Our service learning partner is Ms. Yang Yong Li (杨永利). She is 65 years old and has been working at a souvenir stand on the street for over ten years.
After conversing with her about her life growing up in Xizhou, I learned that Ms. Yang is a very independent woman. As a kid, she would go to school, farm, then return home to cook dinner for two children, her grandma, and herself. Now, since her husband works as a road construction worker and does not earn much, he relies on her to provide income for their family. Throughout the course of her life, many have relied on Ms. Yang for numerous reasons and she has proven to be a strong woman.
From our conversation with Ms. Yang, I have learned that Xizhou has changed a lot in the past 50 to 60 years. Back then, she was required to farm and sometimes not even earn money from farming. Now, children our age are not required to farm in Xizhou. Others can also work in other businesses where money is relatively abundant.
Even though Ms. Yang did not talk about history in the 20th century, she did mention that she was grateful for the development of economy. After hearing her story about how she farmed as a kid to life in Xizhou now, I realized that the economy has indeed developed quite a lot.
On Wednesday December 9, we invited Ms. Yang over to Yang Zhuo Ran to take a look at the film we created. First, we gave her a brief tour of the place we have been staying it for the past 26 days. Then, at three o'clock, we led her upstairs to watch the video. When we were airing the video we made of Ms. Yang's life story, I noticed that she was laughed when she saw her face appear on the screen. She seemed to be very focused on the film and would occasionally crack a smile. Personally, I felt quite proud that our group created a video that would showcase the hardships of Ms. Yang's life.
During the airing of the film, we sat in front facing the audience. The purpose of this was so that we would be more mindful of our expressions and actions. If we looked awkward, most of the audience's attention would be on us. But since we were aware that the audience could well see us, we had to mask our awkwardness. We also had a clear view of Ms. Yang, and noticed that she seemed to laugh along in some parts. Seeing her happy expressions was all the reward we needed for creating the film. Afterall, it was the least we could do to thank Xizhou and the locals for welcoming us for an four weeks.
To all Microcampus students, make sure to make lots of connections in the village. It might seem awkward at first, but will eventually pay off. Our group made many connections, but still ended up struggling to find someone who was willing to be filmed. But since we had many contacts, we were able to resort to Plan B, C, D, and so on. Secondly, it is a good idea to write your questions down and translate them to Chinese, and preferably pinyin as well. That way, the conversation will not have any awkward silences. Plus, if others in a group are not able to speak Chinese, they can read the pinyin and be involved in the conversation as well. Finally, make sure to spread out the work as evenly as possible. If one person is stuck with completing the entire movie, it might not be done in time and that person will be extremely stressed. However, if everyone contributes, everything will move along smoothly!