Updated 1 year 2 months ago
by Taylor, Clark, Shirley, and Ethan
Our Service Learning partner is was Mrs. Yang. She is 62 years old elder and lived in Zhoucheng, a village neighboring Xizhou, all her life. Her full name is Yang Meiren, but we all call her Grandma Yang, or Yang Nainai.
On the intersection east of Sifangjie, she settles down since every noon and sells her tie-dye and embroidery with her daughter. The first times we saw her, we only introduced ourselves then moved on. As we gradually developed a closer relationship with each other, she accepted our offer for collaboration in the Service Learning Project. Our journey to growth and gratitude began.
Throughout this project, I learned many aspects of Grandma Yang’s past, especially about her family’s experiences in production teams and communes. When her parents were working in the fields and the forests, she would babysit her younger siblings. “If you were my younger brother or sister, I would take care of you; our parents would go to work, I would stay at home and bring you to play, cook for you guys, tell you to eat.”
As our service learning partner only lived in Zhoucheng, we did not have the opportunity to learn too much about the history of Xizhou. However, both Grandma Yang and her daughter expressed their concerns about Xizhou’s efforts to crass commercialize and appeal to tourists. In one conversation, Grandma Yang said that in approximately five years, Xizhou will be fully developed for tourism and be no different from Dali Old Town.
From this Service Learning project, I learned a huge portion of 20th Century Chinese history. Through interactions with Grandma Yang, she revealed that she was placed in a production team at young age since the Great Leap Forward, and that she had to farm and log with her parents in her teenage years. Grandma Yang also remembers a lot about Mao’s return, and how he mentioned the ban of “Si Jiu”, or the Four Olds. (old thinking, old culture, old traditions, old habits).
During the actual presentation, we sat before the audience to look at their facial expressions. Before the movie started playing, I saw her eyes go all over the place, examining the room. Once the movie started, she was absorbed into the scenes and focused directly on the screen. Even her body was slanted, her wrinkled face pointed directly at the movie. During the introduction, Grandma Yang would occasionally lose focus. This made me a little sad, because perhaps our movie was not appealing to her and perhaps our hook was not as good as we thought it would be.

However, once the movie transitioned into the part where she talked about her parents and how she missed them, her eyes began to tear up and her wrinkled face became a little squished together. Dong Ayi, another connection our group made and also a dear friend of Grandma Yang, nudged Grandma and comforted her a little. I could see from their interactions that they appreciate how we are preserving their stories. This really made me think and look back at my own family and my parents; how I would feel if they passed away at old age. I really appreciate this experience to look at the audience during a presentation. It felt truly like giving out and thanking this community.

What I would recommend to future Microcampus students in regarding Service Learning is to always make connections. You can connect by chatting with people of the Xizhou community after you finished eating at a restaurant, or simply wave your hand and smile at the person selling Er Jia, a local snack. Another suggestion would be to visit your partner as more as possible to strengthen relationships (you can also share your own experiences to open up). Finally, never connect for Service Learning, always connect with them and love them for gratitude.

About This Learner

Hey I am Clark! Microcampus has been a spectacular experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. This experience transformed me and taught me many life lessons. Now that I am in Shanghai, I miss the clear skies, the amazing food, and all the loving memories the Voyagers crew had together. To future Microcampus students: cherish your time in Xizhou and always listen to Mr. T and Ms. Mai, as they are trying to stop a problem before it becomes one.