Day 27 @EDE Class: Last Day, the Dwarf & the Giant’s Story, A New Journey Started

Sep 22, 2018

It’s the last day of this EDE (Ecovillage Design Education) class.

the Dwarf and the Giant’s story

At the beginning of this week, many of us voluntarily participated in “the Giant and the Dwarf” game, which continued through the week and the result was said to be uncovered only on the last day. Whoever wanted to play writes down their own name on a small piece of paper, folds it side-to-side multiple times into a tiny square and drops it in a basket. Of course, then comes the lucky-draw! You become the Dwarf of the Giant, a person whose name is written on the ticket you drew. Then in each of the following days in the week, you shall try to do at least one good thing for your Giant without revealing your Dwarf identify. I was in! (the IN as in “” 😉 )

Over the week, I heard people making fun of each other: “Why are you so nice to me? Are you my dwarf?”. Some got snacks secretly left in front of their door overnight. Trudy got flowers, as I learned from her dedicated Dwarf 🙂 . For a few times, I thought of it and wondered who was my Dwarf and if he or she was still committed to the role. It’s possible, as I knew someone who said she had not done anything for her Giant.

Now Trudy had us stood in a tight circle, with our arms around the next persons on both the left and the right sides. Starting from a volunteer, the first Dwarf, she stepped out from the circle, walked towards her Giant and hugged him. Then the Giant in turn identified and hugged his Giant. A previously secret link of love suddenly came to light in front of us. We were amused as well as moved by some amazing pairs. Ms. Hong and Wenlin, mother and daughter, happened to be a pair, with the daughter being the Dwarf. There were two other pairs of which the two people in the pair are already good friends. As the link extended from one person to another, people became more playful. A few at their turn, swirled around within the circle and looked at each person as if looking for the Giant, then suddenly hugged “THE One”. I wish I had a picture for those heartwarming moments. But no one spared a second to take photos.

I intentionally stood next to my Giant, Liang, when we formed the circle. When my time came, I turned to look at Liang and gave him a big hug. He was very surprised as I expected. What did I do for my Giant? I knew Liang often helps in the kitchen as a volunteer. I decided the best gift I can offer is pleasant companionship, particularly in working side-by-side. So for 3 days of the week when I saw him working in the kitchen, I joined him, pretending that I merely happened to be available to help with work there. (In fact, I always had my own work to do.) We chatted lightly as we worked together. For one day, I featured him in “People of the day” in my blog (Day 23 @EDE class). (I had planned to write about him even before this game.) To make sure I captured some numbers accurately, I once double-checked with him and let him know that I was writing about him. I felt happy indeed each time when I fulfilled my Dwarf’s commitment.

Did Liang sense then that I might be his Dwarf? I asked him curiously while we still stood in the circle. He didn’t think of that. Strangely, I felt a little disappointed. What’s the meaning of doing something nice for someone but hide your good intention? Won’t we make the person feel supported, cared, and hence, happier, if we let him/her know?

Before I had time to think more, my Dwarf appeared. Shewen, one of my teammates for the final design project! In the past 3 days, we brainstormed ideas over lunches, worked on design problems in evenings, and stayed late to put together a presentation slide the night before last day. I wasn’t satisfied with this team though. Half of the times the other two teammates weren’t able to make it to meetings for personal reasons. Shewen, though attended all activities, disagreed with me on many things. The design project was our final homework and an opportunity for us to revisit and apply what we have learned. I took it very seriously. However, likely too seriously. (Honestly, I am a serious person and usually have high standards for what I do.) I was aware when I became demanding, when I felt frustrated by behavior I deemed sluggish. How did Shewen feel when I became demanding? Did he put up with me more or less because I was his Giant?

Some days after the end of the class, I caught up with Shewen via WeChat messages and asked him for feedback. It turns out he also thought about giving me some feedback but didn’t get a chance before departure from the training center. He friendly recognized that we have different ways of thinking, I am farther on the rational end. And we had different level of commitment to the design project. As a member of Sunshine Ecovillage Network, he already took the EDE class twice and got the taste of the homework (enough? 🙂  )He also gently suggested that I tend to work independently, while ecovillages work mostly through collective effort and wisdom.

What’s the implication of the Dwarf and the Giant’s story then? After going through a week about topics in worldview,  consciousness transformation, one’s inner dimensions, truth telling, socially engaged spirituality, we can perhaps look at the small things in real life with a new eye.

If everyone of us were a secret Dwarf to Giant(s), and at the sametime a Giant to our unknown Dwarf(s), we would be reminded a lot that the support we received in every single day from other people is likely not by accidents or exchanges, but by the kindness and commitment of some Dwarf(s). We could be less in doubt that we are actually accompanied, cared and loved. On the other hand, playing a hidden Dwarf feels like a practice of loving, of opening the heart, and of being selfless. As my own experience has demonstrated, the kindness in the support of others can be obscured by many things, like duties and expectation. So I could be practicing loving while not feeling being loved. Being loving as a normal state of your heart, there’s still some way to go, but doable 🙂 .

Class project & report

It’s time to present our final project of ecovillage design. There were 4 ecovillage scenarios: new resettlement in an agricultural valley, a traditional rural village, an urban neighborhood, and one intentional village in a big city’s distant suburb. Those who chose the same scenario formed a team to work together in the rest of the week.

We are instructed to apply a whole system design process. But the presentation can take any form, e.g. slideshow, drawing, charts, theaters, models, etc. At the end, we will have 10 minutes for presentation and 5 minutes Q&A.

A beautiful, imaginary landscape map from one group. A suburb intentional ecovillage scenario. (photo by ZHANG Pengbin)

There are questions to guide us on design elements. For example, for the Social element, we should consider:

  • What is the social vision/intention of your community?
  • What are the social challenges your community faces?
  • What social tools could you use to address the social challenges: (i.e. embracing diversity, participatory decision making, conflict resolution, …)
Two team members from the last group were presenting. (photo by ZHANG Pengbin)

There was not much time between getting the project assignment on Wednesday and making the final presentation on Saturday morning. Given 10 minutes and flexible presentation forms, the final output from teams varied a lot. My team was the only team that used presentation slide. We almost debated on every guiding question in the process. Another team, photo above, put their design carefully and beautifully on 3 large poster-size sheets. There was also a team that didn’t care much to put things on paper, but their message was still clear.

I was presenting with a slide, projector screen not shown on the right of the photo. (photo by ZHANG Pengbin)

I wished we could have more input data instead of just one short paragraph description of the scenario. The project reminded me a lot of business case analysis back in my MBA time. More data certainly helps ground the design on reality. However, this final project really serves as a teaser. You may get a better taste by being more serious and investing more effort in it. But the real world is very different.

Completed! What a month! (photo by the author)


Someone suggested that we should have a celebration at the end of the class. That indeed made this community experience complete. Celebrations are necessary to the healthy functioning of ecovillage-type of communities.  Since you took the unconventional path for societal, economic and human development, you would expect more difficulties. You chose to trust a community and deal with problems and challenges as a community, in spite of conflicts and difficulties. A celebration at every milestone can serve to refresh people from inevitable fatigue and enable them to carry on the hope a little longer.

Here is to my fellow students, to Gen and to organizers from Sunshine Ecovillage Network and China Ecovillage Network! 

Jing, standing, came up with a brilliant idea of making music instruments, namely drums, with water bottles, buckets, and boxes.  (photo by ZHANG Pengbin)
Game play at celebration. (photo by ZHANG Pengbin)

A new journey started

Unfortunately, I had to miss the class’ celebration but pack my suitcase and clean the dorm. A new journey was already awaiting me.

Good bye, my home at EDE class. (photo by the author)

I arrived at Huadao Ecological Community that evening with a classmate who is a leadership team member of Huadao. I have introduced this ecovillage in Day 7 @EDE Class and mentioned a personal plan to move there for a “half-farming-half-X” life experiment. So I was going to stay there for 4 days and experience it more. What will come out from this visit? We will see 🙂 .

It’s the day before the traditional Mid-Autumn festival. A holiday celebration dinner was planned to combine with the monthly gathering of the board of Huadao. We sang songs, danced, read poems, and had great food. It’s a committed team united under a great vision. (photo by LI Peng)




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