Our service learning partner was Mr. Wang, full name Wang Zai Gong 王在共. He is 82 years old and he is the father-in-law of the owner of a Xizhou Baba shop. He has been retired for around 30 years but he is still working hard to support his daughter-in-law's local Xizhou Baba shop. Mr. Wang has 1 daughter, 2 sons, 1 granddaughter, and 2 grandsons. He was a straight-A student when he was young and adults such as his teacher all like him due to his disciplined behavior. However, he dropped out of high school at the age of 16 and began to work at a hydropower factory in Yunnan, where he was employed for 36 years and was very trusted by his bosses. Mr. Wang lived through the Cultural Revolution but it never really affected him because he was really busy with his work. Nevertheless, he still has very strong opinions on the devastating event.
After having many conversations with Mr. Wang, we all learned a lot, but one of the most interesting things that I thought he spoke about was his opinions on the Cultural Revolution. Mr. Wang was very well trusted by his boss so he was always sent out for work affairs. Due to this, he did not really participate in the Cultural Revolution and it did not really affect him either. Despite this, he still had a lot of very strong opinions on the Cultural Revolution and he expressed them very clearly to us during our numerous conversations.
The service learning project also allowed us to learn more about Xizhou's history as well as the 20th Century Chinese history. Mr. Wang did not say much about the history of Xizhou, but while my group and I walked around the village trying to make connections with the elders of the village, we found many things that relate to the history of Xizhou. We found out that many citizens of Xizhou were unwilling to talk about the Cultural Revolution because it had a really negative effect on them. This tells me that the Cultural Revolution must have been really impactful to the people of Xizhou. However, they are still people such as Mr. Wang, who do not mind talking about it. Furthermore, Mr. Wang is 82 years old now, meaning that he experienced the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward when he was around 20 to 30 years old. He was able to give us interesting points and insights on these events, even though he was not really affected by it.
During the afternoon of December 13th, 2 days before we leave for Shanghai, Mr. Tafel help an event where we shared our service learning video with our service learning partner and other citizens of Xizhou. People who came include Mr. Wang (our service learning partner), Ms. Zhou (the other service learning group's partner), Ms. Zhao (Owner of Old Town Snacks), Ms. Chen (Ms. Zhao's mother in law), and some Linden Centre staff. All in all, today was really successful. We were very glad to see a smile on Mr. Wang's face while he watched the video that we took 4 days of hard work to compose. Even though he did not express many emotions with his face, he thanked us again and again after the festive event had ended. While we were walking Mr. Wang back to his shop, we took a detour and he showed us around his house. This was very surprising to us because we had never been to his house before. From this, we can tell that we have really made a deep connection with Mr. Wang, so deep that he is willing to open up something so private to us. We are all very grateful for him.
Some recommendations for future Microcampus students that will certainly benefit their service project:
1. Start to make connections and talk to the elders of Xizhou as early as possible. This will help with your service learning project because you will be very stressed if you start late have trouble finding a service learning partner. Also, the actual filming and editing take up a very long time so starting early with give you a big advantage.
2. Make deep connections with your partner before you ask him/her to become your service learning partner. This will enhance the chances that he/she will say yes and it will also increase the amount of information that they are willing to disclose because they will feel comfortable you.
3. Last, but not least, do not give up. Quoting Mr. Tafel, this is the hardest project at Microcampus, even more so than the Inquiry Project. You will be rejected by many elders in the village and it is ok if you do. You just have to keep trying, keep making connections, and keep going on. You will eventually be able to find a suitable service learning partner.