Our service learning partner's name was Mrs. Zhao Guo Ying and she is exactly 80 years old. She is now retired but she used to work as a farmer during the Cultural Revolution (and afterwards).
I learned a lot about my elder from this experience. I learned just how fascinating her life is, and she does not even think that! She lived through so much in her life, and it is amazing how she was able to survive everything. She has amazing perseverence, probably much more than I could ever have, even though she seems weak and frail. I learned that she does whatever is necessary in order to survive, even if it seems to break her heart.
I learned that even though Xizhou is a small town that does not seem very connected to the rest of China, it was still heavily affected by the Cultural Revolution. People in Xizhou at that time did not really get a good education because they needed people to help around in the fields. Even though the Cultural Revolution demanded that a lot of people become farmers, they were basically that to begin with. Other than things with the Cultural Revolution, nothing much but the geography has changed. Obviously there were more cars, but she said that other than that, everything stayed the same.
I also got to learn a bit about how the people view Mao Ze Dong; mainly good, because of his help and attitude during the second World War. I also learned more about the Flying Tigers and their impact as foreigners in a not-so-inviting place Of course there was fear at first, but people are people, and they gradually grew less scared as they got used to their presence.
When we brought Mrs. Zhao to the Linden Centre, it seemed that she forgot that we were making a video about her. That was not a good foot to start with. She even forgot that we were going to bring her to the Linden Centre. We explained the situation to her once we got there (but Mr. T explained it better), and it seemed like she was overwhelmed at first. Her friend was quite pleased, however, and she seemed more excited about it than Mrs. Zhao. Mrs. Zhao was in fact so surprised, I was afraid that she was going to have a heart attack, so in the beginning, I was very scared about what would happen when the film started playing. I tried to calm her down a bit more, and stayed with her as long as possible, and it seemed like she was going to be alright.
When sharing my project with our Service Learning partner, I was really nervous. As the movie played, I kept watching our Service Learning partner, trying to decipher her mood. As she watched, she looked very stricken, and for a moment I grew very scared. What if we put something in the film we were not supposed to or she just did not like it? At the end, we saw her smile and laugh, and I was very relieved, but still worried. I stopped being worried when she thanked us (though I have no idea why). Her friend, Mrs. Dong, was smiling the whole time though, so that kind of eased my heart.
Mrs. Zhao was really nice the whole time, and understood us. Even though there was a kind of language barrier, we could see that she was moved. We offered to take her back to her house, but she insisted on declining. Instead, she started walking in the other direction with Mrs. Dong. With that, she was gone. I felt kind of sad, I wanted to see her more often because she really is a wonderful person. As I watched the other people's reactions, I was relatively pleased because they did not look as upset.
The biggest recommendation I can give to future Microcampus kids is: FILM AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Get to work as soon as you can. The first day you get here in Xizhou, talk to as many people as you can to make connections. Start chatting with them, even if it seems weird or uncomfortable. Another suggestion is that when talking to your elder, you might want to spend a day or two just chatting about their lives and then ask them if you can film what they have already told you. If it is things you have already discussed, it will make them feel more comfortable. One of the most important things to remember is that even though the video is not edited on your computer, you should still help out. Even your presence shows your team mates that you support them. It doesn't matter if you can't speak Chinese, you can help with editing or do the writing things.
Also, remember to save everything. You will regret your actions if you did five hours of work and did not save.
The rest of our Service Learning information will be posed on Yuval K.'s page.