Updated 9 months 2 weeks ago
Our service learning partner was Ms. Zhao. She is 60 years old, and has lived in Xizhou for her entire life. She lives in a house located in Si Fang Jie that has belonged to her family for over seven generations and often takes care of her many grandchildren. Her husband, Mr. Yang, runs and owns a textile business where he sells tie-dye made scarves, batik paintings, small souvenirs, and bamboo baskets. She currently does not have a job but uses her spare time to help her family, do household chores, and to embroider/cross-stitch colorful pieces of artwork.
After listening to Yan Nai Nai's stories, I have learned that she is very strong and highly values her faith. As soon as she wakes up, she leaves her home for the temple, where she takes the time to relax and reflect. During our conversations, I also noticed how she spoke with confidence and purpose, which I highly admired.
I also learned a lot about Xizhou's history. Buddhism is an integral aspect of Xizhou's culture, which has become a cultural work field over the years, like singing or dancing. It brings thousands together to pray and worship. I also learned about Xizhou's Buddhist education, with the Kunxing Buddha as the education minister.
Zhao Nai Nai also taught us about recent Chinese history in general. During the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, when the education of millions of students came to a halt. In Zhao Nai Nai's case, her family was too poor to afford tuition. She had no choice but to drop out by the time she had reached middle school year (the 6th grade).
It was an incredible opportunity to watch the others share their videos with the public and their Service Learning partners. As I watched my friends leave the YangZhuoRan to pick up their Service Learning partners with a bag full of fruit, I couldn't help but think about what the process was like. The group I was in did go through ups and downs, but this opportunity we had missed was irreplaceable. I now understand why this project is the most difficult, compared to the rest of our challenges throughout this trip. Overall, I have learned a lot from this experience, and even though the path I took was different than the others, I have tried to make the most of what was given.
By the time the Service Learning sharing had begun, the presenters who had produced their film were told to sit on a bench in front of the projected video. This was to ensure that they were looking out at the audience, instead of at each other/the video. While the groups sat silently, I watched the Service Learning partners watch their video, and all I could see was how their faces lit up. Having the opportunity to witness this made all their work more worthwhile, as it gave us all the chance to realize what the goal of the entire project was: to show our appreciation for the community. Each group had truly poured their hearts into each video, and to see their hours of editing pay off felt remarkable.
After the sharing, each of the group members walked their Service Learning partners back home. From what I had heard, Mr. Wang, the Ba Ba maker, had given his group each a free Ba Ba! Zhou Nai Nai's group was so grateful, that she teared up and thanked them all the way home. It was touching to hear about how such a small video had made such a lasting impact on each of the group's Service Learning Partners. As soon as the sharing had ended, I had helped the teachers eat the rest of the leftover food, as well as carry the chairs back to their original places. This opportunity that I had taken part in us something that I will never forget. Throughout this trip, I have learned so much about myself as a person and as a learner. These things mean so much to me, and the fact that I get is experience is definitely something that I am truly grateful for.
To future Microcampus students, remember to make connections from the beginning. It may seem awkward and uncomfortable at first, but will find people with incredible stories. This will come in handy during Service Learning, too. For my group, we ended up having to switch Service Learning partners four times due to complications on both sides, resulting in us not having a video at all. By making many connections, there will be many options and no stress about not having a partner. Finally, remember the purpose of Service Learning. Disagreements within the group may come up, but Service Learning is about saying 'thank you' to the village.
Another thing to remember is that the Service Learning project goes throughout the entire Microcampus trip. Although the editing only begins in the duration of the last week, I cannot stress enough the importance of making connections from the very beginning. Although my group had made many connections, we went through plan A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, and N until we reached Zhao Nai Nai. If we had not gone out of our comfort zone and talked to strangers on a daily basis, chances are, we would not even found a Service Learning partner to interview. Another recommendation I have is for everyone in a group to support one another. From what I have heard, if one is not able to help as much in the video, for whatever reason, there are many other ways they can support their group. One example is through pitching in work. Going to the bank for them or completing their part in dish duty can prove to be a big help (as I have learned and experienced). Lastly, remember that all the locals are friendly and open. Do not be afraid to take social risks!
Finally, the last of my recommendations for the future participants are just as important: confirmation, group participation, and stress management. My group had some struggles finding a Service Learning partner since many of our contacts backed out last minute. Remember: even though a Service Learning partner is confirmed, they may not be. Remember to always have a backup plan for this project. Next, make sure everyone is 'rowing the boat.' Though some people may be working harder than others on this project, make sure everyone is aware of this. We had some struggles regarding 'rowing the boat' in our group, so make sure everyone in the group is aware of the amount of work each group member is putting in. Then, let the group make adjustments to help support each other. Last but not least, make sure to keep track of all of your work, and do not stress. At first, it may seem like lots of work to be put on your plate. However, there is plenty of time for everything, just make sure the whole group knows exactly what work needs to be done for all Project Work times. Overall, this Service Learning project is an amazing experience, and remember to enjoy every minute of it.