Day 11 (Thursday, July 19th, 2018)
Today we were going to participate in a brand new type of service work. After another early breakfast, sixteen of us (three had gotten sick) along with three counselors (Yi, Xiao, and Villa) set out on our trip to one of the local farms.
After an hour of walking (no exaggeration) which ran through all of Shaxi, a rice field and some secondary, outer portion of the town, we finally came across a farm which resided at the end of a mile long dirt road. We were met by both a group of local farmers and Emily, a local who had been serving as some form of a guide for the majority of our stay in town.
At the farm, we first made two batches of different enzymes, one being made of plums while the other was of grass. Both were made by combining the rotting versions of these plants along with water and a set amount of unrefined sugar (it essentially looked like molasses).
After that, we picked roses at the farm which would eventually be made into things such as rose water, rose jam or even some form of flower pastry (this was extra work outside of our main service). During this time, I was the honorary “basket holder” who was responsible for maneuvering around the beds of roses to allow for people to hand in the ones which they had already picked. If I remember properly, the farm had five different kinds of rose, but we only picked one species.
When we got back, we had some more mandarin lessons at the home base where we learned different phrases for purchases a batting. Afterward, we had a chance to shop around the closer market area and purchase necessities and gifts for family.
Day 12 (Friday, July 20th, 2018)
Every Friday in Shaxi the locals hold the equivalent to American farmers marked in the streets. Spanning for more than two miles, small tents and vendors had sprung up along the sides of the main road from the cultural center at the far end of town all the way down to the middle school.
For that morning, instead of service work, we were tasked with a “market challenge” (part of our cultural immersion) where each group of 4-5 students was given 20 Yuan and was told to get the greatest value in fruit and vegetables from the vendors via haggling prices and bartering. Although our group did not win the challenge (even though I think we should have), we still got a lot of food. This included ½ kilo of grapes, 1 kilo of pears, 1 kilo of apples and a bunch of other assorted fruit for under $4 USD (about $3.34 if you want to be precise).
Afterward, we had some more time to shop and walk around the market, so I took the time to look around at the different vendors to see what they were making and how they were doing so (one of the most prominent shops were woodcarving ones, as about half the stores were these). It was really interesting to see how the different workers such as the wood carvers created their different pieces.
In the afternoon, one of the locals came to the home base to teach us papercutting, a traditional craft form the area. While there, she showed us how to make different designs which ranged from different traditional Chinese ones to more creative pieces. I created a rather interesting bird design which I still have photos of.
That night, we split up into mentor groups, at which point we discussed the cultural differences which we saw between Beijing, Kunming, and Shaxi so far. Later one we visited a local cafe where I found one of my new favorite drinks, ginger milk.