Our Service Learning partner was Ms. Hong Cheng Yin. She is currently 65 years old, and has already retired. Born in Lijiang, she married to a Xizhou man at the age of 19, and has lived here ever since. She has experienced the Land Reform, but did not tell us much about the Cultural Revolution.
Service Learning is a project where we connect with elders above 60, and record a story of their lives. It is a form of service by preserving the elder's story, so the story will live on, even if they go away. Before we started Service Learning, we had to read two articles of elders' stories, to get a sense of what we need to write. We read Chen Tingtao's biography, and Qian Yaqin's biography. Some questions the interviewer must have asked was:
1. Do you like the way society is now?
2. How was it like growing up in the French Concession?
3. How did the Cultural Revolution change your life?
4. What did your husband do during that time?
Some characteristics we think a interesting Service Learning partner should have are:
• Open to questions
• Kind and hospitable
• Older than 60
• Liking to talk
Here are some possible partners that we feel would be great for this project:
• Hong Cheng Yin, because most of us in our group say "hi" to her every time we see her. Also, Shirley talked to her once before for a deeper conversation, Eirean tried to talk to her, and the our whole group talked to her again a couple days after.
• The tailor near Sifang Jie, because Ben and Peyton talked to him once or twice.
• The antique shop owner Lao Mao, because Ben knows him super well (from bargaining).
• Ms. Xu, from the textile shop. Mr. T said she is very open.
• Mr. Yang, the barber. Mr. T also said he is very open.
In the end, we chose Hong Cheng Yin, because she is old enough, and also she was willing to be videoed (after many persuasions).
As a result of this experience, I learned a lot about my elder, Hong Cheng Yin. I learned where she is from, how her childhood was like, what she experienced, her married life, and what she felt about politics. It was very interesting. For every interview, we learned something new about her.
We did not learn a lot about Xizhou's history, because our Service Learning partner is from Lijiang. She only came to Xizhou because her husband was from Xizhou.
But, we did learn about the big impact of the Land Reform. Our Service Learning partner said that after she had gotten some land from it, life became better. She thanked Deng Xiao Ping for doing that, and was very glad.
We could not show Hong Nai Nai the video on the day of the presentation, because she had to attend a funeral. So, we showed her the day after the presentation. First, we gave her the fruits that the Linden Center provided. Then, we sat down with her in her home, and watched the video together. I was not super sure how she felt about the video, but she just kind of stared at the screen. When I was not looking at the screen, and looked at her, we made eye contact, and she smiled at me. I think she was almost going to start crying, because her eyes looked a bit shiny, and she was blinking a lot. I felt very proud when we showed her the video, because we spent a lot of time and energy working on it. One of her comments was, "I look so ugly in the video!" That made us laugh a lot. I am glad that we had the opportunity to show her.
Some recommendations for future Microcampus students:
1. Start making connections with elders AT THE VERY BEGINNING. Those connections mean that you actually had a good conversation with that person, not just saying "hi" to them every time you see them.
2. Make sure to ask the Service Learning partner at the very beginning if they can be videoed. We went to a couple of people to connect with them, and ask if they can be our Service Learning partner. They were all very open, and had many interesting stories. But, they all said "no", when we asked if we could video them.
3. Export your finished Service Learning video early, so that if there are any errors, you can export it again. It takes around 30 minutes on the highest quality to upload, so it is best to export it early. Also, our group's video had an error after each export, so we had to export our video at least four times.
4. Film early, so your Service Learning partner can get used to the camera fast. A lot of these elders have not used a lot of the modern technologies, so they might feel awkward in front of the camera.