My Service Learning partner is a 59 years old woman named Mrs. Qin. She works at a stall beside the highway, selling small antiques she collected. She stays in Xizhou with her husband and has a daughter and a son who works in nearby cities. From her expressive ways of story-telling, I learned a lot of information about how people lived back then, such as the jobs they did, the food they ate, and the family they had, from Mrs. Qin. Due to her openness, I also learned some darker parts of history from the Cultural Revolution such as deaths and battles. 20th century China became much more vivid with specific descriptions and stories of Mrs. Qin's life. She talked about the hardship of working as a fisherman and her days of working at the commune driving tractors, and various other stories that one can not simply acquire from reading, because every story has its own uniqueness and role within history, yet not all stories are recorded.
The opening music went on, her clear hazel eyes reflected the colors on screen in a brighter light. She stared at the screen smiling as a video about her history played, and regardless of the content being bitter or sweet, she kept smiling, stretching her wrinkles, as if it brought no pain, as if all else emotions lost. Her childish way of chatting loudly to her cousin sitting aside, one hand over the other twidling silver rings, two feet crossed atop each other swinging gently back and forth, seemed to suggest that we managed to bring her back in time, though good times or not, I couldn't tell from that mysterious smile, which I was not sure meant absurdity or happiness, for I suppose watching the secrets she kept all her life explode on screen in front of a crowd within a matter of minutes, must in some way, make her crumble inside. All efforts of secrecy seemed to have turned to dust, as her past becomes no longer solely her own.
The video ended, the crowd cheered, yet she stood up and said, "I could not speak well, sorry, sorry," over and over.
"Didn't she speak well?" Mr. Linden stood up and said.
"Yes!" The crowd cheered in unison, yet she still kept on turning, to see their faces, for confirmation that the smiles and claps were not that of mockery. Though I wasn't sure what she saw, or confirmed, but I know was that later when she sat down, her hands and feet no longer overlapped, and she was smiling, that same mysterious smile, too deep to see through, too consistent to find a single gap of melancholy.
Advices for future Microcampus students