Our Service Learning partner was Grandma Yang-(杨树九). She was born in the year of 1946, and currently works in an embroidery shop with her sister. Grandma Yang has 3 children-two boys and one girl and she has decided to move to Xi Zhou to help support her daughter, by selling the embroidery that her family has passed down to her and some that she has sewed herself as well. She has lived most of her life in Guizhou, where she then moved to Li Jiang for 13 years, and finally moving here to Xi Zhou. Ever since we met Grandma Yang, her attitude towards us had always been warm and welcoming, and that allowed us to form a connection with her in a very short amount of time. During the course of getting to know her as an individual, we learnt that she was very proud of her Miao ethnicity, her accomplishments in embroidery, and her connections with family.
We learned so much about Grandma Yang throughout the course of Microcampus. Firstly, she has a great passion for embroidery, which is not only due to the traditions in the Miao minority, but she personally feels like sewing allows her to apply her emotions onto a piece of cloth. Additionally, I was lucky enough be given this opportunity to know Grandma Yang as not only an embroider, but a close friend in the village that we can always talk to. We learnt that she values family above everything, and when family is around, there is nothing to be worried about.
Unfortunately, Grandma Yang has only lived in Xi Zhou for three years, but she was able to provide us with insights on how the events in China has immensely impacted her life.
From Grandma Yang, I was able to learn that the Cultural Revolution had not only impacted many people, but it has distorted and prevented many from pursing their aspirations. Grandma Yang explained that the Cultural Revolution was an extremely difficult time for her family, and they were only assigned to 2 kilograms of grains. They were often starved, and had to dig up wild vegetables to save their bellies. However, the Cultural Revolution has made her become more appreciative of the life she is living now.
On the 30th of March, our Service Learning video was presented to Grandma Yang and her older sister. In the beginning, I could tell that it was a little awkward and difficult for both Grandmas' to interact and communicate with the other guests, since there were many new faces to learn and I myself felt a little uneasiness in the start as well. However, when we moved to the part of the clip where Grandma Yang was explaining what she remembered of her mother, and what a good person she was, I must say that during the moment I could see that both of them became a little teary, quickly wiping the corners of their eyes with their hands and sleeves to prevent people from looking.
When we moved on to her providing us with insights of the Cultural Revolution, both of the sisters started cracking up since Yang Nai Nai raised her volume a little bit. I was expecting a different reaction, since the Cultural Revolution was a time filled with struggles and I thought they would tear up during that moment, however, they did not. I guess that the sisters just did not want to be brought back to that moment, and they were here for a good time after all. Overall, today has been an extremely exciting day for me. When all the videos were finished, I could see that both sisters started to loosen up a bit, and they were soon having conversations with other locals and most exciting of all, the Grandmas loved Sophie! I will never forget my time here in Xizhou, and how I have created such strong connections with both Yang Nai Nai's. They have truly been the most welcoming, warm, and jolly locals to take us in as part of their community, and I will forever be thankful for that.
For future Microcampus students, I have three main recommendations. First and most important, because we are given a very short amount of time to film and complete our video, it is very necessary to always have a back up partner, even when they have agreed to cooperate with a student, they may call it quits on the last minute. Secondly, when a group is facing a conflict because one is not completing their own responsibilities, do not spend the time pointing at fingers or complaining about how unfair the situation is. Arguing will not move a group past their obstacle, nor will it move a group's progress. It may seem that the work is distributed unfairly, because that was how I felt during the beginning of the project, but the only solution is to make sure that the work gets finished, and we have done the job of returning thanks to the village. My solution for this is instead of distributing the work evenly, work on certain tasks together as a group. Through experience, I have learnt that when everyone is assigned to one task, the quality of the work is not as effective. Lastly, always make sure to form an authentic connection with your partners, instead of using their information as an advantage for this project. An elderly will definitely be able to tell the difference between a student who wants to know them as an individual, and a student who just wants the information. Remember, if one is relax while talking and shows consistency in checking in on his/her partner, it is very likely that the partner will return the same gratitude.