High school years, they say, are the best years of someone’s life. XCE Yunnan was just one of those more “special” moments— it’s helped make my journey here in Xavier School, well, those “years” exactly. And I have to say, it’s left quite the memory.
Being in Yunnan has forever changed my perspective on myself and the world around me. It opened my eyes to see things a bit more differently and grow. It was a roller coaster of fun, enriching memories I only wish I could ride once more. I still find myself staring into the blue skies of Manila, reminiscing the six weeks that have been.
I woke up one day to what would become “every morning” in XCE— Waking up to a cold, signature Yunnan morning, taking a hot shower, putting on two or three layers of jackets, waking my roommate up, shoving my room key in my pockets at the same time to warm my hands, heading downstairs to the dining hall, greeting A-Yi (who took care of all the cooking in the kitchen), and chomping down on my daily diet of spicy noodles and sweet bread.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks — I had made the greatest of friends, experienced and saw things I could’ve never imagined my eyes would see, and loving XCE.
Our evening ventures to the night market to gobble up spiced food from all corners of the province and occasional dinners at City Garden— a nearby escape to the Western world when we needed it —was something my taste buds still crave for. Our almost daily walks around Kunming City, commutes to nearby shopping centers, Sunday explorations to wherever a random bus would take us, and trips to Joy Bakery and convenience stores to stock up on our food supplies would still find its place in a mental map I had drawn in my head. Countless experiences, laundry days, smiles and laughs with our team all shaped perhaps one of the most memorable experiences of brotherhood yet.The independence of XCE life was a break from reality; different, in a subtle, yet very special way.
As XCE came to its midpoint, the team took a short break from the classroom-dorm routine, and went on an 8-day trip, exploring and diving deep into the scenic province— Yunnan was more than just the trial version of independent life. We visited Lijiang, Dali, and ChuXiong, exploring, learning, seeing, being.
Straying away from the typical classroom set-up, XCE Yunnan allowed us to see beyond our science hand-outs, and took us into the grand forests and amazing flora of China; We learned about ethnic minorities in our Social Science classes, and interacted with its members first-hand; We practiced our Chinese with our lao shi, and chatted away with the locals. We were experiencing, enjoying, but still genuinely learning.
Our eyes were treated to crystal clear waters, autumn-themed forests, rich, ancient temples, old towns flowing with the voice of the Chinese, and pearl white, snow-drenched mountains. From the serene clicking and clacking of the wood from the Dongba Aspiration Bells in the busy town square of the Old Town of Lijiang (bells that served as “prayer wishes” that ringed the prayers of the people to their God), to dancing with the local Naxi women to bubbly traditional music, and chatting and exchanging stories with locals in our attempts to speak in their tongue, we were able to put ourselves into the shoes of a serious traveller, slowly coming to know more about the world and culture around him.
The richness of the culture of the Chinese was simply amazing, having been reflected in the several motifs taken in their elegant architectural styles, and their unique paintings and written Dongba documents— the last form of pictographic writing still used today. In many ways, being in China fortified our cultural heritage, and simply moved us to be aware, and love our identity; who we are as members of the Filipino-Chinese community.
XCE Yunnan was the ultimate travel tour experience— Dare I say it, the best six weeks of my high school life so far. In many ways, it was more than just an experience of travel, but also an experience and journey of growth, social immersion, and understanding.
The day before we were to take a flight back home, I stormed restlessly across Jin Ma Fang, using my last few hours in Yunnan to revisit one of everyone’s favorite shopping centers, looking for the perfect token to mark the experience that has been, only to later on realize that the bonds I had made in Yunnan, all the things I had seen and learned, as well as how much I grew (both literally and figuratively) was the very best pasalublong I could bring home with me.
I wished it had never ended, and still find my thoughts in the same place today.