here at Xizhou as well. Today's big moment was also a moment of serenity but a slightly different one. We started biking and diving into our 3-to-5's, which was a crucial step to finding helpful resources for our investigation. I asked several experienced adults to not only ask for possible connections but also to receive general advice and clear directions on my research. After that, we went biking together around the area to be able to navigate our ways throughout the village.

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The first fluorescent light in our room turned on at 6:30 a.m. It was the first official day in Xizhou - the early morning sky was a dim blue color, and the village was peacefully quiet. As we got introduced to some routines, such as dishwashing, schedules, and down time, spirit and energy seemed to circulate around the house. One remarkable moment today was a moment of serenity, an untroubled, undisturbed moment that arrived without precedent. It was a moment that I secretly longed for when I was sitting down in my room back at a city full of noise and humans. 

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Saturday, March 10th. From the initial introduction meetings and application processes to arriving at the Hongqiao airport, the past months of preparing for Microcampus was both tiring and exciting. The first day of Microcampus arrived very suddenly, and I could not fully comprehend that I finally arrived in Xizhou after a three-hour plane ride. I expected hardships and struggles but also moments of revelation throughout the trip. It was indeed a special feeling to be in a place where I have only researched and heard about. 

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I am curious about the things that will happen when tomorrow comes. What decisions, what paths, and what opportunities will I face when I am struggling to steer my life in the "correct" direction? 
How much will I learn and how different will I become? Each day is a tedious repetition, but I seek to find something unique and unprecedented within the ordinary. I have come to a conclusion that the only way I can find meaning in life is to enter the great and mighty world that is a little too overwhelming but still worth experiencing. 

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I am fourteen years old and this is my 10th year in China. I have stayed in Xizhou for 28 days to learn about the unique historical background and culture of the Bai minority. My goal by the end of the trip was to develop into a stronger, open-minded individual. This opportunity provided me with different insights about the country China. I am glad I made this trip a valuable learning experience!