HUANG CHUN FANG: I dream every night. As soon as I fall asleep, I start dreaming. Sometimes my dreams come true. Sometimes I dream about people or things I haven’t seen for a long time, sometimes I dream of dead people, or of ghosts. Once I dreamt about a ghost who had turned into a human being, but I recognized immediately that he was a ghost and tried to chase him out of my house. I wanted to switch on the light but it didn’t work, I wanted to call someone but there was nobody around. My husband was sleeping at my side but I couldn’t wake him up. I couldn’t walk, either.
    I grew up in a village in the countryside. I’m the oldest of my brothers and sisters, so I always had to take care of them. In my village, people always thought that I was mature for my age, and I was a good student at school, so they always compared their children with me. My parents always told us that we shouldn’t be selfish. Once I saw that my brother was eating something without leaving anything for our parents. I got very angry. He is five years younger than I and I always took care of him since he was a baby. During holidays I would take care of all the housework. I was still a child at that time, I didn’t know how to cook. I had to stand on a small bench in front of the stove in order to reach the pots. That’s how I learnt to cook. At that time, there were a lot of production teams in the village and when the adults finished working they would come to help me. If I didn’t know how to make a certain dish, I would go out on the field where my mother was working to ask her. Then I would go back home and cook the way she told me.
    When I graduated from middle school, I could choose between going to high school or to a technical school. I chose the technical school because since I was from the countryside my economic situation was not very good. Actually, my time in middle school had been quite difficult already. My parents gave me 10 RMB per month for my living expenses. At that time, 15 kilos of rice cost 5,10 RMB, so I had only 4,90 RMB left to buy other kinds of food for a whole month. I went back home on weekends, the rest of the time I stayed in the school, more than 20 days per month, so for each day in school I had only a little more than 0,2 RMB for food. During my first and second year at middle school, I only ate rice and vegetables, every day for every meal. During the last year, I got 15 RMB per month because this was the year of the entry exams for highschool, it was more intense and took more energy. We ate less vegetables and a lot of rice during that time. Today, if a child eats only rice and vegetables, he might be afraid of being ridiculed by the others for his poverty. But back then people weren’t like that at all. I always ate with my classmates and I never felt they were looking down on me. I was quite happy, I felt every day was a good day. And my marks weren’t bad, either.
    Later I went to technical school. My parents wanted me to do so, and I wanted it, too. My parents were afraid that my marks would go down because of the physical changes that a girl undergoes at that age. I had several options at that time. One was to be a nurse, but at that time nursing was regarded as a very low-class profession and my parents didn’t want me to do that. Another option was to become a teacher, but I didn’t want that. So I decided to study nutrition. In this profession, the students who graduate are recruited according to where they come from, so if I’m from Changsha city, this means that after I graduate, I’ll be sent to work in Changsha. Nutritionists work in big hospitals and sanatoriums, so I thought that I would be sent to a good place. That’s why I chose this profession. I was fourteen at that time. I studied for three more years, away from my hometown. When I graduated, I got the highest grade from my class, so I was the only one who could choose where I wanted to work. I chose this children’s hospital and I’ve been working here since then.
    I think I was quite lucky in the decisions that I made. Before I started working, I went to a fortuneteller and I got a pretty good prediction so i wasn’t worried at all. Later my teacher had a talk with me, he said I could choose between a sanatorium and a children’s hospital in the city. The hospital was called International Children’s Hospital, that sounded good to me. It’s a new hospital, at that time it hadn’t even opened yet, so first I went to Wu Han city to study for seven or eight more months, and then I came here to work at the hospital. I like my job, it’s good for me and my family, very useful and practical.
    Later I got married, so now my life is divided between my family and my job. Many people say I’m a typical mother and wife, teaching my children and helping my husband. I like doing sports but apart from that I have no other interests. I exercise for one hour every day.