Updated 1 month 3 weeks ago

by Erin, Emily, Evan, and Xander

Our Service Learning partner is Mr. Tan. He is 73 years old and is the owner of a local shop that sells everyday items.

Mr. Tan runs a local shop that is on SiFangJie. He was born during a time when China was in chaos, and everyone was living in poverty. His hobby was photography and opened up his own photo booth even though it was illegal. Mr. Tan did not receive a good education because he was forced to farm with his brothers and sisters. Mr. Tan did not continue his hobby of photography because he thought it was pointless. He realized that photography could not make a living and decide to open a shop instead. I learned something very interesting during our conversations with Mr. Tan. He said that there were not any Red guards in Xizhou and nearby villages. This means that the Red guards did not travel this much west and the Red Guards stuck to the east side of China. This was very interesting because, from all the documentaries and the 150 years in 150 minutes speech, I thought the Red Guards were everywhere.

Today we presented our videos to our partners. Mr. T made us sit in front of the audience and observe their reactions to the video. I specifically focused on Mr. Tan, our Service Learning Partner. When I first met Mr. Tan, I thought that he was a very boring person who does not like to have conversations with others. When we observed him and did our bee role film, everything was of him sitting down and sleeping or setting up his shop, not very interesting. Today, I observed him watch our video. His reactions and facial expressions were something I have never seen before. One example is near the end, I saw him smile, his first smile that I have ever seen. I also saw him get emotional when the video was about him farming as a kid and not being able to go to school. Other times he did look somewhat bored but most of the times he was focused. 

I enjoyed watching him watch our video. I think that the video sparked something inside him, and allowed him to trust us. Mr. Tan shared information about his earlier years, shared his feelings about the video but also told us that he had childhood photos. When he told us that he had childhood photos, I had mixed feelings. My first reaction was being mad. This is because he told us that he had no childhood photos, even though he was a photographer. Then, I realized that the reason he did not give us the photos is that he did not trust us at first, only after the video did he become comfortable with sharing the photos. I imagined myself as Mr. Tan. If four students came up to me and asked for photos of my younger life, I would be uncomfortable as well.

I have some advice to future Microcampus students. When you choose a Service Learning partner, make sure you know that person well enough. Do not go up to him in the last week and try to make him or her your Service Learning partner. The partner might not want to contribute as much or give less information because he or she does not trust you as much. When a Service Learning partner does not trust you, you will not get the information that is from the most vulnerable them, also the best information. Our partner did not trust us at first and refused to give us his Childhood pictures. I am sure that if I chose a different partner that I trust, I would have gotten more information. Another tip is to prepare your questions before you go. Some questions will be too personal for the partner to answer and they will refuse to answer those. If you have more questions that will get the partner into the conversation, he or she will be more open to answering the questions. The third piece of advice is to push the partner. The more you push him, the more information you will recieve.

My name is Lifan S, but I prefer Evan. I am part of the Wildfires microcampus group which traveled to Xizhou for 28 days in 2019. I loved the trip, all the challenges, and the easy parts as well. I encourage others to attend the program because it is truly a once in a lifetime experience.