Our Service Learning partner was Mr. Zhao. He is 73 years old and is the owner of the old Flying Tigers radar station.
Mr. Zhao's full name is 赵石龙. He lives in the old Flying Tigers site, and his family has lived there for 200 years. They originally came from Tianjin. Mr. Zhao lives with his male relatives, but his parents and wife have passed away. The females in his family have been married off to places outside of Xizhou. He also owns many dogs. Mr. Zhao was 3 or 4 when the Flying Tigers came, and he cannot remember much about them except for the fact that they had high noses and blond hair. He has 2 children, one son and one daughter. His daughter is in Xizhou street and has her own clothing stall, and his son is somewhere else in Yunnan working for a water research facility. Mr. Zhao himself has had only one wish since he was a child: to serve and do good for his country. This was because he lived in Mao Zedong's era, and followed some of his ideas. Now that Mr. Zhao is too old to work, he spends his days exercising and resting at home. Mr. Zhao is a man with many ideas and a highly respectable life.
During the process, I learned lots about our elder. Mr. Zhao is a socialable man who loves to talk to neighbors and maintains a really healthy lifestyle. What I mean by this is he takes a walk every morning and has a structured life -- he sleeps everyday at 9 o'clock and gets up everyday at 6 o'clock.
I also learned about Xizhou's history. Life was hardest before Chairman Mao was in power, and when he came, it actually got better. Now, life for locals keeps getting better everyday, as a result of abundant food and a booming economy.
In 20th century China, there was not as much food as there is today. Food kept getting shipped to other countries to pay off debts, and civilians had to work very hard, just to often still not get enough food to sustain themselves and their families. Most people here in the 1900s were farmers, but Mr. Zhao worked at a preserved vegetable factory. There were also many periods of time going on that locals do not like to talk about, such as the Cultural Revolution, the Long March, and the Great Leap Forward.
Mr. Zhao did not make it to our Service Learning presentations at the Linden Centre because he was not feeling well today. We were really disappointed, but pretty worried about Mr. Zhao too, since he said he was going to the hospital. We shared the video with the other groups and their Service Learning partners, though.
However, after the presentations we delivered the CD and some fruits to his house, and watched the video with him. During the video, Mr. Zhao had a surprised reaction, and he seemed really happy. He laughed with one of his family members and smiled the whole 4 minutes. He said it was great, and that he also learned from us. So we learned from him and he learned from us. I think Mr. Zhao has never had an experience like this, and he and his brother's wife were both excited about our efforts. I am just glad we made someone happy with our video, and that our way of giving thanks to the village suceeded.
When we told him we were leaving for Shanghai in 2 days, he told us to come and visit him in the future. We were all really happy that Mr. Zhao liked it, but he would not accept the fruit we brought for him. He insisted on us keeping it because 'growing children need to eat fruit'. I guess all villagers are really modest in that way. Overall, sharing our Service Learning video made all the work worth it, because it was something everyone in our group was proud of.
If future Microcampus students are starting to work on their Service Learning projects, they should keep a few things in mind:
- First, the connections you make through the first few days (and throughout the month) are vital to this project. There is no specific time to work on Service Learning, because it is an ongoing process, and you should be making connections constantly. Being the hardest part of Microcampus, future students need to talk to anyone on the streets whenever possible.
- Second, you should actually be creating relationships with your elder, not viewing them as the solution to your project. Many people in this village are great people with fascinating lives, and during your visits, you should try to get to know them, not just conduct an interview.
- Third, do not rush the process. This is not Inquiry, when you can just collect resources and make a product. These are real people you are talking to, so treat them like real people. You would not randomly start filming someone you do not know, right? That is another reason why it is important to start thinking about this project early. You need time to become close to your elder.