My name is Isabelle S. and I am apart of the Marvel Musketeers group here at Microcampus. Microcampus takes place in Yunnan, Xizhou and it is a type of experience that only happens once in a life time. As a group, we stayed in a quaint little area for four weeks. Each and one of us chose a specific topic that struck interest or was personal to us individually; at the end, I decided to focus on End of Life Rituals.
Even though this topic is quite depressing, I personally believe getting to know someone is not only about knowing their name, knowing their family members but I think getting to know them even more in depth, knowing about their background, their traditions is how friendships are formed and kept for a longer period of time.
Throughout my trip in Xizho, I interviewed quite a number of people who helped a bunch in my project. Although, here is a list of local folks who helped the most. Mr. Yang, Mr. Yang, Mr. Dong, Mrs. Yang, Mr. Zhao, Jake, and Mrs. Evy. Apart from these seven main local contacts, I had long and fulfilling conversations with around 20 other local folks. Adding on, through them I learned a lot about the preparations of funerals, what are some
As I mentioned before, I interviewed and had conversations with around 20 people, but these 7 people gave me the most information about my topic; also, they helped put an image in my head which is quite convenient for my final product. Do not take this the wrong way though, the other 14 local contacts were quite useful by confirming most of the information.
One of the most important questions I was trying to answer was, what are some preparations needed before a funeral. The reason why I believe this was one of the most important question was because this type of question lets me find out different answers through different people, when the question is the same. Apart from this question, I had many others that were quite similar. For instance, they were all broad questions that were able to consist of many different factors and depending on the families tradition, the answer would be different.
Finally, the thesis statement that I mentioned in Phase 4 was "If I was the oldest son of my family, would I be able to produce a loving and respectful to the Bai tradition funeral for my mother."
Sharing My Learning
For my final product, I have decided to make an Imovie demonstrating my findings. The reason why I chose an Imovie is because it is simple, and it is an easy way for me to demonstrate all my learning. If the video above does not work, please click here to watch on the video portal.
From my experience with inquiry project, I have not only learned about myself in general, but I also learned about my work habits, and some factors about funerals within the Bai tradition. Starting off with myself in general and my work habits. I learned about how I would take my time on the first few days the project is given, then I would try to rush and finish at the last minute. I learned that by doing this, I do not give myself time to make any edits in order for it to make it perfect. Leading to my second point, I usually tend to only do 85% of my best and finish it quickly; throughout this journey, I learned that the last 15% is the most important part of a project. Adding on, the last 15% is usually the time where I would edit and make changes to make it better. Another aspect I learned from this experience was how I learned that at times, I like to procrastinate and wait till the last minute to finish everything. As I mentioned before, this did not give me time to edit or make changes to my final product, which influenced the fact that I do not have enough time to finish my project on time. Now, moving on to my project in general. I learned about the preparations before, during and after a funeral. I also learned about some beliefs/ traditional rituals before and after a death.
During my time in XIzhou, my topic did not necessarily change in general, but some small aspects of my project changed. For instance, before the trip, my main focus for my project was how to make tombstones and caskets, but throughout my journey in Xizhou, I decided to focus on the preparations before, during and after a funeral. Adding on, I originally thought I was able to focus on end of life rituals in general, but after going to Xizhou, I realized there are way too many factors and aspects within end of life rituals. At the start of the trip, I wanted to focus only on the preparations, but while I was talking to my local contacts, they started to mention about some of their family beliefs and some traditional rituals. I was interested and decided to add family beliefs and traditional rituals to the preparations.
The hardest part of my research was asking people about my topic, because most of the time, people would get insecure and get sad about thinking about their lost. Which leads to them telling me either to talk to someone else, or them giving me an excuse of them being busy. This was one of the hardest part because I remember at the start of my project, I was being really stressed and scared about not being able to find any local contacts that were willing to help me. Adding on to before, most people in Xizhou were either really open about their lost, or they wanted to forget and keep everything to themselves. Continuing, my second point about the hardest part of my project was the fact that it was quite hard for me to bring up such a personal question without knowing if it would offend them or not. Most of the time during my interviews and conversations, I remember I would first introduce myself, then I would make a joke around my topic then tell them about how I was studying end of life rituals and how I wanted to learn about the preparations. Although, throughout this question, I broke the ice between many local folks and in fact, I have made many friendships along the way.
While I was interviewing and having conversation with the local folks in Xizhou, I did not necessarily have an A-ha moment because most of my conversations with the local folks were very interesting and made me think. For instance, while I was having a conversation with Mr. Zhao, the security guard in Yang Zhou Ran, we talked for around 50 minutes and throughout our conversation, he told me about many factors of funerals in general. Within that conversation, I must have had at least 5 times when I went "ohhhhh" about something he said. Another example from the trip was when I was talking to Mrs. Yang, and she started telling me about all the preparations needed for a funeral. On a side note, Mrs. Yang's grandmother passed away a few months ago. Also, she was a person I talked later to during my trip in Xizhou. Anyways, when I talked to her, I already knew a bunch about my topic, except I did not quite understand any of it. So, when I talked to her, she explained it all and I am assuming that might have been my other A-ha moment.
This project helped in many ways for me to understand my topic more in depth. For example, without this topic, I would not have been able to understand some certain Bai funeral traditions. Also, during my journey in Xizhou, I learned about some beliefs and traditional rituals within certain households. Yes, I would have understood and learned some traditions from the internet, but I would have never learned about the traditions certain families believed in. One of the examples I got from my local contacts was, Mrs, Yang's family believed in the fact that all family members need to look at the dead body before they get to close the casket. The reason why they think that is because it is disrespectful and most family members want to mourn before sending a person off.
This project helped me interact with the community in and around Xizhou because in order for me to understand and learn about my topic, I had to get out of my comfort zone and ask many of the local folks. Even though my topic is quite depressing, I have always believed that in order to be friends with someone for a long period of time, I would need to get to now them more in depth. Not necessarily their names or their family names, but their history, their traditions and some factors about their past. With this mindset, I brought myself to ask the local folks about my topic. By asking my many questions about the preparations, the traditions and some traditional rituals during a funeral, I strongly believe it brought me closer to many of the local villagers in Xizhou, and I have made many close friends along the way.
Going to Microcampus and meeting new people taught and reflected upon myself deeply. Before arriving in Xizhou, I personally believed I was a very open and very dynamic person. I thought it was quite easy for me to meet and greet new people. Have conversations with any new person and it was all pretty easy. But, while I was in Xizhou, I got quite shy and did not necessarily have the courage to ask and meet new people. I learned that it was actually quite difficult for me to talk to new folks. Adding on, because I got shy all of a sudden, at the start of my trip, it was hard for me to find all the information needed for my final product. Another thing I realized about myself was that I tend to say the word “like” a whole lot needed. While I was having a conversation with Mr. Yang, the casket maker, Mr. Tafel mentioned and noticed enough to tell me that even when I spoke Chinese, I tend to add the word “like” within every other word of mine. Afterwards, Mr. Tafel explained to me adding the word “like” was not only annoying, but it made the Chinese local folks quite confused while I talked. Throughout my time in Xizhou, I tried to limit my use of word “like” and paid very close attention while I talked to others. Adding on, I learned that it is alright to stop, gather up my thoughts, then start talking again.
Throughout this project, I learned about how I am as a learner. For instance, I learned and now understand that I like to work slower at the start and when it is closer to the deadline, I would scramble and rush my work so that it would be finished on time. I learned that during Microcmapus, that is not possible. Everything is planned exactly and the time given is the time needed. Also, I learned that I should always do as the plan says; I should not add or take out any information, rules or instructions, because by doing that, I would not be able to finish on time and I would end up with a messy product. The last factor I learned from my experience was that I tend to only do 85% of the work instead of pushing through and adding that 15% of effort. Throughout this project, I learned that the last 15% is actually the most important part. Stating, after finishing 85% of the work, I should continue and excel to try to achieve the 100% mark. I should also put in the last 15% of effort because it would make all my work 1000 times better.
Most instructions given to me were a major help later on during the trip. I do not wish to have any further comments or instructions. Although, I really wished that I became more fluent in my Chinese and more confident with myself before the trip. The reason why I mention this is because as I mentioned before, when I got to the village, I became shy and it was harder more me to interact and have conversations with the local folks. Also, another factor I really hoped that I had was the ability to have great time management. Throughout my trip, my time management was really bad, causing me not be able to finish my final inquiry project on time. I am really bummed because when everyone else was enjoying their last few days in Xizhou, I was a bit stressed about not being able to finish my project. I noticed that it was not completely my time management skills, but it was my learning habits of only needing to do 85% of my work and the teacher would approve. I realized I never gave myself time to edit or add any changes to my final work; which was the last 15%. Throughout this journey, my work habits and time management did improve, even though it is not perfect yet, I have a mindset already and is ready to continue to learn and change my work ethics.
My time working with my project and with the local folks in Xizhou was unforgettable. It was not only fun, but it was also educational. Throughout my many findings on the trip, there are many factors I did not get to touch or investigate even more. For instance, I never really got to go more in depth with the food provided at a funeral, the decorations at a memorial service or focus mainly on traditional rituals. If someone else was to investigate on End of Life Rituals, I suggest them to focus on the food provided, the decorations needed for a memorial service or on traditional rituals. The reason why I think those three would make good topics is because while I was studying End of life Rituals, I got some input on those three topics, but because I had a different aspect and idea of things, I never got to investigate and look deeply into those factors. I think these three topics would be quite interesting and that future Microcampus students would not only have fun with these topics, but they would learn quite an amount of information.
I am extremely grateful to everyone who helped make this trip become reality. I would like to first thank Mr. Tafel for coming up with such an incredible idea, and for pursuing it so that us students were able to experience it. Next, I would like to thank Mrs. Mai for helping Mr. Tafel along the way, and for giving her 100% effort for making sure we had and got all the needed items for this trip. I would like to thank the Linden family for providing such an incredible environment and a roof over our heads. I would like to thank the kitchen staff and the guards for providing us food and safety. Continuing, I would like to thank the SAS 8th grade teachers ( Ms. McDaniel, Ms. Beck, Mr. Zeman, Mrs. Hundley, Mr. Classen, Mrs. Heckmann, Mr. McSwinney, and Mrs. Wegnar ) for being patient with us during those four weeks we were in Xizhou. I would also like to thank them for being available to us even during their october break. Posting the homework, emailing homework, and simply supporting us throughout the process. I would like to thank the support teachers (Mrs. Zhang, Mrs. Evy and Jake), they not only helped translate unknown words during my interviews with my local contacts, but they also told me and gave me information about our topic. They made the trip fun and they gave me their insight about Xizhou. Last but not least, I would like to thank the local folks and villagers of Xizhou. They have been extremely welcoming and made my trip ten times better. Continuing, I would like thank all the members of the Marvel Musketeers, they have amde the trip fun and entertaining even during the hardest times. Finally, I want to say thank you once again to everyone who helped make this trip possible and to make it so it would be unforgettable. I have way too many emotions within me that no words can describe.
This journey is definitely a once in a life time opportunity. I am extremely grateful to have become and be chosen to attend this wonderful experience. This trip has not only given me the opportunity to do something different, something abstract but it also gave me the chance to experience a life with no teacher looking over us, no parent supervising us while going out into a village. Throughout this journey, I learned about myself, the people around me and the traditions some family withhold. It definitely expanded my intercultural learning and my experiential learning. By doing my inquiry project, I not only learned about the culture around me in Xizhou, but I also learned about the people, the history of Xizhou. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who was involved with this journey and this will definitely be an experience, a memory I would never want to forget.