The focus of our service learning project is to form a partnership with an elder 60 years or older and to preserve their life history. Our Service Learning partner is Mr. Yang Deguang. He is 76 years old and the leader of the local mosque..
Part One: Preparation
From reading That's Shanghai magazine interviews of elders, I get an idea how long my article about my elder have to be. I read about the life story of Chen Tingtao and Qian Yaqin, both over 80 years old.
Some interview that must be asked are: How did you meet your spouse and what was he/her job; How many children did you have and did the historical events affect; What do you think about the modern society; Do you remember any big events during the Chinese Cultural Revolution; What job did you have when you were young.
We want our elder to be optimistic, patient and caring with children (or us), thoughtful about the modern world, wise about life, not shy so they will not give us permission to film he/she, not too emotional so he/she will not be able to share any valuable information about their life, not shut away from the world so he/she can give advice to the new generation.
Our list of possible elders we have met so far:
Mr. Yang Shanliang- He is a casket maker who lives by the end of the Morning Market. He is exactly how his parents named him- extremely nice to us (he even offered us tea even if we only stayed for a short while to chat with him). He can speak fluent Chinese, but the only thing is that he is shy and refuses to be filmed. After our conversation, we found out that he is only 58, instead of 60 which he told us in our first meeting.
Mr. Yang Deguang- He is the leader of the mosque that is near SFJ. He is not shy at all, and he allows us to film him speaking. He speaks fluent Chinese, is very patient with us, and have a lot of thoughts about the world. He is 78 years old.
Mrs. Li Xiusheng- She is very optimistic and open in a good way. She has a lot of ideas about the world and treated us very nicely in our first meeting. The only unfortunate thing is that she is only 55 years old.
After discussing with my team, we have decided to focus our research on Mr. Yang Deguang. He thinks about others a lot, and made an appointment with us even though he is very busy since it is the October Break and people from all over Dali is coming over for praying and celebrations. He is the current leader of the mosque, the one on the longest duty, because they switch every four years depending on vote, and he is the current leader for 16 years already.
We will ask him about the biological or basic questions first in our first meeting, like what is his full name, how he want us to call him, how many children does he have, and what are some of his hobbies. In our second meeting, we will ask about the pleasant moments of his life, like what was a time in his life that he liked the most, what he felt during the Liberation since it is a proud thing to most elders. In our third meeting, we will start introducing some relatively sad events, like the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Big Leap Forward, and if he allows us, we will dig deeper a bit by asking a bit more sensitive questions. In our last meeting, or merged into our third meeting, we will ask about some personal matters, like what were some of his regrets in life, what advice would he give to the next generation, and what he think will happen to the world 10 years later.
In our first meeting, we have to take a notebook and pencils with us, so we can take some notes on what he is saying already. My teammates had their first meeting at least a week ago, and I just met him yesterday, October 4, both meetings conducted in the mosque where he prays and leads the crowd. We will bring a camera with us, so he will get use to filming.
Part Two: Interaction
I will count my other teammates first meeting with him as the first meeting for the whole group. They asked for his name and age, and he gladly gave them his phone number already.
Yesterday (October 4) we met him again, and since we have his phone number already, we called before going so he will know we are going to come. But we did not ask for some older photos of him, so we will do it in our third meeting. He does not have a lot of time regularly, so we did some footage yesterday, but since we were not expecting that, we did not bring the whole list of questions, so we just recited some from memory, which are the following:
- How many children do you have?
- Where are your children?
- As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- What was the time of your life that you most enjoyed?
- What are your memories about some significant historical events (Chinese Cultural Revolution, Liberation)?
- And some other questions that includes: How long have you live in Xizhou, and how many siblings do you have.
We set up another appointment for tomorrow (October 6) at 3:00 in the afternoon, and hopefully we will finish filming tomorrow which includes re-film because we did not put our recording device on a flat surface. Questions we will ask next time are the following:
- What are some of your hobbies?
- How did you meet your significant other (spouse/best friend) in your life?
- What suggestions do you have for people out age to live a long, healthy, balanced life?
- What would you like to change about your life?
- What has changed in Xizhou/China/the World since you were my age?
- Of what are you most proud in your life?
- What memories do you have of your parents? Grandparents?
- What are your memories about some significant historical events (Not WWII because he is not old enough, yes Civil War, Collectivization/Land Reform and Redistribution, 100 Flowers Movement, Great Leap Forward, mid 1960s-1970s, Mao's Death, Reform and Opening).
Part 3: Production
Refer to the article and video we posted.
Part 4: Reflection
I learned that he had a hard life when he was young. He had nine siblings, and his father was usually not home, because he is in Myanmar selling bread. He talk about cannabis, a kind of drug, as if it is not a big deal. His father use a portion of the little money money he earned for the family on drugs, and his mother also used cannabis as a spice, and I learned from the Fay that it was a very common thing in the old times, and it adds a lot of taste to the meals. He avoided the question about the Cultural Revolution by talking about the conflicts between China and the Soviet Union instead, and I learned from Fay again that it was not such a huge matter in Yunnan.
In the old times, I have acquired that Xizhou is a lot wealthier than Dali in the old times. Although Xizhou was not really affected by the conflicts between the Soviet Union and China, they still suffered from the result of it. China does not like to own other countries debts, therefore their was a conflict between the two countries. The Soviet Union helped China over the process of several years, and China flourished individually eventually. But China owns the Soviet Union a huge debt, and they had to withdraw all of the money from its people and the government to pay back the debt, causing the people to not have enough money to buy food, and since they do not eat a lot, they cannot farm, and making the country's food resource to run low. It was an insufferable time.
As explained in the paragraph above, there was a conflict between the Soviet Union and China in the 1960s and 1970s. There was also another significant event that happened- the death of Chairman Mao. He told us that a lot of the people wept over this event, down on their knees, like their should has flew out of their body. He said that if there was no Chairman Mao, there will be no new China. The older generation fought, spared no effort, to build and find a new country. The Westerners use to call China the "Sick Man of East Asia", and the Chinese was always looked down by them.
Apparently, Mr. Yang does not want to meet us anymore. We tried contacting him for the celebration again, but his phone was shut down. Chuli and Grace ran there to look for him, but he is home and not planting trees, which the mosque guy told us. We called him again the next day, because we want to give him some presents, but when I did not even finish my question, he hung up, so I do not think he will want to see us again.
Some recommendations is to find a Service Learning partner who is not always busy. For our group, our Service Learning partner is Mr. Yang, the leader of a local mosque, so he has to complete a lot of his duties, and cannot attend the celebration of the Service Learning videos. Therefore, we cannot answer one of the questions- Describe the experience of sharing your final video with your Service Learning partner. Make sure he will definitely come to the celebration. Another advice would be to find someone older than 70 rather than 60, because the people in their 60s do not have most of the information you would want. Our Service Learning partner is 76, so he had a lot of information that we wanted. The last advice would be about asking questions- some of the answer he gave us, we did not understand a thing he said because of his accent and the local words, and some of them he did not answer them thoroughly, so we just did not include those clips. When you ask the questions related to the Cultural Revolution, we did not use those words, so the advice is to use different words to dig out all of the information your Service Learning partner knows about.