Our service learning partner was called Grandma Yang. She is 70 years old, has three kids, and runs her own embriodery shop near the Linden Center. She has only been living in Xizhou for three years, as she was born and raised in Guizhou and has been living there most of her life. I was able to learn so much about Grandma Yang, she openly showed us some of her beautiful pieces of embriodery and explained how she loves to sew. She is very proud to be a person of the Miao Minority, also explained some of the traditions and values of her minority. She is especially proud of her minority's ability to sew. I also learned that Grandma Yang has strong family connections. In fact, she moved to Xizhou to support her daughter and to be with her older sister.
By speaking with her, our group did not learn very much about Xizhou's history, as Grandma Yang has only lived in Xizhou for three years. However, she had much to share about how diffucult times in 20th Century China affected her and the people around her. I learned about the harsh effects of the cultural revolution; her minority was mistreated and looked down upon by others. People would also disrespect her minoritys' traditions and how they dressed, hitting her and cutting off her traditional hair bun. The cultural revolution was a very wild and oppresive time.
It was great being able to share our service learning video with our partner, Grandma Yang. While Angelesia, Maya, and Justin went to pick up Grandma Yang along with her older sister, I stayed behind to help set up TV room for the invited guests. I was looking forward to them seeing our work; the group had spent so much time and energy into making a great video to tell Grandma Yang's story. When both Grandma Yangs arrived, they were the center of attention. Every member of group O.R.E.O. knew Grandma Yang and was so happy to see her along with her younger sister, my service learning partner.
As our group’s video played, I was able to see multiple reactions from both of the Grandma Yangs. When the video showed her talking about family connections, and how each sister looked like one parent, Grandma Yang was getting a bit emotional and was tearing up a bit. I figured these scenes touched on deep memories and points in her life. Surprisingly, when Grandma Yang was talking about the Cultural Revolution and its’ harsh effects on her life, she was smiling and even laughing. I figured this could be a bit funny, as she was watching herself describing difficult times during the Cultural Revolution with a very strong tone.
When Grandma Yang was speaking about her sewing and embroidery in the video, she laughed and smiled while watching herself. Whenever she smiled or laughed in the video, it also reflected on her face. I think that Grandma Yang enjoyed the work that we did, and the many scenes that we included in her service learning video. I feel great that I was able to bond closely with both of the Grandma Yangs throughout the whole trip. It was great getting to know them, and being able to make each other happy during our visits together.
For future Microcampus students who will be doing Service Learning projects, I recommend that students start making connections once they first arrive in the trip. It will get them more comfortable with interacting with locals and might even help them find some possible service learning partners. I also recommend that students divide work evenly amongst their group mates so that everyone has an equal amount to do and so everyone is handling a fair share of the work. Finally, I recommend that students always have a backup possible service learning partners, at least five others.