Duan Fuchang, whom we call Ms. Duan is a 60 year old Bai minority woman. She runs a little souvenir stand near the market and has been working there for a few decades now.
One of the memorable moments from meeting Ms. Duan was when she started talking about her childhood. When she was little, she was the only girl in a class of 64. I found this interesting because we currently have about an equal amount of girls and boys attending school.
Ms. Duan told us about her past in Xizhou. She explained that when she was little girl around our age, Xizhou was very poor. The street she works on now was not there in the past and the market street is relatively new. However, now Xizhou has developed greatly with new buildings being built and newer, stronger streets popping up around. Ms. Duan likes this development because it brings in tourists which bring in profit for her.
On Day 26 when we shared our videos with our partners, Ms. Duan showed up early at 2:00 instead of 3:00. She was dressed in her Bai minority outfit and brought a dancing stick and began dancing. Everyone was amazed with her skills and we took her on a tour of the Linden Centre. Ms. Duan said she had to leave early at 3:00 so we rushed the service learning presentation so she could go. While sharing, I watched her facial expression. She was laughing and having a great time while watching the video we made her, Ms. Duan was so delighted that she started sharing more to her story after we finished watching the video.
Mr. Zhao, the tailor was also there. It turns out, Mr. Zhao and Ms. Duan are from the same village, Jinhe village. They both started talking about their school and how all the girls dropped out around 5th grade. They also started talking about Chairman Mao and sharing stories while the videos were playing. It did get a bit chaotic but it was interesting to learn more about their lives. In the end, Ms. Duan performed for us again, but this time, she danced with many tourists watching. Everyone was smiling and laughing, taking pictures and applauding after Ms. Duan finished dancing. It was truly a remarkable experience.
I would recommend future Microcampus students to find multiple service learning partners at first. This way, they would be able to have many options and extras in case one of them bails. Also, I would recommend students to escape the bubble when first arriving. Start making connections with villagers as soon as possible and try not to stay in places that are familiar, but venture into unexplored areas of Xizhou.