CAS Week 2018

Renaissance College

Category: Guilin and Yangshou, China

CAS Blog Entry – Day 6

Authors: Gigi and Maria

Today we went to visit a farm in Yangshuo. The farm belonged to a villager, but because of the overuse of fertilizer and pesticides, the farm can no longer produce proper crops. The owner gave the land to an organization, and they have been using it to investigate different methods of organic farming.

Upon arrival, we were split into two groups. The first group was tasked to plow the land to make it suitable for farming and testing, another group was sent into a classroom and given a lesson on organic farming.

Farming was challenging for most of us because it was our first time experiencing actual farming. We learnt to use different tools to plow the soil and also how to spread seeds, fertiliser and pesticide. The soil was hard and heavy to plow, making our process quite difficult and challenging. But as we got more familiar with the task and tools, we were able to work much faster in better quality. Mr. Knight and some of us removed tree roots from the ground. The tree roots were strong and deeply buried. But we didn’t give up just because it was hard. We tried using different tools, digging from different sides. At last, two groups dug out three tree roots in total.

In the lesson, we we were told that as the population grows, the more food is needed to keep people alive. Farmers saw the demand, and decided to commercialize it and tried to find the most cost-efficient way to produce a large amount of crops. The west invented a method of farming called ‘Monoculture’, which is planting the same type of crop in large amounts. This would mean farmers would only need the same tools, thus lowering the cost. It would make it easier to harvest too. However, one of the bad things about having the same crop in one big area is that pests could easily wipe out the entire area.

Another method farmers use to get better crops is through the use of fertilizers and pesticides. This is devastating to our environment because the chemicals can go beyond the farmland and affect the surrounding environment.

To prevent these problems, farmers can use organic methods such as ‘cover crops’, and ‘crop rotation’. Cover crops are basically crops that are grown, but not actually harvested Instead, farmers turn these back into the soil, providing the necessary nutrients for the crops to grow well. The ‘crop rotation’ method is planting different types of crops on the same land. Planting different crops allow the soil to have different micronutrients and micro-organisms, making the the crops much healthier and tastier.

This information was given to us in a short amount of time and we had to create a poster based on the information. The poster was scored on its aesthetics, and we were also marked on our presentation. The team with the most points would get to choose which activity they would be doing in the afternoon.

The activity was really fun, and we were able to learn a lot through it too. Even though it was a large amount of information, we were able to remember it and focus on it because of the competitive element.

We were given the following choices: stop motion video, making pesticides and finding lotus roots in mud. For the stop motion video, we needed to produce a video about sustainable farming to raise people’s awareness. For making pesticides, we used garlic, chili and onion mixing with water to create organic pesticides. This way, it will reduce the harm towards the environment. The crops will also end up being more healthy. For exploring lotus roots, we were asked to go into a mud pond to find the lotus roots buried in the mud. The mud reached knee level, restricting any movement. It was also very cold since we were soaked in mud.

All of us managed to contribute to the farm today in different ways. All the activities involved a lot of self-challenges and collaboration.

The Evening – Author: Chun Hei

After a long day working on the field, removing tree stumps, plowing the field, clearing out bushes, digging for Lotus roots and making natural fertilizers, we finally got a well deserved break.

First, we had a really nice dinner at a Chinese restaurant in West Street. The food was amazing and surprising, although there were many dishes we’d eaten before like sweet and sour pork (咕嚕肉) tofu with chillies (麻婆豆腐) etc. We were all glad that at the end of the day, we could enjoy a nice meal in a warm restaurant.

Alter the food we went for massages. The massage place was also in West Street – a five minute walk from the restaurant. The place was nice, simply decorated with a clean design scheme. The place offers both traditional Chinese cupping as well as a foot massage, but only four of us opted for the traditional cupping. The cupping was great and surprising, it wasn’t my first time cupping but for many it was their first chance to experience something different. When the cup was set in place, it was first warm to the skin and the whole experience was relaxing. For the rest that opted for cupping they said that it felt weird during the session and tingly after. As for the foot massage, it too was relaxing but the walk back to the hotel ruined the purpose of the message.

Overall, the night was relaxing and a really nice addition to the trip after a long day working in the field.

CAS Blog Entry – Day 5

Authors: Crystal and Sophie

In the morning of the 5th day, we met up with our partners from Yangshuo Foreign Language Experimental School and prepared ourselves to teach at the Yangshuo Special Education school. Feeling nervous, we were grouped with a student from the special education school. They were from year 1,2 or 3. At first, it was challenging to interact with them, but as the games we designed were specially made for them, we were able to successfully figure out their strengths, weaknesses and interests. Playing outdoor games with them was especially rewarding as we saw their faces light up. Although we did not do all the activities planned, we were able to compromise according to student’s abilities. Overall, it was a new and interesting experience as we have never worked with such students before. It was sad and heartbreaking as we departed from our students and partners. Thankfully, we were able to exchange contact details with our partners to stay in touch. Visiting these two schools was the experience of a lifetime and we all hope to have similar learning experiences again.

Blog Post Journal: Entry Four

Following a rocky trip in the afternoon and plentiful dinner, most people fainted onto their beds into the quiet night.

Yet, for some reason, I woke up at 1am, 4am, and 6am. At that point, I simply gave up trying to catch more sleep. I then thought to myself that today was definitely going to be a long day.

Our group sporadically went down to the hotel dining room for breakfast, where we all guzzled down a variety of food, each fitting towards our own tastes and sizes. Alex, in particular, decided that this was his day to shine, snatching a tower of toast stacked individually onto his plate. With great pleasure, he devoured the crusty creation like a child having to destroy his sandcastle before leaving the beach.

At a relatively earlier meeting time of 8:45, where most of us were still dazed, we set off to a local secondary school to experience a world outside of the clutches of the IB curriculum. Stepping foot onto the school grounds, we were immediately greeted with a barrage of smiling students around the same age as us. Though still relatively foreign, we quickly warmed up to each other with a couple ice-breaker activities that eventually matched us individually with one or two local students. We then joined the students in their classes.

Whether it be the jaw-dropping complex names of the elements on the Chinese periodic table or the textbook filled passages on history, it was interesting to see the clear contrasts between their style of learning to what we were used to. Learning English, for example, consisted of the students reciting and chanting passages as they incorporate new words into their vocabulary. Compared to the more dynamic styled learning that we were used to back at school, it was compelling to see how their knowledge was only limited to their memorization of words in context, whilst in the IB learning could go as far as long as you were willing to venture and explore the flexible nature of the English language. It was also intriguing to see the stacks upon stacks of books on and within their desks, as their classes all consisted of staying in the same room.

After a couple of lessons, we all eventually gathered up into the cafeteria for lunch. Crowds formed and lines built up, as we got our meal tickets and received specifically portioned trays and slots of food. A relatively quick meal later, we gathered up in the school assembly for a short speech expressing our gratitude for allowing us to stay with their school. We then formed bigger groups with the students to prepare for tomorrow, where we will head and visit a nearby special needs school for children and provide them with games and activities to learn. Each group thought of a different performance, whether it be a simple song like “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” or something more hectic like “The Eagle and the Mother Hen,” which consisted of one tagger attempting to kidnap (and tag) the youngest chick from the line of little chickens formed behind the mother hen. We also had to create a board game based around simple mathematics, for the kids to play during their originally scheduled math lesson.

Time flew quicker than a bullet train, and before long, we were waving goodbyes to our newly made friends, though certainly after contacts and phone number were exchanged as well. We headed back to the hotel for a quick break and rest up, before soon heading out for dinner, as well as the light show coming later on in the night.

In a small room on the second floor of a diner, we ate another warm plentiful meal. Seasoned lotus roots, peas, as well as chicken. Soon our stomachs were filled again. With enthusiasm and excitement, we set off for the light show.

Keanu’s account of dinner:
“Some people broke out of their shell to try this delicacy known as escargot. The chef told us to make sure to eat slowly so that there aren’t any shells. While eating, many jokes were made and it cracked everyone up. The bread was a vegetarian delicacy, everyone was filled with delight when they say it coming. A particular vegetarian ate a lot bread and got stuffed. We also had chicken, but no one had a peck at it. There was also fried pork, but someone hogged it as it was too delicious. When we got it back, we went whole hog on it. There were other delicious foods, but I can’t think of any puns.”

We arrived 45 minutes earlier at 7:00. Though it seemed that the extra time was going to be ours to burn, a long walk to the stage and settling down put us perfectly in time for the beginning of the show.

Lights dimmed, voices lowered, and the atmosphere set. The show was about to begin.

It began with a simple song. Torches lit ablaze by performers on the side of the huge lake that became their stage. The story set, a myriad of colours and movement mixed before us, with lines of actors and performers moving nearly in sync as they rowed and dragged red sheets of fabric to emulate the red sea often seen in old Chinese films along an orange sun on the horizon.

The manipulation of lights against the clean white fabric of the clothes worn by the actors. Waves of emotion rushing through as colours transitioned from blue to purple, red to yellow, before being engulfed by the darkness. A lone actress danced along the thin width of a crescent moon, glistening as the white lights of actors flickered around her.

The moons and stars were all they had, and now they were entrusting them to us.

Before long, little more than an hour had past. The show was finally over.

Minutes of clapping ensued, before people quickly dispersed from the stands.

Eventually squeezing through the mindless hordes of people, most of us were completely drained. Heading back to the hotel after a long day, many of us were submerged into our beds, before falling unconscious given such a juxtaposing day of action in inaction.

James’ account of the show:
“In the evening we went to see the “Impression Liu San Jei” performance. it was a performance scripted by various directors, but the most famous among them is Zhang Yi Mou. Zhang also directed a movie with the same name, which this performance is based on. The performance was magnificent and eye opening. the way the performers moved together, the way the lights hit and the choreography was carefully crafted.”

The day was over. Night had fallen. New memories have been made, new friends as well. The power of a CAS trip is not to be underestimated, as it our stamina is depleted day after day. Though most importantly, unforgettable nights have past and will surely be thought of in the future.

Blog Post Journal Entry 3 : November 19th (Day 2)

Authors: Alvina and Sabrina

Day 3 brought with it chilly drizzles and sore muscles (and not to mention, the pungent scent of garlic and onions pervading our senses, even long after the day’s activities have been completed).

Breakfast was succeeded with a quick trip to a wet market full of products of all shapes and sizes, where our old enemy, the rooster, returned to haunt us with its piercingly shrill shrieks, as if keeping us up at ungodly hours of the night was not enough. Anyway, one could say that the wet market bears striking similarities to those in Hong Kong – with the exception of the slaughtering of chickens on the spot, and the dog, cat, and rabbit meat being sold.

Our departure from the wet market was gradual, as the streets outside the market were lined with vendors. We saw things there that we could have never seen back home – pheasant chicks chirping and climbing over each other in crates (to presumably raise and then slaughter), eels thrashing around inside bowls, and eggs that were mostly just globular masses of yolk, as the chicken had died before the eggs had had a chance to get laid. Walking out into the road and onto our bus was an impactful experience. Halfway on the bus, we realised the bus was parked on the wrong side of the road.

After a short bus ride, we arrived at our cooking class. Even though the courtyard was beautiful, we held no illusions about our cooking abilities and were thus filled with trepidation. These feelings worsened when they told us to put our chef hats and aprons on, and when we had to chop up and prepare our ingredients. Thankfully, after a few stumbles (of course only metaphorically, as we were equipped with rather sharp knives), we managed to gain our footing and gather ourselves just enough to follow along. The food we made was the food we had to eat for lunch, and we were glad to say that although the presentation was not spectacular and the portions were a bit too large, it tasted good, even if the amount of oil we used meant that the dishes were not all too healthy. We enjoyed our self-made egg dumplings, stir-fry noodles, and chicken stir-fry, while we chuckled at one of our teacher’s successful attempts to prank a student by mentioning that the hotel required the student to pay for a clogged toilet. A phone call was staged and the acting was impressive – the plan went off without a hitch.

Warm with bellies full of food and laughter, we continued our journey, taking a bus to the rock climbing area. The steep, jagged edge of the mountain was to say the least, imposing, much like a hulking giant, and many of us who had not climbed before were intimidated. In total, there were four routes one could take, and each one seemed just as difficult. The higher achieving students of ours challenged themselves to take on more than one route, perhaps even try all four, while the most of us stuck with the satisfaction of having scaled up once. In the end, we were tired – our arms ached, knees were bruised, and palms were beaten up – but we were proud of ourselves. The adrenaline coursing through us merely magnified the sense of success we felt from overcoming obstacles and challenging ourselves.

Due to our expected exhaustion, the evening’s activities had been rescheduled to another night, and we were given time to rest after dinner (which we scarfed down pretty quickly, in spite of the plentiful meal we had at lunch). Overall, the day was exciting – full of new experiences and bursting with flavour. These memories made are ones to cherish and will be very hard to forget – much like the everlasting scent of garlic clinging to our fingertips after our cooking lesson.

Entry 2: November 18th (Day 2)

Authors: Jose and Jafar

When one thinks of the Chinese countryside they tend to imagine the the crisp, fresh, mountain air and wisps of clouds engulfing the vast irregular mountains. The villages peppered around the valleys, detached from the modern metropolises that are only so far away. One thing we have all failed to realize is the damnable roosters. They caw and caw and caw endlessly throughout the bleak and bone-chilling morning, and I can assure you they do not have the mental capacity to understand the notion of “stop”. Additionally, there was no electricity in the morning, as we learned that rural areas as such have random power cuts that plague their lives.

However, the roosters did manage to act as some natural alarm to wake our sleep-deprived selves for the most important meal of the day – BEAKFAST. After a very colourful, varied, breakfast, we had sufficient energy for the day’s hike. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of rice, and chilies too, according to the guide. Chili here, chili there, chili everywhere, I think we understood by that time that there’s plenty of chili to go around. As luck would have it, the air cleared of fog and so we were granted vistas as far as the beak could see.

We lunched back at the guest house as we did the full circle, having seen the “Seven Stars and One Moon” as well as the “Nine Dragons and Five Tigers”. The bus trip was relatively less… fun, if you will. To be fair, seldom does one find sitting for three hours sans-activity truly “fun”, although this is arguably subjective. I personally hope Alex doesn’t have a bladder problem: every time we are to stop the bus for a bathroom break we can all easily credit this to Alex. Not that we are complaining; just concerned.

We drove into Yangshuo on time, unpacked, and went to the famous West Street. While we’re there, we had dinner without our phones, as we “wanted to talk to each other”. This rule was only possible because of one of the teachers, who will not be named for privacy sake. Afterwards, a walk along the street to buy whatever was available, such as milk bottles and waffle cones. At the end of the night, we headed back to our “home” and finally rested ourselves for the next day of fun.

Entry One: Our random expectations

I wish to learn more about the history of Guilin and the culture of the local people. As I like to design creative stories, I think the experiences from this trip will be a valuable resource.

I wish to learn more about the unique culture and traditions in different regions here.

I want to see the pretty sights in Guilin, and learn more about the traditions here.

I wish to learn more about the culture and history of Guilin and Yangshuo.

I wish to escape from the city life of Hong Kong.

I wish to get away from my homework.

I wish to see amazing views.

I want to develop an understanding of the history of this unique place. Additionally, I feel that this experience can be applied later in life, which I think is great. Finally, I would like to gain a deeper appreciation for my culture.

I would love to be able to see and explore cultures and social and physical environments foreign to me. I want to explore the hardships, how the human psyche acts and reacts in this part of the world, and how it may or may not connect with the outside world surrounding it.

I want to learn the different culture and customs in Guilin, also escape from the busy school life in HK

I wish to get sleep.0

I would like to explore the local culture and develop an understanding of the history of this place. I also want to see breath taking sights in and around the areas that I am visiting.

I look forward to be able to learn about a culture different to my own, and to see for myself the famously breath-taking scenery of Yangshuo. I am also excited to spend time with the local students and experience what school life is to them.

I would like to experience the local way of life and see some historical areas. I want to see the famous karst mountains for myself, and the mountain rice paddies.

On this trip, I hope to be able to experience a new culture though there may be challenges along the way

I hope I will be able to experience a new culture away from Hong Kong, as well as challenge myself and learn to be independent.

Our trepidations:

I am worried the hikes will be challenging, especially since the weather is quite rainy and the visibility is low.

I am worried about rock climbing, but I also hope to develop more skills through this experience.

I hope it doesn’t rain when we hike

I hope the weather won’t be that cold

I hope the area is relatively clean.

I hope Shaalin isn’t too annoying.

I hope I don’t get injured

I hope there will be better weather in the nearer days.

I brought in new boots, so I hope to God I won’t get blisters early on. I’ve got a hike tomorrow!

I hope it won’t rain much.

I hope I can get enough high quality footage for the short film/travel Vlog that we are putting together.

I feel slightly nervous about some activities, specifically rock climbing and biking, as they are sports that I am unfamiliar with. I expect to be challenged by this, but I am intrigued by the prospect of this challenge.

I really hope the weather will get better, just be less wet and foggy. I also don’t want it to get too cold, haha.

I’m hoping the food won’t be too spicy, but I’m looking forward to the cycling part of the trip.

I’m looking forward to working with the kids, but I’m hoping the weather will get better.

I am hoping forward to meeting new people and their culture but I hope that it will not rain.

I hope that the people we will meet be welcoming and friendly, since I find it difficult to interact with new people.

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