Our Service Learning partner was Mr. Zhao. He is 72 years old and is now retired. From our interview with Mr. Zhao, I learned that he is a very knowledgeable man. He knows a lot about Chinese politics and has really strong opinions about it. I also learned about his history and story, like how he changed his personality in order to protect his parents, and his story of stealing food because there was not enough to eat. I learned that Xizhou has gone through a tremendous amount of change in the past century. Mr. Zhao shared how poor Xizhou was in the past, people had to scavenge for food in order to have enough to eat, but things improved dramatically in 1983 during China’s reform and opening, people were able to own land and it brought Xizhou out of its economic troubles. Through this interview, I also learned about the different policies that the government implemented in 20th century China and how these policies have changed over the years.
After days of hard work and continuous editing, we finally shared our video with Mr. Zhao. I was very nervous about showing him the video because some of the information Mr. Zhao shared with us was sensitive and very controversial. I did not know how he would react to his thoughts broadcasted onto a big screen. When it was my group’s turn we watched his reactions to the video. He looked nervous, and then he started tearing up and shaking when watching the video. I was afraid that we have put information in the film that he rather not have shown. Maybe his reaction was because he just was not use to his face being up on the screen, or the memory of his father triggered something within him, but I was still very proud of our group and the effort we have put into the video.
Some recommendations I have for future Microcampus students is start looking for a Service Learning partner the second you step into Xizhou, do not wait until Mr. Tafel says that a Service Learning partners is needed. Continuously make connections in the village so you have an easier time finding a Service Learning partner and do not need to find one last minute. Another piece of advice is to build a trusting connection with your Service Learning partner. The more your partner trusts you, the more he or she will share. You cannot expect them to tell you about everything the first time you meet them. Building a relationship takes time; therefore, it is, again, important to find a Service Learning partner as soon as possible. In the process, there will always be individuals who work more than others, therefore, people who are not contributing as much to the process as others, should help the ones who are working with their responsibilities, such as daily video shout-outs or laundry duties. This will lower your teammates workload and help them concentrate on the project.
Looking back at this whole process, from beginning to end, it was quite a memorable experience. From first meeting Mr. Zhao, to him having enough trust in us to talk about sensitive and controversial topics while we filmed him, to his reactions to the video, it has been a crazy adventure. I still remember when we first met him; he was reluctant to even take a photo with us. But when we went there the second time, he opened up and even showed us his family tree that was over a hundred years old. Although our group was a little surprised by his reactions to the video, we still greatly appreciate his willingness to share his story with us. But no matter what, this Service Learning experience has been a memorable one.