I chose the visitor's guide because it would allow me to fully explore the entire area. Sometimes I feel like I have lived in Shanghai for years, but I only know less than 0.01% of what it really is. I want to be able to know Xizhou in and out as well as I can. I know that some parts will always be hidden and undiscovered, but that is part of the culture as well. Even if I had lived in Xizhou all my life, there would still be surprises. And I guess that is exactly what makes life as beautiful as it is.
I had many different sources, one of which being Tour-Yunnan. I chose to contact them because, well, I am in Yunnan myself , and because they would be able to help me understand the tourism aspect of Xizhou and Dali. They were very helpful (thanks a lot!) and really aided me in getting to know the area better. Another main source would be Mr. Tafel. He has always been supporting our entire group and is there for us when we get stuck. I chose him because I thought he would be able to explain to me what made Xizhou such a captivating place. We kind of got off topic, but that random side topic eventually led me to my final product. In the beginning, I was trying to answer questions that would make clear the best parts of Xizhou. Later, I found the topic much too broad for my 28 days at Xizhou. I narrowed it down to just foods and restaurants. After that, my questions were about the pros (and cons) of all the different places to eat and about the people behind the food. The point that I will share with my audience is that a person wanting to eat in Xizhou would want to consider the options of the types of food there are, their dining experience, their budget, and the availability of the food.
Sharing My Learning:
I created a website as my final product. Please go to xizhoufood.weebly.com to see it.
I learned so much from Microcampus. How do I even begin to explain? First of all, I learned to connect and communicate with people. My roommates, the students part of Microcampus, the chefs and staff at YZR and the Linden Centre, Service Learning partners, restaurant owners, or simply random people on the street. I also got better at being independent and taking responsibility for my own actions. At home, my dad would make me write out all of my plans and then remind me throughout the entire day. Here, I have to remind myself to get everything done. I had to do my own laundry, hang it up, be responsible for leaving tissues in my pocket on Laundry Day, wash my own dishes, clean my room, and get along with everyone. Of course, I also got so much closer with everyone on the trip. (I didn't even know Colton existed before this trip.) That is not all I took away from Microcampus, but I cannot even describe all the rest.
My topic changed about halfway through the trip. At first, I was going to do a general visitor's guide to Xizhou and include a little bit of everything. Unfortunately, I soon discovered this was way too broad of a topic to do. I was just following everyone around and listening to projects. One day, Jillian and I spent our lunchtime comparing and criticizing different kinds of food. We also convinced two tourists form Shanghai to go to the Golden Flower (I saw their comments in the notebooks later). Later, I realized it was really fun, so I changed my topic just to dining. My most difficult part of research was probably Phase 2, finding experts. There is not really an expert in visitor's guide templates, so I tried to communicate with Lonely Planet. However, my emails never got through. Another challenging aspect of my research was talking to all the chefs. Normally, I am fine with talking to people, but for 3 hours straight? There are times when too many people become overwhelming. By the end, I was sick of people.
One of my aha moments was when I narrowed my topic down to cultural tourism. I know it does not sound like much, but to me it was a lot. I had been trying to figure out how I was going to fit all the information into one little guide book, and how I was going to get to the heart of Xizhou's culture. Because today's modern tourist industry is not the most authentic. A lot of the sights are cliché and stereotyped. The point is the culture, not the landscape. Mr. Tafel told me about a new concept of "cultural tourism". Anthony Paglino (AP, head of iCurious Travel), also helped me to better understand the purposes of a guidebook ("it should be a compass, not a map"). So that helped me understand my message better.
Microcampus really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I had to have conversations with all sorts of random strangers (before I had only talked to taxi drivers). As I just said in the last paragraph, it taught me about cultural tourism. Xizhou also showed me the right balance between tourism, income, and keeping the culture intact. I mean, one of the main points of Microcampus is to learn about my topic. For me, every day was learning about my topic through experience. Before this, I had no idea Xizhou even existed. Microcampus brought me closer to home.
Microcampus also forced me to interact with people that I normally would not even take a second look at. Here, everyone is so friendly and open. There is nowhere you cannot go. When I first came here, I was amazed that we could just walk straight into someone's courtyard and they would not mind. In Shanghai and America, people would arrest you for trespassing. That, is just incredible. You can talk to anyone, anytime, and they are willing to share their stories with you. Even though it seems simple, it is actually pretty amazing. In Shanghai, that is just not something you do. A dog-eat-dog world out there. And in Xizhou, you can not survive without interacting with the community. In Phase 2, you have to have local contacts. You have to learn from the people around here. That was the entire point of coming here. Service Learning is, in essence, encouraging us to go and talk to the elders. Normally, I will not go out of my way to find people to talk to, but here, it was a necessity. Even though we kind of also developed a mini-bubble in YZR, Microcampus still really made us interact with everyone.
Before I came here, I think one of the things I looked forward to was finding out about myself. In Shanghai, my daily routine is just wake up, class, class, class, lunch, class, CISSA, dinner, homework, sleep, wake up...and on and on and on. In Xizhou, days are more relaxed. You actually get time to sit and do nothing and dream and sleep. That is part of what Microcampus did: gave me time to relax as part of the schedule. It also gave me so many opportunities to test myself. (Will you do Inquiry work, or read One Piece? Will you eat lunch with new people? Will you go talk to Aakshi, who you have never talked to before? The list goes on...) I could tell what my weaknesses were. I could control what I wanted to do. I could change what I wanted to about myself without anyone nagging me about it. All in all, I think what I am trying to say is that Microcampus gave me more control and responsibility over my own life. And that is the most important.
If I could go back in time, back, back, back, back, back, I would change some things. For example, I would not place so much stress on SAS Essentials. Yes, I admit that it IS a big part of school and being a student, but I came here to get out. Not really a point in being confined to "classroom work" when in a very non-classroom environment. I would also not think so much about the time and the days that had passed. (NOOO, 1 week was already passed! 2 weeks! We're leaving in 3 days?!)It reminds me of "not seeing the forest for the trees". Instead, I would just enjoy the present and accept that time passes. Taking the time to relax and just sit around is on my list. Finally, talking to more people I do not know is something I definitely should have done. Get to know my fellow students better (since I'm stuck with them for a month already anyways), have more random conversations with shopkeepers and tourists, and learn about their individual lives. Everyone has a story to tell. Oh, and find a Service Learning Partner early and do NOT take them for granted (I know Mr. Tafel keeps on saying this, but it is so meaningful that I will repeat it. Find your Service Learning Partner early!) There are always things that could be better. But I suppose that the very fact that we know we cannot change anything makes us appreciate the experience even more.
Personally, I think that my topic has the most potential for growth. Some topics get all researched, and there is not that much left to learn. A visitor's guide, though is all about experience. I am only doing dining. That is only the tip of the iceberg. People could do all sorts of things with this. You could do a whole other section just on hotels and where to live. Or the main tourist attractions here. Or the history of Xizhou. Or the best landscapes around. Or the daily lives of the Bai. Or the...you get my point. My little tiny website is just the beginning of it all. Heck, you could even incorporate EVERYONE'S Inquiry Projects into this and include a little bit of everything. Since I am using Weebly, I can invite other students to edit my website. Or they could create another website and link it together in one big "Microcampus Xizhou Visitor's Guide" and include all the URLs. Infinite possibilities~
- Mr. Tafel for always being patient and forgiving and supportive of what we do. Even if we do do crazy things and almost kill ourselves :)
- Ms. Mai for being optimistic and there for us when we need her.
- Xiao Tang for arranging all the transportation for us and all the activities. And for giving us snacks.
- Mr. Linden for creating the Linden Centre in the first place so that we could all come here. ^^
- Anthony Paglino for teaching me about cultural tourism.
- Mr. Yang, Ms. Zhao, Ms. Kang, Mr. Du, Mr. Yang, and Ms. Yang for spending their time talking to me and for their wonderful, wonderful food.
- Amy Yang, Larry, Rose, Yeon Jae, Stephanie, Wendy, Emily, Nancy, Betty, Amy Shao, Yichen, and Max for being there for me during my time at Microcampus and still communicating with me and being my friends.
- My mom and dad for supporting my coming here and reassuring me while I was here. 我爱你们。
- All the staff at YZR for cooking delicious food for us and keeping the place beautiful.
- And finally, the entire Cookie Monsters Microcampus group for making this month one of the best of my life and for being the most semi-proahh people ever. (You guys are simply awesome!)