My service learning group consisted of Aavia, Alex W, and myself. Our service learning partner was Mr. Zhao, a local tailor who works on the streets of Si Fang Jie. He is 61 years old and has 2 children.
Through our conversations with Mr. Zhao we learnt a lot about his life and some insights he had about future generations. Mr. Zhao loved to study when he was in school, but due to the Cultural Revolution his education stopped in 5th grade. He had to work in the fields and create clothes, for his family's survival. If he could change anything about his childhood, he would change the fact that his educations were stopped. Some advice he had for our generation was to study hard, work hard, and become a scientist because he had always had an interest in science and wanted us to discover new things.
In 1966 to 1976 there was a huge uprising in China. The Cultural Revolution; the desperate attempt to clean up the damage created from the Great Leap Forward. During that time people were starving, poor, and without the basic living rights. It effected many different cities and towns in China, but thankfully did not effect Xizhou much. Right now, in Xizhou it is a rural town where there are small town squares, but at the same time, peaceful and serene landscapes, without a human in sight. Through talking with Mr. Zhao we came across the topic that eventually Xizhou will become an urbanized city, much like Shanghai.
This is my Day 26th journal entry talking about the experience of 'Watching People Watch.'
Today was the showing of our service learning videos. We picked Mr. Zhao up at around 2:40 to take him to the Linden Centre. The walk back was at first sort of awkward but we started talking and it was no longer awkward. By the time we reached the Centre we were all laughing and talking about how he had used to work here. We brought him up to the TV room, where the showing was, and offered him some cookies and tea.
Before the showing had started Mr. T gave us the task to not watch our own videos, but to watch the people watching our own video. I realized that by watching the people watch you discovered some very interesting things. It was like watching the sunset backwards, you don't see the direct sun you see the light illuminating the landscapes. Sometimes the most unwatched things are the most interesting. Sometimes, that is where the most interesting story lies. In magic, they also use this technique, directing attention so the audience will see something, but the most interesting part is the part you can't see.
As I watched Mr. Zhao watch his video I felt him to start getting emotional; probably because life back then, during the Cultural Revolution, was extremely hard. I also enjoyed watching Ms. Duan and Mr. Zhao talk about their life because they used to go to school together and were in the same work force. They were both so 'passionate' as they talked about their kids, grandkids, school life, and work life. It was very funny when we brought Mr. Zhao in and he just started talking with Ms. Duan, it was extremely lucky and strange. It really tells us about the people we had chosen. We were all lucky to find people that were open to opening up.
When doing Service Learning there are a few tips that will definitely help you. Making connections early on, write down 'out of the box' questions, and organize your footage right when you get it. If you make connections early on you will be able to have a list of many different possible partners, rather than running around to find a partner during the last few days. Asking 'out of the box' questions will definitely help you connect more with your partner and really show the connection in your video. Try to stay away from the basic list questions and develop your own questions, personalized to your partner. Organizing your footage will definitely help as well as you will not need to stress out on the weekend before it is due. You will just need to move stuff around a bit, then you're done.
The final piece of advice I have for future Microcampus students is to get it done faster. This applies to Inquiry projects and Service Learning. If you do a huge chunk of your projects before hand you will definitely feel less stressed, have more down time, and make your experience so much more meaningful and enjoyable.