Updated 3 years 11 months ago

Our service learning partner was Mr. Yang. He is 72 years old, and has lived in Xizhou for his entire life. His son runs a rose product business, and Mr. Yang has had many experiences building things, such as his brother's house, his own, and all the furniture in it.

After hearing some of the stories Mr. Yang shared with my group, and watching through observation, I have learnt his will to care for others. Back in 1979, he had built his brother's house, as a means of making sure he had a place to live. Besides that, while we were conversing with him, I noticed that he was busy fixing his wife's hairdryer. He did not need to do such a thing, but offered to help immediately after his wife had made a comment about the topic. His compassion for others is truly inspiring, especially after everything he has been through.

Besides learning about him, we learnt a lot about the history of Xizhou, as well as 20th Century Chinese history. Specifically, we learnt a significant amount about the cultural revolution. Mr. Yang had remembered it clearly, as by that time, he was already thirteen or so. He told us about how people were starving, and how all day, people argued back and forth. He was even able to recall some of the things people shouted at each other, such as "you are counter-revolutionary", and "you are a Capitalist." It was incredible to see how strong he had to remain to get through thee hard times. To add on, he told us that everyday, people were to join meetings and chant Chairman Mao's quotations. If one were to mess up, they would be immediately be accused of being counter-revolutionary. Finally, he told us that the government only knew revolution, but not economy.

It was incredible to have the chance and share our video with Mr. Yang. On the way here, we learnt even more about him, and heard that he had lived through three deadly diseases. As a child, there was no medicine for his conditions, so it is almost unbelievable how strong he must have had to be at that time. When you think about it, he was not only going through his personal issues of health, but the cultural revolution was occuring at the same time. 

By the time the video had started, we were to be sitting on a bench in front of the projection of our video. This was to ensure that we were looking at our audience, instead of at our vide. While we were sitting, I watched Mr. Yang watch our video, and all I could see was how his face was lit up. Having the opportunity to witness this made the work all the 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. We had truly poured our hearts into the video, and to see the hours of editing pay off felt remarkable.

After the sharing, we walked him back to his house. He was smiling the entire time and graciously telling us to bring our families back to Xizhou to visit him, after the end of Microcampus. Once we reached his house, he even sat us down, showing us the rest of his family photos. Not only that, but he insisted on giving us a tour of the house he built with his bare hands. It was touching to see how such a small video made such a lasting impact on him.

To future Microcampus students, the one 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, until we reached Mr. Yang. If we had not gone out of our comfort zone and talked to strangers on a daily basis, chances are, we would not have a service learning partner at this point. Another recommendation I have is for everyone in a group to support one another. 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. Lastly, remember that all the locals are friendly and open. Do not be afraid to take social risks!

My name is Mia C., and I am Taiwanese. Although born in Taiwan, I am also American and Canadian. This year marks my 11th year of living in Shanghai, and my 6th year attending SAS. I enjoy trying new things and understanding the world around me, so Microcampus seemed like the perfect opportunity. The experience was more than I could have ever imagined and I hope to return to Xizhou soon.