By: Becky, Dora, Pepijn, Claire
Mr. Yang, our service learning partner, is currently 67 years old. He now lives by himself, earning his money as a mechanic by fixing little things like watches and radios. Mr. Yang has one son, and he lives separate from the rest of his family. He is number five of his six siblings, and although they do not live together, they live close enough to hang out often.
Through our conversations with Mr. Yang, we learned so much about his past life. His living conditions and qualities and how much it has impacted him. Before I met Mr. Yang, my understanding of the Cultural Revolution and of Chairman Mao was simply based off of documentaries and textbooks. I knew all the basics of it, but my knowledge of Chinese history never even scratched the surface. By talking to Mr. Yang, my understanding of the cultural revolution ended up being so much more than just "information" or "facts". He talked about his lifestyle back then, and it helped me realize just how much impact historical events have on every single person that we cross paths with.
During the discussion, Mr. Yang also talked to us about life here in Xizhou and the struggles of it during the Cultural Revolution. This really showed me how much influence the revolution had. How every little village and corner of China was affected by Mao's control and decisions.
With this experience, I learned about the lifestyles of the people that went through the Cultural Revolution and the reform and opening. The hardships of peoples live back then, and how they were able to overcome it. I learned the chain effect of one historical event and the consequences of it. One devastating event leads to another and then another and then another. It truly never stops, and along with this effect, the number of people influenced during and after the event never ceases too.
The cultural revolution was one event that Mr. Yang talked about significantly. He talked about how people were hungry every day back then and the number of efforts that are put into pleasing the higher officials. Villagers would spend days and weeks working hard to provide crops, and when they did, the majority of hard work would be taken away by the officials. Mr. Yang said that when he and his classmates were starving, they would drink salt water. He said his everyday childhood life consisted of "salt water" and "sleep".
When our group shared our final video with Mr. Yang, we were able to see all the reactions he had corresponding to it. At the very start of the film, Mr.Yang saw a picture of himself when he was young, and he got extremely excited. He would lean over to his friend, Mr. Yan, and he would proudly tell him with a smile on his face, that "This is me! That was when I was young! Look at my hairstyle back then!" Mr. Yang's excitement really spoke a lot about our video, as he seemed so very proud of it.
Since we were the first group to go, we ended up introducing ourselves after our video. When we were introducing ourselves, Mr. Yang suddenly stood up and walked right over to us. He said, with a laugh and twinkle in his eyes I had never seen before, that "This is my crew". He stood next to us and placed his hand over our shoulders, and he looked at each of us in the eyes. At that moment, I realized that all of my hard work and stressful hours of editing were worth it. His words were the best response we could ever receive.
It was sad too though because we knew that his situation and connection with his family was not the best. He did not live with his wife or any of his children, and he kept saying that his wife had a horrible temper. Whenever we would go to visit Mr. Yang he would always seem so wonderfully excited like he craved the company of people. On the days we were not able to go and see him, he would call us on our phones and ask when we would plan on coming back again, so he can prepare some fruits or drinks for us. And every single time we would enter his house, there was always a plate of fruits and four cans of drinks.
I think Mr. Yang thinks that we were the ones that provided him with the best comfort and company, but the truth is that he has been the one giving us the best company we could ever ask for.
So thank you, Mr. Yang. Thank you so very much.
For future Microcampus students, I would like to give you a few pieces of advice. First off, please be flexible. This service learning project provides us with the opportunity to learn how to adapt. Speaking from experience, there will be a ninety-percent chance that your elder and assumed service learning partner would reject you when it comes to filming. Instead of complaining or giving up right from the start, please note that with this attitude you won't find yourself a service learning partner. You must learn how to adapt and to be flexible. Another advice is that although this project might be stressful and overwhelming at first when you have completed this video, you will no doubt thank yourself for making it. This is the best way for us to show our gratitude to the Xizhou community. Lastly, it would be great if you found a service learnning partner that you already have a strong relationship with. This will allow room for more trust between the two of you, and you will thank youself later.