Our service learning parter was Mr. Zhao, a 73 year old musician in the Dongjing band. We now know about his children, his childhood, and the basics of his life. While interviewing him, I learned a lot about what life was like for locals during the culrutral revolution, and the hardships Mr. Zhao faced. The overall lesson I got from this experience, was that he surpased the difficulties in life, and stayed strong through it all. Mr. Zhao is a rolemodel I can look up too. He told us about the changes of Xizhou and China over time, and the history of 20th Century Chinese history. LIfe is much easier now than it was before. The policies are better and the living standards are too.
There are many recommendations I have for future Microcampus students who will be involved in a Service Larning Project. The most important would be to make connections with elders in the village early on in the trip. If you do this, then you wont have to find someone last minute who you barely know. Also, keep your options open. Do not lock down on one person, because you do not know if they will want to be recorded, or if everything will work out with them. And of course, remember when you are doing this to have fun, this is a learning experience so get the most out of it!
“Don’t mention the hunger and the cold.” Mr. Zhao was born in the year 1940. He is a man that has significant passion for his country. This musician was born in the time of the Second World War, The Flying Tigers War. Zhao spent his younger years in the Liberation, which soon led to the Cultural Revolution. As an older brother, he had to lift his parent’s burden to help out his family of 5 children.
Mr. Hua Zhao was born in the town of Xizhou. He was born as the second oldest within a family of five brothers. As he proceeded on to middle school, 16-year old Zhao needed to dropout due to the economic instability that struck his family. He had to find work in Xizhou in order to feed and support his family. His childhood was difficult, with little food and very few warm clothes. He said he became joyful whenever he was full from his minute meals. When Mr. Zhao was 8, there was no electricity in Xizhou. Since he was the second oldest, young Zhao had to climb up the mountain to bring firewood for his family. When comparing our lives to his we came to realize the differences and how carefree children we are today. We discussed and thought about how hard it must have been back then, and how easy our lives are now. During those times, the policies were tough, thus forcing Zhao to abandon his music career; however, after the political climate settled down, he was able to pursue his dream and become a musician.
Throughout his life, Mr. Zhao enjoyed Physical Education. He states he enjoyed playing sports like Ping-Pong, basketball, and swimming, but he was never really a true athlete. Music was Mr. Zhao’s true joy in life and would like to continue using it until his day comes.
During Mr. Zhao’s life, he was married in his twenties and had two children, one boy and one girl. Unfortunately, Mr. Zhao and his wife separated after their last child’s birth. Each of his children now has their own family and their own life. His son, an architect, has two young daughters. His only daughter has one young boy.As Mr. Zhao settled into his community, he started to love music again. Since the policies have improved, he has joined the Dongjing band as both a musician and a singer. He says he feels happy when he is practicing and rehearsing with the band. “When everyone’s together, dancing and singing, this makes me extremely joyful and content.”
Through his tough past as a coal and bronze miner, a laborer, and a construction worker, he has persevered and has overcome his childhood challenges. Before he became a musician for the Dongjing band, he only saw his parents once or twice during his earlier jobs. When he finally settled down back with his mom and dad, both of them passed away.
Nowadays, Mr. Zhao enjoys his life. “The policies are much better,” he says. Even now, the conditions of being a musician are not taken for granted. Mr. Zhao says “always had to fight for a living since I was small.” When conversing with our peers we came to realize that Mr. Zhao’s life has always been difficult, and since we are children of a new generation that live in the 21st Century, we don’t fully understand what it means to have a hard life such as Mr. Zhao’s.
Even during the time of the Liberation, Mr. Zhao states that Xizhou has always been very advanced. Though it has grown throughout it’s time, Xizhou has always been ahead of other small villages. He says the Xizhou people want to be educated. They all dream about going into business, so they go to a school called Wu Tai Zhong Xue. Once they are well educated, Mr. Zhao says they go to fight for a living. They choose their business and choose their life. Since the Xizhou people are experts in business, people everywhere know them as the Jews Of China.
In the end of our interview, we learned a great piece of how hard life in Xizhou and especially Mr. Zhao’s life. We came realize that lives are much easier. Our lives, and most people’s nowadays, are tainted by what Mr. Zhao had to go through. Mr. Zhao told us about his life, his struggles, and his successes. Through this, he taught all of us to persevere and to keep going even tough lives through challenges at us all the time. Though he gave up on his dream, he came back and went through to strive for his dream and with his career. He taught our group to never give up, and to never let go, and to never forget our most desired dreams.
By: Jillian, Jorge, Ying Yang, and Katie Microcampus April 2013