Our Service Learning partner was Mr. Yang. He is sixty years old and is one of the few casket makers left in Xizhou. During his long five decade career, he has mastered the art of woodcrafts. As a Xizhou native, he has lived in the same house near Yangzhuoran for many years.
Mr. Yang (full name: 杨国祥, yáng guó xiáng) was born here in Xizhou and has lived in a house that has been passed down to him from his parents. After only graduating from elementary school, he and his younger brother began to learn casket making from a master. He has one daughter that currently is employed as a teacher and now lives with his wife. Because of old age, he plans to retire soon do to his health conditions gradually getting worse.
I learned a lot about Mr. Yang's life from this experience. His experience and stories informed us of his labor and journey to become a woodcraft master. In addition, he talked about Xizhou's development and changes over these years. He commented about the difference between the modern and old generations. 20th Century Chinese history is full of historical events that were paramount to China's unification and development as a country. Mr. Yang told us the impact of the Cultural Revolution on his education, as the event resulted in him loosing his middle school education.
As Mr. Yang walked into the classroom, he was reluctant to watch. He thought the notion of recording and interviewing was useless and he despised the sound of his voice and looks on camera. When the video started playing, I could tell he was immersed in his story. Some parts caused him to laugh and enjoy his time there. I think our group definitely changed him to become more open. It was a great feeling when he thanked my group afterwards for our work. When I asked if he enjoyed the movie, he told me that he did. I hope in the future that he will watch the CD recording and remember us for our Service Learning project.
For future Microcampus students, I would advise the cliché recommendation—start early. Although it may seem like getting a head start wouldn't be much of much assistance, it actually does. My group found ourselves panicked in the middle of the process, as we did not have much time to finish the video. In addition, while making connections, I advise a gentle approach. A gentle appearance makes one seem calm and nice and will not scare the locals away.