Updated 2 years 4 months ago
Our service learning partner is Mr. Du, a 74-year-old hotel owner next to Yangzhuoran. He grew up in Xizhou, specifically in the courtyard where the hotel is located.
When he was sixteen, he started wood carving to earn money. He constantly worked hard to earn sufficient money throughout his life. As a result of this interview, I was able to understand that the years of  Mr. Du's life was severely different from those of normal people. From a very young age, his main focus on maintaining survival, and his worries were whether or not he could eat enough for each meal. Therefore, he did not have many events that provided him with joy, happiness, and freedom, so there were rarely any special moments that were memorable. 


Based on Mr. Du's sharings, Xizhou was not part of any wars in the past because the Japanese army had only attacked other areas of Yunnan. However, there were still propaganda messages under Mao's influence. The efforts of the Cultural Revolution was also to reduce the wealth gaps between the different regions in China. Deng Xiao Ping's main aim was development and spurring the economy. 


I learned that the Chinese history of the 20th century was a period of fast-paced change and development. It was a time period in which the citizens of China were pressured to work harder, for the expectations of production were extremely high during the Great Leap Forward and thus individual lives were greatly oppressed. However, in an attempt to gain autocratic power, the Communist Party pushed the entire country, for there were extremely violent conflicts between parties to obtain power in the past. 


During the actual sharing session of our video, I was able to observe the subtle emotions passing through the audience's face even in the dark. It was a meaningful and very thought-provoking experience, for everyone was silent and focused on Mr. Du's speaking. That showed how much the video was able to delicately deliver a message that is very touching and foreign at the same time. I could not really look at Mr. Du either because I was not confident enough if he would fully appreciate the video or it was too overwhelming for me to watch Mr. Du's expression while talking about his past. Nonetheless, Mr. Du's voice ringing in the silent room allowed me to reflect back on this experience thoroughly. 


Besides the sharing portion of our video, I was also able to watch the service learning project of other groups. I realized that each video had a different focus point - while our storyline mainly consisted of Mr. Du's struggle to earn money and maintain survival, other videos also talked about specific historical events, such as the Great Leap Forward and Mao's leadership. Each video significantly differentiated with one another. The stories and thoughts of each service learning partner were worth to share and made each moment to help us understand the Xizhou community better. 


Lastly, this experience made me realize that many different people were associated with Microcampus, such as the villagers of Xizhou, the Linden Centre staff, the students, and teachers. Their efforts and small contributions significantly determined our stay. It was a moment full of gratitude and appreciation for those who have made Microcampus, this remarkable turning point, available. 


There are several recommendations for future Microcampus students to keep in mind. First of all, always make connections from the start of the trip. Our group struggled to find a service learning partner near the end, so we were very rushed. Thus, we did not have a solid connection with our partner and a deep understanding of him before filming. It also crucial to keep many alternative partners in mind, for there might be many unexpected consequences that hinder us from confirming their participation. Furthermore, always approach everyone with respect and sincerity. Think about the purpose of the service learning project. Why are we spending such a long time to record a 5-minute video? The purpose of service learning is to show gratitude towards the Xizhou community that embraced us with a warm welcome since the first day we arrived. We are not merely compressing a person's life in a short footage but carrying on a meaning more than that. It is a delicate and respectful way to share the story of a person who had gone through many hardships throughout their lives. Therefore, the most crucial thing is to reach people with our hearts. 

About This Learner

I am fourteen years old and this is my 10th year in China. I have stayed in Xizhou for 28 days to learn about the unique historical background and culture of the Bai minority. My goal by the end of the trip was to develop into a stronger, open-minded individual. This opportunity provided me with different insights about China. I am glad I made this trip a valuable learning experience!