Taylor S. (Alumni-V)'s Journal

I came to Microcampus to experience a different way of living rather than the simple bubble of my Shanghai life. I wanted to do something other than waking up, going to school, homework, dinner, and then going to bed. I wanted to understand another culture and the people from a different area and their lives. I signed up for this trip to make new friends and learn more about myself through a new experience. 

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Today is April 5th and it is Sarah R.'s birthday!!! Whohoo! But it also means that we will be leaving tomorrow. I have had many great experiences over the course of this trip and I am very grateful for those who have helped me along the way. 

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Our service learning partner is Yang nai nai. She is 62 years old and lives in Zhoucheng but works in Xizhou selling handmade tie-dye and embroidery with her daughter. From this service learning experience, I have learned a lot about Yang nai nai. She very sweet, kind, funny, and caring. She is determined to care for all the people that she loves in any way possible. She works hard making tie-dye and embroidery even though she says she is losing her eyesight. When she was young, she did not go to school, but instead cared for her siblings while her parents were working on the farm. 

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Today Sarah R. and I were invited to eat dinner with Zhang Ayi, Shi fu, Ye ye, Nai nai, Zhang Ayi's son and his friend at their BaBa shop. Everyone was squished around a tiny table full of a different variety of dishes. Zhang Ayi and Nai nai kept giving Sarah and I different meats and veggies even though we were full. One time they handed us this meat that looked like pork fat and they insisted we tried it with a little bit of chili sauce.

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Today is Day 24 of the Microcampus trip, meaning we only have four days left in Xizhou. Sarah R. and I have taken many pictures over the last 3 and half weeks and we wanted to give some of them to the many people we met and now love in the village. So, we went to the printer shop printed and laminated some photos.

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Yesterday, Nai nai, Jie jie, Sarah R., and I untied the tie-dye that Sarah and I have been working on for the past week and a half. Unwrapping the tiny piece of fabric was super suspenseful and exciting. Both Sarah and I were really worried that our work would not turn out, but the bright blue tie-dye was beautiful and not that different from the much larger pieces that Nai nai and Jie jie work on every day.

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Today, Sarah R. and I went to Mr. Wang's to take some photos for her inquiry project final product. It was a 15 minute bike ride and when we got there Mr. Wang's daughter and son in law were very open to us looking around and taking photos. They had a variety of baskets in many rooms connected to their court yard. Some baskets, I could probably fit in. After a while of us asking questions, they offered to let us try weaving a part of an unfinished basket.

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Last night, the entire Voyagers group earned the right to go to Dali Old Town for dinner. Dali Old Town is a large tourist destination in Dali. The town was full of bustling people with cameras around their necks and wide gaping mouths. Once we reached the town, we split off into groups and went to our own ways. The whole town was lit with lights from many restaurants stalls and cafes, each one serving a different dish or drink from a variety of different places around the world.

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Last night, for evening activities, the Microcampus Voyagers group participated in Mr. T's All-Star Wiz-Bang Super Duper Trivia Night. To take part in the evening activity, each service learning group had to come up with a costume, group name, and group leader. My service learning group was called The 8th Graders and we dressed up in our sunglasses, warm fuzzy hats, and hoodies. Trivia night was super fun because we competed with three other groups. Everyone in my group was hoping our group would win, but in the end we ended up last.

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Today was the first rainy day of Microcampus. It was dreary and cold, but the Voyagers pushed forward. Our schedule was the exact same as normal, but as Shirley X. and I fast-walked for wellness and when I went out for teacher support with Ms. Mai, we all got drenched. During down time, we all sat cozy and warm working on our pitching in items, journals, or inquiry projects, while we watched the rain pouring in the court yard. We all looked like large balloons with all the layers we had on.

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After the hike on day 14, the Microcampus Voyagers group took a short drive to our campsite were we would be setting up our tents and spending the night. We stayed on a farm owned by a very kind family, who grew a variety of foods, had a bunny island, an ostrich, a pony, and a large number of chickens. I was very surprised by the variety of animals on the small piece of land. However, different is okay... It was a new experience and I thought it was very fun to spend the night in a tent in a new, interesting place. 

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Today is the half mark of the Microcampus trip. I am both happy and disappointed that the trip is almost over. I am excited to see my family when I get back to Shanghai, but I disappointed that the adventure is soon ending, due to the fact that I am having a great time learning about the culture and people in Xizhou. 

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I realized that I do not miss my phone or watching tv. I realized that I have never really thought about my phone, movies, and tv shows since I got onto the flight in the Shanghai Honqiao airport. Being away from a lot of my technology has allowed me to understand what it feels like to not have a something to distract me every minute of every day. This has led to me knowing what it feels like to sit in nature around me and make connections with the people in the community.

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Today I visited Yang Nai nai (grandma) and her daughter, Jie jie (older sister) at their little shop near the Xizhou gate. A few days ago some friends and I made a great connection with them, resulting in them asking us to call them Nai nai and Jie jie and later come back to visit them. They both live in Zhoucheng, which is the village that is known for tie-dying, but work in Xizhou, selling homemade tie-dye, intricate bags, coasters, hair braiding, and hats.

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Today is Day 9 of the Microcampus trip and I literally had the best lunch ever! ClarkSarahAlex, and I went to a Ma La Tang restaurant for lunch and even though it was known for its Ma La Tang, we all ordered Ersi and it was amazing. While we were sitting, waiting for our food, a little child came over with its squeaky duck, a sat with us.

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The first week of Microcampus has gone by in a flash. I have had such a great experience already. Plus, I have learned and grown a lot in the past few days as well. Today we did not have a lot of WIPPIS time because we went on a field trip! It was really exciting!

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Although today is Day 6 of the Microcampus experience, this journal is another one about Day 5. 

Yesterday, SoniaShirley, and I went on an adventure to another part of Lake Erhai. We had to go through different towns and alleyways that we had never been before. A few times we had to stop and ask around for directions, but every time we asked, everyone just said keep going straight. 

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This morning, LilyAria, and I went on a 6 o'clock run/walk around Xizhou. The air was still chilly from the cold windy night and it was dark out with only the stars and moon illuminating our way. As we were walking we stared up at the stars and moon in the black sky. It was so quiet, as the world was asleep, and calm as we stood there, it reminded me of previous camping trips where the sky was filled with the same stars.

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Today is Day 4 of the Microcampus trip and I thought today's Wellness time was super interesting. After lunch, Clark and I went out on a walk/jog to make sure we were exercising today. On our walk jog we made a few connections. 

Ms. Ma was the first person we met while we were at the local mosque. She allowed us to look around inside and helped us understand what was happening. Inside we saw a classroom and the praying hall. It was all very interesting. 

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On Day 3, the Microcampus Voyagers caught up on a lot of work and got into the routine of Xizhou life. The event that stuck with me the most today, however, was biking to lake Erhai. 

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March 11th, or Day 2 of the Microcampus trip, was just as amazing as the first. Today we woke up to a freezing and still dark morning, got ready for the day, and set off (when it was warm and sunny) on a tour around the village. One of our stops was the morning market.

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Today is Day 1 of the Microcampus experience and I am nervous and excited to begin the rest of the adventure. At the airport we said goodbye to our family and the thought of leaving the people I love for a month finally set in. (But of course I am not going to let my feelings get in the way of being an open minded, responsible, and positive Microcampus student).

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In the beginning, I was so nervous about not getting into Microcampus. When, I heard there were close to 40 people applying for the trip, I said to myself "I am definitely not making it in." I had a rough start of the year. I was surprised that there was a big difference between the difficulty of 7th and 8th grade and I think I needed some time to adjust to that. Having the Microcampus application process during that time just stressed me out and I just thought I knew that I was not getting in. 

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My name is Taylor and I am 14 years old. I enjoy learning new things, pushing myself past my limits, reading, spending time with the people I love, playing sports, being active, and having fun. I am a spunky, athletic, creative person. I like to bake and be in nature. I feel my best when I have had enough sleep, healthy food, and had a good laugh. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to spend time in Xizhou. Throughout my time in the village, I was able to push myself past my limits, make new friends, learn, and have a great experience. I made many connections that I will forever have a place in my heart. The village of Xizhou and it's people have truly changed my life.