Updated 2 months 3 weeks ago
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Our service learning partner is Mr. Yang Rang. He is 77 years old and lives in Chengdong with his son. He was born in Chengdong and worked as a farmer when he was younger. He has three children, two daughters married off to neighboring villages, and a son who remodels houses.
Mr. Yang shared with us plenty of stories and information about himself. We learned that he really respects education, although he used to skip school when he was a kid. We learned a great deal about his family history off camera as well. Such as his father being a secretary for a wealthy family at one point, which resulted in Mr. Yang's inability to get into the army. He taught us many things, one of which was to make the best out of every day and stay positive even during the worst of times.
The stories Mr. Yang told us also contributed to our knowledge of Xizhou's history. I learned that even seemingly insignificant villages such as Chengdong (which was not as wealthy as Xizhou) were greatly influenced by the Cultural Revolution. He told us how the entire village had to share a wok of rice. China during the 20th century was facing great instability, especially with the drastic changes of social structures, economics, and governance. Mr. Yang's stories made the history books more alive. The stories were also more horrific and daunting than what I would ever learn at school.
As we brought Mr. Yang into Yangzhuoran, he was excited to see the other Mr. Yang (a Service Learning partner from the other group) being welcomed in. He told us that he recognized him, and his family used to be landlords. As we brought him into Classroom 1 for the showing, he sat by the door since he is uncomfortable with large crowds and tight humid areas. He sat by Mr. Yang and they discussed architecture, tea, and life around Xizhou. When the showing came, Jason and I were nervous since we were scared that he would be dissatisfied with our poor interpretations.
As our video began to play, we both paid close attention to Mr. Yang's expression. It was quite difficult to read his expression since he tends to be a reserved with his ideas in public. At some points of the film, we noticed that he was mouthing something, it was difficult to tell what. His eyes seemed to light up when he first heard his voice. Aside from those, his face seems to remain the same throughout the video. After the video, we asked for his opinions, and he just said that he was glad for us to share his story and that he would like anything we made. As we walked him back to his house, he told us more stories of his childhood and of the Cultural Revolution privately. This was because he does not like sharing strong political opinions to the public.
For future Microcampus students, I highly recommend them to find a Service Learning partner before the middle of the third week. This can ensure you to have a variety of footage (so the viewer would not be bored) and more time to bond and know your service learning partner better. The second recommendation is to make plenty of connections before you select a Service Learning partner (that also means throughout the trip, even after you have selected a Service Learning partner). This suggestion does not only benefit your Service Learning project but your entire Microcampus experience. It can also give you multiple backup plans. This brings us to the third suggestion, have plenty of backup plans. Relating back to the first suggestion, finding your first service learning partner as soon as possible means you would have enough time to go and carry out your backup plans without delay. Finally, I suggest taking as many photos of you talking to your Service Learning partner, or photos in general. This could avoid boring the viewer. Suggested photos could be of old photographs, childhood homes, you and your Service Learning partner having a conversation, or of your Service Learning partner doing something or talking to someone else.