Our service learning partner was Li nainai. She is 70 years old and spends most of her time in the temple near the pavilion. She is from a town near Lijiang and has lived in Xizhou for 10 years now which she now considers her home. She is extremely kind and quite extroverted. She also co-owns a shop that sells things like calligraphy and Buddhist beads but she spends most of her day working in the temple. Li nainai was very comfortable with us video taping her while she did her thing and she felt perfectly fine answering our questions whilst she carried on with her daily routine.
Li nainai shared a lot about the hardships she went through in her childhood. She told us about her financial struggles when she was younger. She was part of a family of six with four children. Because of the large amount of required produce along with the lack of farm workers, she and her siblings had to stay and help out at home. Her family's financial state required her to drop out of school in second grade. Although she did not get much education, her life today is still pretty good so does not regret not going to school.
Our service learning group also had the chance to talk to Li nainai's husband, Grandpa Yan. He told us about Buddhism in Xizhou and how many students and children come to the Buddha Kunxing regularly. They worship and pay respect to the Buddha right before exams and ask him to help them get a good score and test into a top school.
Li nainai is 70 years old, which means that she was a victim of the Great Leap Forward, which was a time of extreme hunger and famine. Li nainai was around our age during the Great Leap Forward, which would explain her rather short stature. This tells me that the Great Leap Forward really impacted the entirety of China. She also did not have the opportunity to attend school because of the lack of produce at home as a result from the Great Leap Forward.
Sharing my Final Service Learning Video with our service learning partner and her husband was really quite something. Our group was in fact a bit late to the celebration because getting our partners to YangZhuoRan was more difficult than we anticipated. They were at first quite reluctant to come, and when they decided to, they needed to close up their shop, finish up what they were doing, and let the other community members know they were leaving for a while. Eventually, we got there and shared our video with them. Li nainai's first reaction was a chuckle and a snort. Once her face showed up on the screen, she held her hand up to her face and chuckled into it.
Li nainai and Grandpa Yan were very focused on the video and they seemed very pleased, maybe even delighted. The feeling of seeing their jovial expressions while watching our video made the entire process worth it. Li nainai even made the effort to stand up in front of all the guests and shake each of our hands to thank us. Their smiles and pleased countenances generated a sense of pride in each and every one of our group members, including me.
This process requires thoroughness and patience. For future Microcampus students who will be involved with service learning, there are lots of things to keep in mind throughout the process. The first thing is to always find a responsibility and role in your group. There will be times where you feel like you are helpless and have no way to contribute to the group, this is never true. There will always be something you can do, whether that is with technology, helping the Chinese speakers with other responsibilities, or simply providing support or taking on a leadership responsibility in your group. The next thing is to always plan ahead, always have multiple potential service learning partners. Also, always prepare for the worst, go into the process knowing that it will not be smooth through and through. Also do not be picky with your partners. Everyone has a story, whether that is obvious or not, they do. This process requires lots of time and effort and patience. One must always be patient throughout this process and not panic when something seems to go wrong, because it will. The only thing you can do from this process is grow.