Microcampus is a school trip where a group of 10 or above students travels to a place called Xizhou and live there for 28 days. During this process, students will face many challenges and occur many problems. Eventually, trip members will learn from mistakes and experience personal growth. Before this trip, all students would pick a topic of high personal interest, and spend a month or 2 in shanghai, and 20 days in Xizhou researching about their project. I choose the topic of local food and cuisine.
I choose this topic because first of all, obviously, it was a high interest for me. I loved food and most importantly enjoy creating food. I like to see satisfying looks at people when they taste what I have created.
A few people who really helped me and supported me along the way were Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai, 阿波, Mr. Yang. Mr. Tafel and Ms. Mai has lead 17 other groups. They both have 17 previous trips of experience and helped a ton during our inquiry project time. 阿波 was one of my local contacts that I really appreciated and helped me and gave me many useful tips. He was also very open and a great teacher. Mr. Yang was my Senpai and taught me how to make a Xizhou baba.
My goal was to understand more about local food and values. Such as how do locals value western food and junk food? I did not come prepared with the main goal, which ended up not giving myself enough time when I found it. It was only until later on that I realize that my true interest was to actually learn and cook dishes that others would appreciate.
To fully understand my personal journey, one must consider my habits, challenges that I have faced, how I have overcome those challenges.
Sharing My Learning:
For my final product, I made a video for my personal journey. The video is right above the entire section or can be found here: https://youtu.be/BuL8kwsPkbk
As said in the Sharing My Learning portion, procrastination has always affected me deeply. Throughout Microcampus I kind of grew out of that habit. I think that I can stay this way because with procrastination I add a ton of stress to my body on the last few days. Now I think I grew out of the habit, and that would be extremely helpful.
My topic did not quite change. It just never set on a main goal, I kind of just researched a little bit of everything. I now realize that I want to study on Xizhou baba and understand how to fully create one on my own. I knew that I should have focused on one main topic. There were many things that I really could have done. Coffee beans, tea, Xizhou baba, the Ba Da Wan. I just did not know what to do.
The most difficult part of my research, as mentioned before was with finding direction. The information on everything in Xizhou was overwhelming. I did not have time to actually sort out all the information, and talk to myself and say: this is what I find most interesting, I will only investigate this. That was the hardest part.
During my studies, there some but very few "a-ha" moments. I used to cook every weekend in Shanghai, I would consider it like a project, something I would check on a checklist. 阿波 would tell me that the first step of cooking well, the chef would have to first be feeling happy. The chef's mood while cooking can really affect the dishes they cook. That was really inspirational and would be a big take away from this trip. There was also one with the Xizhou baba where my Senpai told me that the dough used for Xizhou baba, was through natural fermentation. This gave me an "a-ha" moment because I kept on thinking why the dough was so soft and had so many different layers of crust. So this really helped me.
This project helped me understand about local food, the only things that I will actually bring with me and remember would be the creation of Xizhou baba, information regarding tea leaves and especially 古树红茶, and local coffee beans, a few tips and tricks regarding how I should hand grind coffee.
This project helped me to understand many different locals and how most of them are really willing to share information and open and talk about whatever they know. There are restaurants everywhere so I had the chance to talk to 20 or so local chefs and make really good connections. Looking at everyone's smiles and how they all enjoy life, its a very heartwarming feeling and I really enjoy it.
I found out that when I am really passionate about something. I can spend so much time and effort that even I was surprised. Maybe the final results were not as good as I wanted them to be. But I took away so much from this 28 days that gave me a lesson much more precious than anything else. That I tried really hard on something, and it gave me a result some what equivalent to how much work I put in.
The inquiry made me realize that I am great at collecting data, but it was challenging for me to organize them into categories and understand them. I also procrastinate ! Falling behind on inquiry project was near death, it was near impossible to catch up cause the gap just becomes bigger and bigger. I am sure that I have learned my lesson now and work with the right amount of work on a daily basis. I also realized that I was a fast learner and that I would take half the time other people needed to learn things. I think that that is a great advantage and will help me during coming years of school and education.
If I could go back in time to the beginning of this project, I would tell myself to really focus on one main goal. Find that early and pursuit it all the way down. I really wish that I could have received the same advice then I think that my work would become so much better.
If I were to continue in this process, then I would first up finish on Xizhou baba, understand fully how to create both flavors of Xizhou baba. I would also like to create a flavor of my own or two. That would very interesting and fun. The second project if I had time would be on coffee beans. Yunnan is special for its coffee beans and I enjoy coffee's unique taste and smell. It does not affect my sleep so I really really enjoy it.
Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai were the mentors for each and every Microcampus group. I would really like to thank them for everything they do. They put in so much more time and effort that I greatly appreciate. Mr. Yang at the baba shop was very kind to teach me how to create Xizhou baba. 阿波 was is a great chef and helped a ton throughout the process. He was very nice as to how he let me sit down in his house bring out his best tea. A very kind and thoughtful man.
Microcampus has taught me something that I cannot achieve anywhere else in the world. I fell in love in with this place and this already feels like home. It is sad and hard to say goodbye to this place in 3 more days. So many memories and valuable lessons that make this place absolutely unique. I am truly thankful to all who made this experience possible and amazing.