Hi everyone! My service learning group consists of Erin and Vincent and me. Our Service Learning Partner was Mr. Zhao. He is 61 years old and is one of the security guards at Yang Zhuo Ran.
Even though we see him everyday, our group realized that we did not actually know Mr. Zhao. I learnt that even though a smile is always present on his face, his life has had his share of troubles. Mr. Zhao grew up during the Cultural Revolution, and this turbulent period in time changed his life forever. Instead of working towards his dream job of a soldier, he had to leave school early and become a builder. I did not know that he lived on top of Huadianba (The peak of a mountain near Xizhou) for two months before coming back to Xizhou, and then working in Xishuangbanna (A autonomous prefecture in Yunnan Province, near Thailand) for 30 years.
I also learnt that Xizhou has changed a lot over the past decade or so, because of several reasons, one of them being the influx of tourists coming in. The elderly people stay at home now, and all the younger people do the work, instead of it being the other way round. The infrastructure and architecture has changed from Chinese to Western, because a lot of the families' kids go abroad, and when coming home, refuse to live in a Chinese style house.
As a part of this experience, I also learnt about Chinese history. Even though our Service Learning partner, Mr. Zhao told us that his life was not too affected by the Cultural Revolution compared to others, we still learnt that the time was so chaotic, there was no time for education. Even though I'd read about this time period before, listening to a person's personal story while you're sitting with them makes it seem much more real. When asked what his childhood dream, or goal was. He stated "During that time, a dream was a fantasy." I learnt about how everyone has a completely different opinion about how the Cultural Revolution affected China.
Sharing our service learning video with Mr. Zhao was worth all the trouble that we went to, to first find a service learning partner and then get rejected by a number of people because they didn't want to be filmed. The smile on his face made it all worth it. Even though he was the only service learning partner that could come, I believe that these videos would have the same effect on all the partners, because there's so many stories out there that are just waiting to be heard. Mr. Zhao's story was special for us, because we see him everyday, and we did not know all that he has been through before. I feel like I know him much better now and I know that there's always a reason for the smile on his face, because as he put it, he's happy. Just because, "Life is better than before."
For future Microcampus students, I recommend first of all, KEEPING OPTIONS OPEN! This was rather hard for my group, since we got rejected a number of times, because a lot of people did not want to be filmed. We believed that we had got the right person 3 times, and none of these seemed to work. Secondly, make sure to go often to visit your partner, because if you get the cameras out right away, it could potentially scare the person away. Make sure you get to know them and earn their trust before you bring the cameras out. Lastly, KEEP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE! This is probably most important, because nobody has a perfect partner their first time. If you get rejected more than once, that is okay. You will figure something out. Stay positive!