We are all here, 24 students and four staff members at a local park in Yunnan province, accompanied by senior citizens practicing their morning Tai-chi.
It's rainy season, yet rain was absent on our first day, allowing for smooth Emersion in both urban and national parks.
And now, finally, We are in Shaxi. Our two week home.
Published on July 8, 2017
The Shaxi Experience
Written by: Evan Wang. Ashtin Wang, Vicky Guevara, Shelby Colson, Theo Moore-Manakas
Day 1: Before we arrived in Shaxi, we endured an 8 hour long bus ride through the countryside of the Yunnan Province. We passed the time playing games, listening to music, and getting to know each other. Around noon we stopped for lunch, the group enjoyed the food, despite many of us squirming in our seats after trying fried insects. After a couple more hours on the bus, we arrived at a rest stop, where the locals there were fascinated by the significant amount of foreigners that stepped off of the bus. They took many photos of us and commented on Jack’s impressive stature. We then continued on our way and finally arrived in Shaxi at 6 pm, after which we ate dinner and finished the day with an icebreaker that involved our life stories.
Day 2: In the morning, we walked to the Cheng Huang Temple, where we would be doing our service, and got introduced to the people we would be working with. After that, we walked to a local kindergarten and played games with the kids. Although it was tough to get everyone involved in group games, once the children got used to us we had a lot of fun. Afterwards, we returned to the Home Base for lunch, toured the town, and visited a temple located in the marketplace. After leaving the temple we headed to an exercise playground, which we had a lot of fun playing on. We also split up for a quick shopping break and then walked to a middle school near home base. We all enjoyed our time there, playing basketball, soccer, and ninja with the kids, which was a good chance to get to know them. At the end of the day, we had dinner at the middle school with the kids. While the food was delicious, it was also extremely spicy!
Day 3: First thing in the morning we returned to the kindergarten that we had previously visited. The day before we had prepared a list of things to do with the kids, but because it was raining, things did not all go according to plan. Instead, we colored with the kids and played with stickers. However, they eventually became restless and started to wrestle us to the ground. We retaliated by tickling the kids and picking them up off the floor. Unfortunately, we had no more time to play and had to leave, but not before taking many photos with the kids. Afterwards, we came back to home base for lunch and had our first Chinese class. Prior to dinner, we had two hours of indoor rest time because it was raining cats and dogs! Again, the food was delicious and we all ate until we couldn’t get up. After dinner, the mentors left the room and we were tasked with creating student guidelines for the rest of the trip. Once we finished our manifesto, we presented it to the mentors and ended the day by talking about our experience so far.
Saturday: Shilong Village
After a bus ride through the countryside to Shilong Village we all walked around to find our guesthouses. While walking around, a local elder man seemed to find interest in our group and particularly Evan’s looks. At first, he just walked back and forth admiring the ‘wai guo ren (foreigners)’ but after about 15 minutes he decided to approach us. With Henry translating we were able to understand his fascination with finding new people in his remote village. Evan was even kind enough to take a selfie with his enthusiastic fan.
After settling into our guesthouses and a traditional honorary dinner, we went to see a performance by the Bai people that was overlooking beautiful scenery of mountains and grazing mules. Before the performance, Sofia decided to change into traditional Bai clothing and participated alongside the Bai people. About halfway through the night, which consisted of singing and dancing, another group of Americans showed up… and we schooled them in a dance-off. While they sang a Chinese New-year song, we not only rocked out to one song, but two. It was clear who won. They couldn’t top our cotton-eyed-Joe and Cha-cha slide.
Sunday: Shibao Mountain/ Baoxiang Temple
Many students woke up to the sound of roosters crowing and ethnic Bai songs. Others woke up to the sounds of Chanelle, as last night she had been terrified of a bug, which she called a parasite, and rallied a group of sleepy people to move her mattress into Lyndsay and Z’s room. Shortly after these experiences, we moved onto breakfast where many people struggled to digest the porridge. Instead, we walked to the local convenience store! While many were finding the snacks to be subpar, we ran into an old friend. Evan’s admirer was happy to take the snacks we didn’t like and we then left to hike to Baoxiang temple. The hike was gorgeous yet tiring. As we approached the temple, monkeys began to emerge from out of the trees. We were all given 45 minutes to explore the temple and take in our surroundings. Later in the afternoon, we trekked down the mountainside and had a self-served barbeque style dinner. While some of us decided to sleep off our food-coma in the bus, others had fun playing card games as we waited to depart back to Shaxi.
Monday: Community Service at Temple
Today we started our official community service project and split into two groups: one working on making mud bricks and the other clearing out an area to build a new museum. While working on the mud bricks, that group was soaked in mud and decided to end the event by painting on some war paint. Meanwhile the weeding group found themselves surrounded by giant spiders. In an attempt to protect his group, Connor fed several types of bugs to the spiders.
Later in the afternoon we attended a paper cutting class taught by a local master. He showed us how to craft butterflies and other miscellaneous designs. The master was very impressed with Zach’s creation and found everyone else’s “creative”.
We finished off the day with a peaceful walk through the rice patties and saw many animals such as snakes, frogs, and horses. We concluded our walk with a trip to the convenience store. Everyone got to try local items and stock up on our snacks. CC even got to try CiCi!
After dinner the staff planned a group activity called “Bucket of Dreams”. Everyone was very curious to see what it entailed as the staff kept it a secret from us. We were sorted into two groups and did a leadership activity involving teamwork and trust. At the end of the night we read out all of our dreams for the future that we wrote prior to the activity.
In the morning we continued our service, this time switching the roles of weeding and mud bricking. During the walk home, many of the locals pointed out how Annabelle and Lyndsay were covered in mud and had a good laugh about it. Later in the afternoon we attended our second language class of the trip. While having an in-depth conversation in one of the language classes, Sofia mentioned she was hungry and suddenly everyone broke out their snack stashes to munch on. After the language classes the majority of the group went on a walk through the market and scored a bunch of local products. Tonight we are going to participate in “Fear Factor” and are quite terrified about what it could possibly entail. This is Lyndsay, Annabelle, Aimee, Sofia, and Declan signing off! 再见！
By: Justin Zhang, Bruno Zecchi, Nicholas Chang, Connor Boone, Jack Henderson
Wednesday, July 12
It was another rainy day in Shaxi, but we still had to do what we came here for: service. We were back at the temple, but this time we weren’t weeding or making bricks; today we were transporting tiles from the temple to a lot across the street for repurposing. The service started off with a fight over how we should move the tiles efficiently. Eventually, our leaders of the day, Shelby and Z, brought us together and made a plan. For the remaining three hours, we made a significant dent in the mountain of tiles. In the afternoon, we went on a long walk to a very small farm where we picked squash, bok choy, pumpkins, and harvested and hoed a section of the farm. After dinner, we watched a movie called “Song of the Phoenix” which taught us about the effects of modernization and recession of culture in China.
Thursday, July 13
In the morning, we trekked up the mountains of Shaxi to a composting farm where we learned about the process of turning leaves and fruit to a source of nutrition for plants in the surrounding area. We began by flipping the current composts and made a compost from start to finish. In the afternoon, we were introduced to our group student project about a certain aspect of Shaxi culture. After this we had our third language class where we perfected our bargaining skills for the next day’s challenge: The Market Challenge. In the evening, we were given time to do our field research for the student project and begin organizing our ideas. The night ended with an intense game of Spies; Shelby and Jack were rightfully accused while others, such as Nicholas and Declan, were wrongly accused of being a dirty spy.
Friday, July 14
Today was a day of competition. Every Friday is Shaxi’s market day and this was the day we got to participate in a challenge of who can buy the most fruit with 20 yuan ($3). We were split into four groups of six and were sent out into the busy streets of Shaxi to bargain for the most fruit we could get. In the end, group 1 (Zach, Allie, Nicholas, Gabe, Shelby, and Channelle) got the most bang for their buck. Group 2 (Jack, Vicky, Connor, Annabelle, Justin, and Jake) thought they were cheated because they thought group 1 had dusty dragon fruit, however, they never realized their own lychee was busted. Later that day, we had a lesson from an expert on how to make silk flowers which everyone had a tough time trying to figure it out. At night, we had an activity called “Choose your own Adventure” where everyone chose a mentor to discuss a topic of their choice (travel, Chinese education system, Chinese language, and art).
Saturday, July 15
Today we were back at the composting farm, but this time instead of making composts we were creating enzyme water with fruit, sugar and water. Before and after our service we indulged in homemade bread from the farm (especially Allie). While all of us were exhausted, we were still excited to go to our last Chinese class ☹. We had a bit of time to wrap up our preparations for our projects and then in the evening we began our presentations. Most were around 15 minutes of talking while others were half an hour of interactive activities. After the presentations, we walked out of the room with a deeper understanding of Shaxi’s expansive and complicated culture which we will take as a lesson to use in the future.
Sunday, July 16
Relaxation day!!!! We got to sleep in an extra hour and then could go to the internet café and connect with our families and friends back home. We just got back from the Bai dance class which everyone had a blast at and now we’re able to show off our dance skills to the rest of the group and locals who were fascinated by us westerners. Right now, everyone is out exploring the town and tonight we will be going on a sightseeing trip. These five intense days have challenged us and helped us grow as the leaders of tomorrow. We are sad to be leaving Shaxi soon but are excited for the next adventure. We miss you guys a lot and we look forward to seeing you in a week 😊.
Final Days- A page from Theo’s journal
Goodbye to what was likely the most challenging day of the 2017 One Nation: Two Worlds journey. The twenty-something hours between the morning of July 20 and the morning-night of July 21 tested all our strengths amidst two flight cancellations, a delay, and a redirection.
Thursday morning saw the group get up bright and early at the instructed time of 6:30AM, only to be told that our plane from Kunming to Beijing had been cancelled due to intense weather. A nice post-wakeup nap, the recommended activity while we waited on further information, was in fact a relief: even while volunteering in Shaxi, we were never required to wake with the cock’s crow.
Rise again at noon. Be told that there was a plan for a second flight, but it too was cancelled thanks to weather. Go out for a rejuvenating dumpling lunch after convincing the hotel staff to let us stay for a few more hours while our schedule is managed. As a student, be prepared for the new plan: an early drive to the airport to avoid disastrous traffic congestion to be on time for a 9:00PM flight to Beijing – finally!
Staff and students settled in for a long wait in the airport. We did not so much as lounge as venture from place to place. We were urban nomads for a time, forced by security guards to not remain where we thought we would, scavenging delicious noodle soups and fried chicken (dishes seldom and never had in Shaxi respectively).
Next, rumors arose of a two and a half hour delay on our Beijing-bound craft. Nevertheless, we had to assume count-off position – one, two, three, four … – and moreover assume that the flight would leave at the expected time. After all, the delay was only speculated, right?
Wrong! Once arrived at the gate, we waited those drudging hours past our original takeoff time until finally, all passengers were welcomed aboard.
Make no mistake: the day was not all broken hopes and changes in schedule. Fun was had on the plane. Dancing (while sitting down) was done to the in-flight music. We socialized, and with the help of those sitting near her, Lyndsay overcame a dangerous craving for the glutinous snacks in front of her. Plenty of us slept soundly on the late-night adventure.
Those that did not manage to snooze, however, were required to give the fatigued a rude awakening. Due to, again, weather, our flight was negatively affected, not with a delay or cancellation this time (we were flying in the air, of course), but with a detour. Beijing skies were not safe for travel. We would be landing in Xi’an, the city home to the Terracotta Warriors.
Groans, bewildered faces, and defeated sighs echoes through our end of the plane. But, after a motivational speech by our international director, Henry, we all stayed sane for the rest of the flight and safely landed in Xi’an.
Greeting the group in the lobby of the airy, tall, and copiously wide Xi’an airport was an information desk no manned by a human, but by none other than an insect known as a praying mantis. The slim, hunched, small thing stared around with its compound eyes at students asking rightful questions: “What?” “Why is there a praying mantis in the airport of a Chinese city?” “Why is it by itself?” “Did someone put it here? Why?”
The lone creature was a tiny bishop, as lime green as the bright leaves on the trees surrounding Shaxi and the road signs we drove by in Mr. Ma’s bus. The “religious” bug of course seemed to be praying, possibly mimicking the classmates around it looking to a higher power to assure their safety and comfort. Where I come from, mantises are symbols of good luck. If anything in the case, though, the insect was a metaphor encompassing the confusion, hysteria, and sense of disarray in that moment. We left the mantis to its help desk and stepped out into the powerfully humid, rank air of Xi’an.
A bus employed by our China Eastern Airlines drove us to a hotel. All seemed well, save for a long wait in the place’s lobby, until the group received one last collective shot in the arm. The hotel was completely full and booked. We would have to take another endless ride toward a different stay.
Finally we arrive at the quaint, ‘70’s-inspired Apple Hotel, no earlier than four in the morning while I write this now.
The craziest thing of the day was not the flight debacles or the rogue praying mantis. What I think all the students and staff can be most proud of and inspired by is the fact that everyone kept their cool. Through some of the worst travelling any of us have ever experienced, in the face of even locals growing enraged, each person maintained incredibly respectable composure. All were ready for the next challenge, and that is outstanding. And still, we have plenty to look forward to in the last few days of our Global Leadership Adventure.