Our service learning partner was Mr. Li, a 76-year-old man who used to be a farmer, but now is retired. His full name is Li Weng Ming, who is a part of the Bai Minority.
His family line started to get recorded in the Tang dynasty, where a general started to record his family line. He was a farmer for most of his life and he sometimes go out of Xizhou to work in other places.
Mr. Li is a very calm person who always has too much time on his hand. He was a supporter of Mao and loves his country. He is very wise and regrets not learning more when he was small and tells us to learn while we still can, and he also believes that people should not think too much about things, or else it will be hard for that person. His happiest time was when he was young and believes that you will garner many friends if you be a nice person.
He taught me many things about Xizhou's history, including about how a Qing general related to him used to live in his house and hanged up a painting of his mother in the exact same house. However, that painting was taken down by future governments that came after the Qing dynasty, which showed the hate towards the Qing after 1912 and/or 1949.
He also taught me about all of the events that happened during 20th century Communist China. He talked about how The Great Leap Forward was an event to get everyone to work and also explained The Cultural Revolution as if there was one trouble making sibling in a family that had to change and be taught how to be a better person. Another thing that he mentioned was how he used to learn Russian until China drifted away from Russia and then everyone in the classes learned English later on, which helps visualize the impact of the drift between the USSR and China.
The experience of sharing our service learning video was great. It was quite awkward having to take eggs from Mr. Li as we were trying to give a gift to him but it worked out in the end. We also invited Mr. Yang, a possible service learning partner that has the fruit stand which sells scarily sweet bananas. When we shared the video, we were the last one to share and when we did share, Mr. Li was really happy looking at the video and although there were some laughs and giggles from the audience, the service learning team and I were extremely proud of our work and in the end, we did not care about if there were some awkward moments or weird sounds coming from the speaker, we had presented Mr. Li's story the best we could.
After the sharing, all of the other elders left pretty early but Mr. Li stayed and apparently Mr. Linden knew him from eating at his brother's restaurant many times and I was really happy seeing the two get along really well. Mr. Linden asked Mr. Li if we were troublemakers and Mr. Li said that we were great kids and behaved ourselves very well. I was laughing and when Mr. Linden asked if Mr. T and Mr. Chen were trouble making and Mr. Li said they were pretty well behaved too, so I guess to Mr. Li, Mr. T and I are both children because he is so much older and wiser than us. My team also tried to give Mr. Li the DVD of the Service Learning video but he would not take it without paying it, so we just said that the teachers paid for all of it and we were freeloaders(We were). The walk back was really nice and we promised Mr. Li to call him back when we arrived in Shanghai. I really wish I could visit him again and I will take the chance to go back to Xizhou whenever I can.
If you are a future Microcampus student, there are some advice and recommendations I would like to give to you so that your service learning experience will be easier. First of all, when you introduce yourself to your elder, do not just go straight to asking questions. Introduce yourself first and tell your partner about yourself to make him/her feel comfortable, then you can start to ask questions. Second, when you ask sensitive questions about history, pretend to be innocent so that the elder does not feel attacked. So for example instead of asking what happened during The Great Leap Forward, say that you heard about a big event happening from 1958 to 1961 so that the elder can see that you do not know much about the topic and then proceed to explain it to you. The last piece of advice is to remember to not be scared to talk to elders on the streets. They are very nice and the worst thing that could happen to you is the elder ignoring you.