Our service learning partner was Mr. Zhang. He is 74 years old and works as a barber in Xizhou. His father and grandfather were both barbers as well and passed on their profession to him. During this experience we learned that Mr. Zhang has eight siblings, none of which live in Xizhou. We also learned that he has two kids that are over forty years old and live in Xiaguan. Mr. Zhang finished middle school, in Xizhou, and then was in the army for a couple years. After that, he opened up his barber shop in his home, which is where he has been working for over 50 years. There is a large open air window in his shop that Mr. Zhang has been looking out for all these years; he has seen Xizhou change.
He told us that it has become much more modern, basically just meaning that there are more vehicles and tourists coming by. It also changed after the reform, which lead to Mr. Zhang making more money. Most of the changes that he talked about had to do with the reform and opening. He told us that prices went up and people got richer, so from a business perspective it was good. However, during times like the Hundred Flowers Movement and the Great Leap Forward, times were very bad. There were people starving, the economy went bad, and the fields were ruined. In the long run though, he said it was good because the reform gave the people more freedom, and it helped his business.
On Wednesday, the service learning partners were meant to come to the Linden Centre for the showing of our videos. Unfortunately, Mr. Zhang was not able to come to the for our presentation because he was in Xiaguan. However, on Thursday we went to his shop to show him our video. He was busy the first time we went cutting hair, so we came back later, and he was cutting someone else's hair. Mr. Zhang is a very busy man. We sat and watched this second haircut, which only took about ten minutes. We then placed the laptop in front of Mr. Zhang and hit play. Mr. T taught us that it is good to look in the opposite position of everyone, so we watched Mr. Zhang's face as the video played.
During the introduction he laughed a bit at the mention of his name and job. However, as the video went on and he saw himself talking about the reforms, his face turned quite serious and he leaned in towards the computer. I cannot be sure, but I believe he was tearing up a bit as he watched himself talk about the bad times, about people starving. After the video finished, he thanked us, and we gave him the DVD. We thanked him and handed over the fruit that Cecily prepared for us to give to him. At first he declined, but then thanked us, and I felt very proud of our work, even though he is the one who should be thanked. We told him we were leaving soon and, of course, thanked him again for his time and the personal information he shared.
For further Microcampus students, there are many things they can do to make this project its best. First of all, making connections with elders in the village during the first couple weeks would be extremely helpful. It is important to know your partner well so that they will share more personal details with you. Also, double, triple, and quadruple check with your partner that they are okay with filming and that they are able to come to the presentation. Last but definitely not least, make sure to make this a conversation not an interrogation. Make them feel comfortable and show the audience interesting information, that makes them feel something.