By Audrey, Cathleen, Jake, and Joanne
Our service learning partner was 59-year-old Mrs. Qin. She has five sisters, a son, a daughter, and she lives with her husband down at Lake Erhai. She works at a small stall selling antiques, small jade articles, Quotations from Chairman Mao books, and bracelets near the highway at Zhengyimen. Born in 1960, Mrs. Qin has seen many events in Chinese history including the Cultural Revolution. She has tried many occupations and spent limited years at school, as it was not popular during the time.
Throughout this project, I learned that our partner has been through many nerve-wracking events I cannot imagine myself going through and she has to live life as normal as can be even though it was not normal. Our partner is courageous and is positive no matter what happens which is something I value and respect. Understanding the background of Mrs. Qin, we become more aware of her past experiences and sensitivity to words, our knowledge of the scary past she has been through widens.
Xizhou always seemed like a peaceful, beautiful, and calm area to me, until I heard about what has happened down at Lake Erhai, one party was fighting another, people were scared and hid in their houses. During this horrific period of time, citizens have tried numerous occupations that included wearing grass shoes to climb Cangshan for wood, going into Lake Erhai to catch fish and seaweed, and farming day and night with their parents, education was not widely encouraged. Life was difficult for the citizens living in Xizhou at that time when one party fought the other.
I used to believe that Chinese history was black ink on white paper, black and white are split are in between, they are obvious and separated clearly. But just as equivalent to my Inquiry Project, Chinese history is subjective, people all have different perspectives, different ways that have been affected by the events that happened in the past. Some believe Chairman Mao shaped China in a positive method while others believe Chairman Mao harmed innocent citizens and they have each been hurt differently, but everyone has thoughts that differ from others during such a difficult time period.
Watching the audience watch our service learning video was like nothing I have ever seen. Before I used to watch my own product along with my audience and now watching the audience watch our video, I see their emotions as if I took a trip inside their heads. At some parts of the video, our service learning partner seemed to smile and chat with her cousin sitting next to her. While other parts, she seemed more serious due to some sensitivity in the video that has affected her and her memories. Some of the other guests that were watching had several different expressions on their faces, some showed concern, some showed sympathy, others were left neutral. It seemed that the story of Mrs. Qin has affected most everyone in the audience in their own personal ways. Towards the end of our video, Mrs. Qin was smiling to herself and that assured me the satisfaction of our learning and knowledge.
This experience was truly breathtaking, I learned more from watching the audience watch our video than watch our video with our audience. Rather than asking someone; "How was our video?", this experience explained with emotions how our audience really felt about our video. Although it might be tempting, wanting to watch the product with the guests, I learned to control myself and the urge. In the end, I realized watching the audience and their emotions are more important and effective than listening to the aftermath comments and discussions they give. Thoughts and words can be changed and weakened while emotions are true and loyal.
The first thing I would advise future Microcampus students is the fact that they should not take service learning as an assignment but a privilege. Not everyone is able to interact with the community the way we are able to in Xizhou. This leads me to my second piece of advice, your service learning partner should be picked with precision. Talk with someone you genuinely are interested in. Do not find a partner just because you want to complete this project quickly and get over with it, this does not show our appreciation and gratitude for this community. My last piece of advice is that please take this project seriously, this is our way of saying thank you and we need to give a good impression to this society so we are always welcomed, one small action can create an enormous ripple effect.