沿海务工者 – Coastal workers – English

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Xue Liang is a boy of an age similar to mine. He isn’t tall, once he speaks a huge smile appears on his face and he likes to joke a lot. His uncle, sitting opposite him, calls him “brother Liang”, indicating no interest in family hierarchy. The uncle and the nephew are sitting on a train heading from Chengdu to Fuzhou, making fun of each other during the whole journey. They would never stop talking about different topics, making the passengers around laugh.

The uncle of brother Liang is a middle-aged man with a wrinkled face and calluses on his hands. From those details it’s clear that he is a hardworking man. During the conversation, he told me he left Sichuan in 1998 and went to work. He worked in a coastal region, changed jobs few times, but his main job during those years was in Minnan in a stone factory.

Uncle likes to smoke. He smokes one cigarette after another, and once meal time arrives, he doesn’t buy a meal box from the dining compartment workers. Only when Liang is with his uncle does he drink baijiu (rice wine) and eat roasted peanuts and cured sausages. These things are all brought from home and seem simple, but yet very practical. The snacks are all products of Ziyang village in Sichuan province and ought to be quite flavorsome. The cured sausages were prepared specially by Uncle’s dearest old mother for her son’s long journey.

Whenever Uncle drinks he always talks a lot. He started talking about a fight he had with someone from Anhui and Fujian, along with some other people from other provinces. He even talked about taking advantage of someone once and getting into a gang fight. Later when he went to his local police station, all he did was use his guanxi (connections), pay a small fine, and the matter was settled.

Aside from them, the others traveling with Xiang include his aunt, cousin (paternal aunt and uncle’s daughter) and his cousin’s wife. They all work in Fujian province of China’s southeastern coast. Uncle’s house is in Jinjiang and aunt’s house is in Luoyuan.

Uncle’s family also went to Sichuan many years ago for work. His daughter is thirteen now and has been studying in Fujian since she was little. She is more mature in appearance than other girls. Each year travelling back and forth from Sichuan to Fujian, thier journey takes thousands of Kilometers. My hope is that this experience for her at a young age will aid in her admission to a good school. This journey of the heart is different than children of most other families.

“She has been attending school in a different province since she was little. Since she’s been with us, she’s now in middle school. I think she could take the college entrance exam in Fujian, and if she can’t pass, then we’ll send her home to take it. Studying here in the coastal regions is naturally better than in Sichuan. The education system here is really good…” When I asked Liang’s uncle about how to do well on the exam, he replied that, your expression should be relaxed and normal. Perhaps he didn’t know about how unreasonable the exam’s restrictions are with the household registration system. Or it could be that for them, this was their reality and they just had to accept it. Moreover, there are many officials throughout China who are still using ‘technicalities’ of the household registration system, or ‘intense’ debate and discussion. In this era of globalization, China has many greedy and ‘naked’ officials—those whose family members have gone abroad—who act for the personal gain of their children by sending them abroad. While at the same time this enables their children to avoid the entrance exams altogether, most Chinese families still regard the exam as a prestigious pathway.

There are many workers who have gone out from their hometowns on the train; they have been away from town and country for many years now. During the annual Spring Festival, the rural-urban townships don’t like the workers returning home, from east to west, to celebrate with their families. After all, one’s crazy parents and the local ‘left behind’ children are awaiting them in the countryside. At the same time the couple struck up a conversation, they began sharing a story with me. That guy’s wife is a real talker. She began rambling: “My husband has an older brother who studied at Chongqing University. After he graduated he went to Hubei for work and returns home to see his two brothers every year. On the contrary his younger brother looks a little old for his age because he does hard labor to make a living. His older brother always relied on his intellect to make a living and naturally looks younger than his brothers. Our two children have also been away for a few years. In fact, these past few years they bought a house in Zhongjiang county but haven’t furnished it yet. My baby is at our hometown studying. Getting an education is one’s best way to find success.”

There were also two middle-aged guys from Sichuan. One was from Jiangyou and the other guy came from Qianwei. They were talking about some taboo topics in front of a few younger girls. They told me about how they lived a ‘life of pleasure’ which indeed meant that they had found some ‘mistresses’, or prostitutes.

“好多‘小姐’其实都是我们四川出去的,有些地方一条街都有‘小姐’,档次还不一样哦,在那里喝酒,别个(此处指小姐)都是经过专门训练的,你跟她喝酒没有说你把她灌醉的话,有100多的,还有700多的,当然,你要去高档酒店耍的话就更贵了。”那个犍为县的男子谈起找小姐的经历没有一点羞色。

在一旁的那个江油的男子谈到他工作之余也去找过小姐,有时候自己也跑摩的,还经常拉客人去“消费”,我笑称他是“皮条客”,他一点儿也不反感我的称呼。那个犍为的男子谈及如何找小姐时显得很有兴致,还告诉我他现在就在福州打工,自己租房,不和工友们住在一起,因为自己有时候会带“小姐”回租房处过夜。这两个男子谈完找小姐的经历后,有女乘客戏言他们倘若如此,那打工的辛苦钱就打水漂了。

这是几个打工者和打工者家庭的故事,我想只有乘长途火车才有如此经历,才能够面对面地了解到四川不同地方外出务工者的鲜活故事。四川作为全国重要的劳务输出大省,每个打工者背后就是一个家庭,每个家庭都演绎着不同寻常的故事。

一路上大家都互称“老乡”,列车到达福州站后,我和这些农民工互相道别。当时是清晨5点,天未曾亮,车站到处是经营野的的男子前来询问是否乘坐。我在火车站一旁的公交站台等待到师大校门的第一班公交时,又碰到了火车上的那对中江夫妇,他们要赶时间乘坐早班车到罗源,我和他们打了招呼,叫他们一路慢走,后来他们拖着行李,向站外路边走去,两个背影很快就消失在车流和路人中••••••

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December 15, 2016 @ 13:59:48Current Revision
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<p>Xue Liang is a boy of an age similar to mine. He isn’t tall, once he speaks a huge smile appears on his face and he likes to joke a lot. His uncle, sitting opposite him, calls him “brother Liang”, indicating no interest in family hierarchy. The uncle and the nephew are sitting on a train heading from Chengdu to Fuzhou, making fun of each other during the whole journey. They would never stop talking about different topics, making the passengers around laugh.</p>  <p>Xue Liang is a boy of an age similar to mine. He’s not tall, and loves to joke a lot; as soon as he speaks a huge smile appears on his face. His uncle, sitting opposite him, calls him “brother Liang”, indicating no interest in family hierarchy. The uncle and the nephew are sitting on a train heading from Chengdu to Fuzhou, making fun of each other during the whole journey. They would never stop talking about different topics, making the passengers around laugh.</p>
<p>The uncle of brother Liang is a middle-aged man with a wrinkled face and calluses on his hands. From those details it's clear that he is a hardworking man. During the conversation, he told me he left Sichuan in 1998 and went to work. He worked in a coastal region, changed jobs few times, but his main job during those years was in Minnan in a stone factory.</p> <p>The uncle of brother Liang is a middle-aged man with a wrinkled face and calluses on his hands. From those details it's clear that he is a hardworking man. During the conversation, he told me he left Sichuan in 1998 and went to work. He worked in a coastal region, changed jobs few times, but his main job during those years was in Minnan in a stone factory.</p>
<p>Uncle likes to smoke. He smokes one cigarette after another, and once meal time arrives, he doesn’t buy a meal box from the dining compartment workers. Only when Liang is with his uncle does he drink baijiu (rice wine) and eat roasted peanuts and cured sausages. These things are all brought from home and seem simple, but yet very practical. The snacks are all products of Ziyang village in Sichuan province and ought to be quite flavorsome. The cured sausages were prepared specially by Uncle’s dearest old mother for her son’s long journey. </p> <p>Uncle likes to smoke. He smokes one cigarette after another, and once meal time arrives, he doesn’t buy a meal box from the dining compartment workers. Only when Liang is with his uncle does he drink baijiu (rice wine) and eat roasted peanuts and cured sausages. These things are all brought from home and seem simple, but yet very practical. The snacks are all products of Ziyang village in Sichuan province and ought to be quite flavorsome. The cured sausages were prepared specially by Uncle’s dearest old mother for her son’s long journey. </p>
<p>Whenever Uncle drinks he always talks a lot. He started talking about a fight he had with someone from Anhui and Fujian, along with some other people from other provinces. He even talked about taking advantage of someone once and getting into a gang fight. Later when he went to his local police station, all he did was use his guanxi (connections), pay a small fine, and the matter was settled. </p> <p>Whenever Uncle drinks he always talks a lot. He started talking about a fight he had with someone from Anhui and Fujian, along with some other people from other provinces. He even talked about taking advantage of someone once and getting into a gang fight. Later when he went to his local police station, all he did was use his guanxi (connections), pay a small fine, and the matter was settled. </p>
<p>Aside from them, the others traveling with Xiang include his aunt, cousin (paternal aunt and uncle’s daughter) and his cousin’s wife. They all work in Fujian province of China’s southeastern coast. Uncle’s house is in Jinjiang and aunt’s house is in Luoyuan.</p> <p>Aside from them, the others traveling with Xiang include his aunt, cousin (paternal aunt and uncle’s daughter) and his cousin’s wife. They all work in Fujian province of China’s southeastern coast. Uncle’s house is in Jinjiang and aunt’s house is in Luoyuan.</p>
<p>Uncle’s family also went to Sichuan many years ago for work. His daughter is thirteen now and has been studying in Fujian since she was little. She is more mature in appearance than other girls. Each year travelling back and forth from Sichuan to Fujian, thier journey takes thousands of Kilometers. My hope is that this experience for her at a young age will aid in her admission to a good school. This journey of the heart is different than children of most other families. </p>  <p>Uncle’s family also went to Sichuan many years ago for work. His daughter is thirteen now and has been studying in Fujian since she was little. She is more mature in appearance than other girls. Each year travelling back and forth from Sichuan to Fujian, their journey takes thousands of Kilometers. My hope is that this experience for her at a young age will aid in her admission to a good school. This journey of the heart is different than children of most other families. </p>
<p>“She has been attending school in a different province since she was little. Since she’s been with us, she’s now in middle school. I think she could take the college entrance exam in Fujian, and if she can’t pass, then we’ll send her home to take it. Studying here in the coastal regions is naturally better than in Sichuan. The education system here is really good…” When I asked Liang’s uncle about how to do well on the exam, he replied that, your expression should be relaxed and normal. Perhaps he didn’t know about how unreasonable the exam’s restrictions are with the household registration system. Or it could be that for them, this was their reality and they just had to accept it. Moreover, there are many officials throughout China who are still using ‘technicalities’ of the household registration system, or ‘intense’ debate and discussion. In this era of globalization, China has many greedy and ‘naked’ officials—those whose family members have gone abroad—who act for the personal gain of their children by sending them abroad. While at the same time this enables their children to avoid the entrance exams altogether, most Chinese families still regard the exam as a prestigious pathway. </p> <p>“She has been attending school in a different province since she was little. Since she’s been with us, she’s now in middle school. I think she could take the college entrance exam in Fujian, and if she can’t pass, then we’ll send her home to take it. Studying here in the coastal regions is naturally better than in Sichuan. The education system here is really good…” When I asked Liang’s uncle about how to do well on the exam, he replied that, your expression should be relaxed and normal. Perhaps he didn’t know about how unreasonable the exam’s restrictions are with the household registration system. Or it could be that for them, this was their reality and they just had to accept it. Moreover, there are many officials throughout China who are still using ‘technicalities’ of the household registration system, or ‘intense’ debate and discussion. In this era of globalization, China has many greedy and ‘naked’ officials—those whose family members have gone abroad—who act for the personal gain of their children by sending them abroad. While at the same time this enables their children to avoid the entrance exams altogether, most Chinese families still regard the exam as a prestigious pathway. </p>
<p>There are many workers who have gone out from their hometowns on the train; they have been away from town and country for many years now. During the annual Spring Festival, the rural-urban townships don’t like the workers returning home, from east to west, to celebrate with their families. After all, one’s crazy parents and the local ‘left behind’ children are awaiting them in the countryside. At the same time the couple struck up a conversation, they began sharing a story with me. That guy’s wife is a real talker. She began rambling: “My husband has an older brother who studied at Chongqing University. After he graduated he went to Hubei for work and returns home to see his two brothers every year. On the contrary his younger brother looks a little old for his age because he does hard labor to make a living. His older brother always relied on his intellect to make a living and naturally looks younger than his brothers. Our two children have also been away for a few years. In fact, these past few years they bought a house in Zhongjiang county but haven’t furnished it yet. My baby is at our hometown studying. Getting an education is one’s best way to find success.”</p> <p>There are many workers who have gone out from their hometowns on the train; they have been away from town and country for many years now. During the annual Spring Festival, the rural-urban townships don’t like the workers returning home, from east to west, to celebrate with their families. After all, one’s crazy parents and the local ‘left behind’ children are awaiting them in the countryside. At the same time the couple struck up a conversation, they began sharing a story with me. That guy’s wife is a real talker. She began rambling: “My husband has an older brother who studied at Chongqing University. After he graduated he went to Hubei for work and returns home to see his two brothers every year. On the contrary his younger brother looks a little old for his age because he does hard labor to make a living. His older brother always relied on his intellect to make a living and naturally looks younger than his brothers. Our two children have also been away for a few years. In fact, these past few years they bought a house in Zhongjiang county but haven’t furnished it yet. My baby is at our hometown studying. Getting an education is one’s best way to find success.”</p>
<p>There were also two middle-aged guys from Sichuan. One was from Jiangyou and the other guy came from Qianwei. They were talking about some taboo topics in front of a few younger girls. They told me about how they lived a ‘life of pleasure’ which indeed meant that they had found some ‘mistresses’, or prostitutes. </p> <p>There were also two middle-aged guys from Sichuan. One was from Jiangyou and the other guy came from Qianwei. They were talking about some taboo topics in front of a few younger girls. They told me about how they lived a ‘life of pleasure’ which indeed meant that they had found some ‘mistresses’, or prostitutes. </p>
<p>“好多‘小姐’其实都是我们四川出去的,有些地方一条街都有‘小姐’,档次还不一样哦,在那里喝酒,别个(此处指小姐)都是经过专门训练的,你跟她喝酒没有说你把她灌醉的话,有100多的,还有700多的,当然,你要去高档酒店耍的话就更贵了。”那个犍为县的男子谈起找小姐的经历没有一点羞色。</p>  
  <p>“Many of those ‘mistresses’ were actually from Sichuan. In some places, there would be many women on one street and all of varying degrees of attractiveness. Where you go to get drinks, there are others who have gone through a disciplined training (these places depend on them) so that when you end up drinking with these women, <span style="color: #ff6600;">you don’t mention her inebriated speech.</span> Naturally, you’ll end up going to an even more expensive bar.” That guy from Qianwei shamelessly talked about his experience looking for prostitutes. </p>
  <p>On one side, the guy from Jiangyou also talked about his time after work seeking prostitutes. Sometimes he would take a motorbike and take his customers to go ‘consume’. I jokingly called him a ‘pimp’ and he didn’t even sound disturbed by my remark. The guy from Qianwei talked about the time when looking for a prostitute, making it sound interesting. He also mentioned to me that he currently works at Fuzhou, rents his own home, and lives independently because he occasionally brings home a ‘mistress’ to stay the night. After these two guys finished telling their stories, the female passenger remarked that, in that case, then their hard earned wages have merely been squandered. </p>
<p>在一旁的那个江油的男子谈到他工作之余也去找过小姐,有时候自己也跑摩的,还经常拉客人去“消费”,我笑称他是“皮条客”,他一点儿也不反感我的称呼。那个犍为的男子谈及如何找小姐时显得很有兴致,还告诉我他现在就在福州打工,自己租房,不和工友们住在一起,因为自己有时候会带“小姐”回租房处过夜。这两个男子谈完找小姐的经历后,有女乘客戏言他们倘若如此,那打工的辛苦钱就打水漂了。</p> <p>These are just a few stories of wage laborers and their families. I wish that all of my long distance train rides could be like this, then I could really gain a close understanding of the workers and their experiences who come from different places other than Sichuan. Sichuan is China’s most important exporter of wage laborers. Every migrant worker supports a family, and every family experiences different and unusual circumstances unfold. </p>
<p>这是几个打工者和打工者家庭的故事,我想只有乘长途火车才有如此经历,才能够面对面地了解到四川不同地方外出务工者的鲜活故事。四川作为全国重要的劳务输出大省,每个打工者背后就是一个家庭,每个家庭都演绎着不同寻常的故事。</p>  
<p>一路上大家都互称“老乡”,列车到达福州站后,我和这些农民工互相道别。当时是清晨5点,天未曾亮,车站到处是经营野的的男子前来询问是否乘坐。我在火车站一旁的公交站台等待到师大校门的第一班公交时,又碰到了火车上的那对中江夫妇,他们要赶时间乘坐早班车到罗源,我和他们打了招呼,叫他们一路慢走,后来他们拖着行李,向站外路边走去,两个背影很快就消失在车流和路人中••••••</p>  
  <p>During the journey, everyone calls each other ‘fellow countryman’. After the train arrives at Fuzhou station, I bid farewell to these migrant workers. The time was five o’clock in the morning and still dark out. The station was full of people running wildly asking if you need a ride. I waited at the bus station for the first bus to the Normal University and ran into the couple from Zhongjiang. They were in a hurry to catch the earliest bus to Luoyuan. We greeted each other and wished safe travels. They dragged their luggage off towards the road outside the station and disappeared amidst the bustling traffic and pedestrians… </p>

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About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact julien@marcopoloproject.org