Our service learning partner is named Yang Popo or Grandma Yang, she is 65 years old, and she has lived in Xizhou her whole life. She currently runs a small stand in SiFangJie where she makes small hand sewn decorations.
Yang Popo was a very happy and open woman, and she shared much information with my group members and I. We heard stories about her childhood and how life has changed here in Xizhou. She said that she was not always as relaxed or happy as she is now. We could tell that now she is a happy woman especially through her laugh. She is constantly laughing and I loved hearing it as it showed the change in her life and how things got better.
By talking to Yang Popo my groupmates and I learned a lot about her as a person, and we established a true connection. We learned about her family and how she has two sons as well as her husband. She was telling us about how much her husband gets paid and how her retirement is going. Now I am taking life easily she says, and that she no longer needs to worry about things. She worried about things when she was younger, but now she does not need to care. Her two sons have moved out and have started their own lives, and she no longer has anything to do except relax and enjoy life.
Through talking to Grandma Yang I learned a lot about Xizhou history, and how Xizhou has changed. Yang Popo was telling my group about how life before was harder, people did not live for as long, and the living conditions were not as good. Before live was not as relaxed as it is now, because there were many things going on that were not necessarily good. The commune was occurring at the time when she was young. Her life was the same every day she would go to school and then after that she would go off to work. She began talking about how the houses before were not in good condition, and on very rainy days it was not uncommon for houses to fall apart. She would talk about her life during the cultural revolution and how the youth group, which had included her, would go to work out in the fields. They would also have to learn as much as they could about Chairman Mao, and only Chairman Mao. She would continuously say how life in her childhood was much harder compared to her life now.
Using all of the footage and information our group had acquired from Yang Popo we put together a four and a half minute iMovie, this was called our service learning presentation. After completing our service learning presentation we were given the great opportunity to share our presentation with our partner. The plan had been for each group to go out and collect our partner and bring them back with us to YangZhouran. My group had gone out to collect Yang Popo but she would not let us escort her to YangZhouran . Instead she told us that she would come on her own time, so we left and waited for her to arrive at our home. We had waited for around 20 minutes but by that time it was apparent she was not going to show. It was quite unfortunate since our group had worked so hard on the video that we prepared but there was nothing we could do.
Even though Grandma Yang did not show up the two other groups had their service learning partners come so we were able to witness their reactions to the videos. You could tell that the other partners were either friends or were acquainted with Yang Popo because as soon as she appeared on the screen they all smiled and started giggling to themselves. Our video had started with Yang Popo laughing and the other partners immediately began laughing. It was really nice to see how other locals reacted to seeing their friend on a video, and at times I began smiling to myself because of how happy they both looked and seemed.
There are some things that I have learned through the service learning experience that I would like to recommend for future groups. The first thing would be a tip for when you are setting up the cameras to film and where you are deciding to place the camera. Eye contact is very important and is a key item in the service learning experience, so when you are deciding where to set up your camera you should set it in a place where where you can see the eyes of your partner. Another piece of advice would be to write out the questions you are going to ask before you go to visit your partner so that when you do visit them you will be prepared and will know what to say. One last recommendation that I would like to say to future service learning groups is make sure you start making connections from the very beginning of the trip so that when it comes time to choose a service learning partner you have a variety of options and people to choose from.