Hi, I'm Ethan, and I'm in a Service Learning group with Ashley and Nick. To see our full project journey, please go to Nick's Service Learning Website. Our final product can be found on any of our service learning sites (mine included).
I learned that my elder, Ms. Duan, went through many surgeries and injuries that got in the way of her enjoying her hobbies (dancing, playing music, and making clothes). Although painful and frustrating, she got through all her obstacles and has become an even mentally stronger woman than before. She mentioned that the reason why she had surgery in her abdominal area was due to the lack of nutrition she was receiving as a child. From this, I inferred that 50 years ago in Xizhou, healthy and fresh food was scarce. There was most likely a lack of care for children in that time period, which was probably due to the countries governmental conditions. Not only Ms. Duan, but many elders mentioned that they were forced to work in the fields at a very young age. We are really just so fortunate to be living in the environment that we are in, and sometimes, we just need to appreciate the fact that others are strong enough to survive some of the toughest things.
Ms. Duan and I (and Nick and Ashley) have built such a close bond and no longer find it a chore to go and visit her, but rather a treat to engage in conversations with her. On our last visit to her house, we even brought our instruments (Ashley brought her flute, I brought my guitar), and played songs for her. She was also interested in learning our instruments, so we tried to teach her a little bit. Ms. Duan picked it up pretty quickly since she already knew how to play the Chinese flute, as well as a guitar-like instrument called the Ruan.
During our time in Dali Old Town, we bought a pair of earrings for Ms. Duan that we eventually presented to her right before the big Service Learning celebration. Before our video was viewed, I (and probably them too) was nervous about it. Even during the video, I wasn't particularly impressed with the work I had done, but to my surprise, Ms. Duan was as happy as a clam. I never really understood the meaning of "Service Learning" and how interviewing people is considered service, but after seeing her reaction to the video, I finally realized that showing appreciation for a person can bring just as much service, if not more, than viewing them as "needy" and coming into their lives to save them.
I have a few recommendations for future Service Learning groups:
1) Don't be shy. The more outgoing you are, the more open your partner will be. The more open they are, the better story you will get.
2) Don't treat it as homework. Make it something you look forward to.
3) Don't just hammer your partner with questions. Engage in conversations that may be a little off topic, and enjoy yourself. Giving them a list of questions to answer will also make them feel awkward. The better relationship you make with your partner, the more you will enjoy the project.