Our Service Learning partner was Mrs Yang. She is 65 years old and makes little hand embroidery crafts for a job. She also has two sons.
I found out that Mrs Yang is very open in many ways, but also very shy. We got to know her as a highly talkative person because we approached her first. What I did not realise until after a few conversations, was that she keeps her eyes very low and her appearance very small. I asked her if she could tell us any stories from her life, and she began by saying, "I have stories, but I do not know how to tell them,". Then, she goes on telling the story.
While talking to Mrs Yang, I found out that Xizhou had very poor infrastructure at least 40 years ago. She said that back then, houses would fall down on a rainy day. However, after they pushed in tourism, more houses have been renovated. I also learnt about what it was like during the Cultural Revolution. The only subject they learnt was Mao's ideas. Other than that, they worked all day. She was part of the Youth Group, so she had to lift up a plaque that had Mao's sayings on it, and lift up his portrait as well.
Unfortunately, Mrs Yang was not able to attend the Service Learning presentation. We walked over to where her stand is, offered fruit, she declined, offered to walk her over, she declined again, she gave us fish and butterfly embroidery keychains, and then she accepted a bag of Longan. However, it was nice to see how the other two guest's reactions. While watching other people's videos, I would look over to the person of whom the video was about. They would always smile, and maybe look slightly embarrassed.
When we got up and watched people watch our video, the two guests smiled as well. I could not tell if the guests and Mrs Yang ever met, or were ever friends, but they seemed to react like Mrs Yang was a familiar face. At the end of the video, Mr Tafel explained why we made the videos. He said that "we do not get many chances to say thank you to Xizhou", and that "Mr Yang (not related and one of the other Service Learning partners) and Ms Yang (other service learning partner, also not related) are representatives of Xizhou and we thank them very much". Mr Yang stood up and seemed very thankful. Ms Yang, smaller and more frail in physique also said thanks in a shy manner. I genuinely believe it is a wonderful way to give thanks to the village, and I am so glad I put in the hours to do it.
I recommend future Microcampus students to find Service Learning partners early. It helps a lot, and is quite easy if you go during bits of spare time out in the village. I also suggest to actively think of questions ahead of time. It helps during slightly awkward pauses, but should not be heavily depended upon. Finally, when talking to a local, think of what they are saying: not what you are saying. Personal awkwardness can override your thoughts. Instead, think about what the person is saying because their story is what you are trying to listen to.