HE XIN HONG: I used to dream a lot when I was a child, but I don’t really know what to say about those dreams. Today, life is very fast, my dreams cannot catch up with the speed of life. When I was a child, I often dreamt that I would had a better life in the future, and now it’s still the same. Most of my dreams are happy dreams. Before I got married, I used to dream about having many children, I dreamt they would listen to me and were good at school. That was my wish. Now my children are going to school and I hope they can get into a good university. Then our family would be very happy. Once I dreamt that my youngest son was admitted to a very good university. In my dream, he wrote an article, which was praised by a high government official, so my son became the official’s assistant and had a very successful career. In my dream, the people from our village asked me about my son, they had a lot of respect for him because he was working for the government official. I even dreamt that he went abroad. But that’s not going to happen, it’s not possible.
    I had a happy childhood. I have two older sisters and two younger sisters. I got a lot of attention from my parents, they were quite dote on me and didn’t control me very much. I was quite a mischievous child, much more than my sons. I was a good pupil during the first two years of primary school, I even won a few prizes, but I was too lazy, all I wanted to do was play all day, and my parents didn’t really bother. My father has an older brother, my uncle, but he doesn’t have any sons. I was the only boy in our family in my generation, so I had a really good childhood. In the countryside, boys are valued much more than girls. I went to middle school during the ten years of the Cultural Revolution. At that time, people didn’t have any energy to study, and neither did I, I just wanted to play and have fun. My parents didn’t have many expectations for me, they were happy to see that I was having a good time.
    After I grew up, my life became very difficult. The village I live in is quite big, actually it’s the biggest village in this district. And I had a harder life than anybody else in the village. When I was twenty, my father became paralytic because of cerebral haemorrhage. My two younger sisters and I had to take care of him, my older sisters had already married. I’m a carpenter. Nobody from my family took care of me when I went to learn carpentry, I had no money, it was really hard. After I got married and had my own children, things improved a little. At that time, the 11th Central Committee had just finished its third plenary session, and reformations were started in the countryside. The system of production responsibility was implemented. After that, my economic situation slowly got better. In 1996, my wife and I became migratory workers and that improved things even more. The money we earned by working in the city, we sent to our children to pay their school fees. We have three children. I hope they will be successful when they grow up. Our oldest son was lazy at school but he was lucky. He studied fine art and painting at high school. He has a younger sister and a younger brother. I put all my hope on the youngest one. That’s why I had this dream, that he went to a good university and all the villagers came to congratulate us and admired our family very much.
    But it didn’t happen. He didn’t try hard enough. He is smart and a good student, though. He went to three different middle schools. First to the district middle school in Zhanshu, then to the provincial middle school, and finally he got into the Zhanshu city middle school. In 1986, the one child policy was enforced very severely, but as the only son of my generation, I wanted to have more than one child. When my wife was pregnant with our second child, our daughter, the local government pulled down our house, they made us homeless. My mother was over sixty at that time, she wasn’t able to endure such conditions. My wife and I, we didn’t mind, we could have lived under any conditions, but my mother was too old for that. So for a while we lived in a food storage room, that was the only possibility we had. I hadn’t learnt anything at school when I was a kid, actually I wasn’t a bad pupil but my parents didn’t look after me sufficiently. I was very strict to my oldest son when he was growing up. Before my wife and I went to work in the city as migratory workers, I would raise our children in quite a strict way. It wasn’t good for them that we went away. If we hadn’t left them to their selves, maybe our youngest son would be a better student now. But as nobody looked after him after we left, he could just do whatever he wanted. He got used to getting up late, which is a very bad habit. He didn’t have to do much farm work as a child, so he didn’t get used to working hard.
    His biggest weakness is that he doesn’t study hard, at least not as hard as others. When he was in middle school, he had an English teacher who was very strict with him. If he didn’t do well enough in the exam, the teacher would beat him on his hand to punish him. That was the first time a teacher treated him like that and he couldn’t bear it, he wanted to quit school. The problem was that we weren’t home at that time. The teacher had good intentions, he wanted my son to study harder. I called my son from Guangzhou and spoke to him for nearly an hour. The telephone was very expensive then, it cost around 1 RMB per minute. I told him he shouldn’t give up, he should continue studying. It wasn’t good for him that his parents were working in another city, but we didn’t have a choice, we had to work. Our three children are going to school, if we just grew crops in our village, we wouldn’t be able to pay their schooling fees, definitely not.
    It’s hard to be working away from home. Some people are lucky and find a good job or a good place to work, so perhaps they have an easier life, but things didn’t go so smooth for me and my wife. After working as migratory workers for two or three years, we wanted to get a job at a company. But in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, at that time, if you wanted to work for a company, you first had to pay them 20.000 RMB, at least in some business areas. Now it’s even 30.000 RMB. So I paid the money and got into a decoration company. If you were lucky and had a good boss, you could earn some money, but if you had a bad boss, you could even lose money in the end. I had one such experience myself. I was working for a company that produced goods for all of China, the business was going very well. At first, it had been a small company with only one office, then it started growing and in the end it had about a dozen offices in different cities. My wife and I went to work at the office in Guangzhou. Two years later, the company got into trouble, business was going bad and our boss started losing money everywhere, it was completely out of control. Our boss knew that the company would go bankrupt, but he changed the name of the corporate representative on the business license, so we couldn’t sue him. We hadn’t yet recovered the money we had paid him in order to get the job, around 47.000 RMB. He ran away and we couldn’t get him. He is a snake, he has a slippery mind, we couldn’t get hold of him. If this thing hadn’t gone so bad, our situation would be better now. But it happened that way, it was quite hard for us. We never earned much money after that, just enough for our daily needs and to pay our children’s school fees.