HE YAN QING: Whenever I dream of fishing, I hurt myself afterwards. A few days ago, for example, I dreamt that I went fishing and then the next day I hurt my hand. Once I dream that some people were trying to catch me. I fought with them but I couldn’t knock them down so I ran away. I tried to hide in different places but no matter where, they always found me, it was impossible to escape them. In another dream, I was hanging out with some friends, we were driving around in a car and I was driving. Actually I don’t know how to drive a car, but in my dreams I know. Sometimes I drive cars or trucks, and sometimes I lose control of them. I also dream of buffalos, ships, wind, rain. I often dream about doing things with my friends, and also about my relatives. Once I dreamt that I found money on the street, I was so happy to have found money. Sometimes I dream about gambling but I don’t feel good after those dreams.
    When I was in middle school I was very small and skinny. I always got bullied by a group of kids from the neighbourhood and my some classmates as well. But I’ve always had a strong temper since I was a kid, and I didn’t like other to hassle me, no matter who the person is, even if were is a king, I would fight with him, even if I die. At that time I got beaten up every day. At one point I just couldn’t bear it anymore, I couldn’t beat them down but I was so angry that I got out of my mind, I took a knife and pretended I wanted to kill one of them. Because of that incident I didn’t get into middle school. I was fourteen at that time. So I stayed at home and started learning carpentry with my father. I didn’t like it at all but I did it so I could stay away from school. I was there with my body but my mind was absent. I was very dissatisfied but after some time I started feeling good when I did some good work.
    In my village, there are many people of my age who didn’t study and learned carpentry like I did. There are more than a dozen of us. This is a big village, more than 7000 inhabitants. It was nice to learn with kids of the same age. After several years of learning carpentry, I went to Shenzhen. I started working as an apprentice. You cannot work as a master immediately. I also did some other work with my uncle for a couple of days but it was so exhausting that I couldn’t continue. All my muscles were sore. Later I decided I didn’t want to be a carpenter after all. Then came SARS, in 2003. One day I was having lunch at some place in Shenzhen and afterwards I wanted to take a nap, so I lay down on a bench on the street. Suddenly the police appeared, they wanted to check my identity card and other papers. I said I didn’t have any. So they put me in a van, I didn’t know why but I thought I’d better just do what they told me. I got arrested and spent many days at the police station, later I was sent to another police station and spent several days there. The food was very bad, not even a pig or a dog would have eaten that food but we had to eat it. The bed had an ugly smell, really disgusting.
    I’m from the province of Jiangxi, so the police sent me back there. If you were from Guangzhou, they would send you to Guangzhou. At first they sent me to Shenzhen, and then from Shenzhen to Heyuan. There I had to stay for several days. During that time, I was sharing a cell with 40 or 50 other people. There were no beds, we had to sleep on the floor and the toilet was right next to the cell. The toilet was full of piss and shit, the smell was horrible. I almost collapsed in that cell, it was even worse than in prison. I almost didn’t want to live any longer, if I had stayed there much longer I would have gone mad. There were people who fainted because they couldn’t stand the conditions, then some doctors would come and take them away. I stayed there for nearly half a month, twelve days in total. During those twelve days, I couldn’t wash my face, brush my teeth or even change my clothes. And the weather was very hot. When I got out, I was even more skinny than I’m now, and I never really regained my weight. I hadn’t been that skinny when I left home.
    My clothes looked like those of a beggar on the street. When I arrived at Ganzhou, the first thing I did was eat several bowls of dumplings, because I had only been eating stinky tofu for many weeks. It felt really great. When I finally got back to Zhangshu, my grandmother said: “How come you look like this?” She almost broke down. I stayed at home for two months and just relaxed. Then I left again. At first I opened a fast food restaurant. Every day I got up early in the morning to buy the ingredients and materials. I employed a cook for some time but then I learnt to cook myself, so I became the cook. This business was actually going quite well but I wasn’t patient enough. I was still very young then and I couldn’t stand doing the same thing every day. Still, I persisted for quite a long time. I didn’t earn much money but neither did I lose any. In the end I had to close the restaurant because the owner of the place wanted to rent it to someone else.
    I felt that none of these things were what I really wanted. I thought for some time about what I would like to do. My family suggested I should learn to be a chef, but I didn’t want to. It was enough for me just to imagine standing besides the fire in summer, I knew that wasn’t my thing. So I decided to become a hairdresser. At first I found it easy, later I noticed that it’s actually quite difficult, but by and by I found inspiration. Compared to my classmates, I was doing all right. I don’t want to boast about it but I was quite a good student. We say this profession requires inspiration, from an aesthetic perspective, just like a designer. You work with your eyes and your taste. I now find it pretty easy to get inspiration. Of course there are conflicts sometimes. I’ve been working in this profession for many years now and I’ve enjoyed it, it’s always been relaxing for me, not as exhausting as the other jobs I had done before.