Nobody cares how much you know---until they learn how much you care. -John Cassis
By CCD contributor: Li Daonan
on January 12, 2017 03:01 AM
When I was born, family-contract responsibility system started to be applied in China. Chinese of my parents' generation often starved to death. So I was lucky that I didn't experience hunger although I could hardly eat meat for a whole year.
When I recall my childhood, I can always remember the vast area of wheat, corns and sweet potatoes. Wheat was used for food, corns for feeding livestock and sweet potatoes to cook porridge.
At the end of the year, the production of wheat can't feed enough people. So cores were put on the table as a supplement of wheat.
The so-called wheat flour was mixed with a lot of wheat brans, which was similar to today's whole wheat flour. In that age, wheat production was very low due to scarce chemical fertilizer.
Wheat production was the economic indicator and standard of the village. If a family raised a pig and sold it, the profits will be converted into amount of wheat. At that time the only mode of business was to carry a few bags of rice in exchange for wheat from house to house. The profit was only the value of some salt.
I was born in 1981. There was no signal in the village. Electricity was first supplied to my village The village started to have electricity in 1992. The first electrical appliance in my village was the wired radio connected by iron wires. The radio has rung in my memory for many years.
The wired radio was like our watches. We could judge the time by listening to it. At 8:00 a.m. everyday, we would hear the morning news of CCTV. At 12:00 we would hear the afternoon news of our county. We cared about nothing on the radio but weather forecast. Such a wired radio was the only link with the outside world in my childhood.
In 1889, only one family in my village bought a black and white TV, which was 14 inches. The battery of the TV must be charged once a week in the town. The only TV was moved to the yard every night and every villager would watch TV in the yard. The children sat in the first row. Batteries and televisions were listed in the essential dowry of my village at that time.
The black and white TV opened the door of the outside world for us. However, in addition to watching the war movies and old TV series, we have never been concerned about the outside world on television.
When I was a child, the villagers were divided into several levels. The first level was made up of the village head, the secretary and people who have relatives in the city. One of my neighbors was a retired soldier. He was appointed as the armed minister of our county. Every villager flattered him. We believed that the Fengshui (the location of a house or tomb, supposed to have an influence on the fortune of a family) of his family was good. So villagers would pay much money to invite the master of Fengshui and choose the address of their house. They thought that their offspring could be superior to others with good Fengshui.
The second level was made up of the rich who did business. They could afford tractors and sewing machines. Other villagers would take advantage of them.
The third level was made up of people with special technologies including chefs and masters of ceremonies. They were necessary for a happy wedding. The fourth level was at the bottom of our village. They had no technologies or relationships. They could only work on the farm.
However, no matter what level we were in, we admired college students most. Some people said that the Fengshui of our village was not good so there would be no college students in our village.
The curse was wiped out when my nephew was admitted to the university before the 1990s. After graduation, he also successfully passed the test of becoming a public servant of public security organs. He became the example of every youngster in my village.
Entering the university was our parents' greatest hope for us. They would like to sacrifice everything to realize this goal. My parents recognized physical labor as a kind of punishment. Almost every day they told me to work hard to prevent working on the farm in the future.
Our parents were so anxious to change their destiny without telling us more about the university. What should we learn in the university? What kind of major should we choose? What's the meaning of going to the university? What can we do after graduating? We knew nothing about the questions. All that we know is the college entrance examination.
There were only two decent jobs in our village: teacher or government official. At that time, we thought anyone who worked in the government was an official. The police was like God for us. The villagers often frightened children by saying that the police was coming. The police could arrest people and beat them. We didn't think that a farmer was a formal job because all our efforts were to change the fate of being a farmer.
In our parent's imagination, after entering the university, we could be a part of the city. We will no longer work on the farm. We will be paid by the government and be a member of government officials.
We will live in high-rise flats. I used to imagine that there was no soil in the city. I decided that I would take a few pockets of soil to raise flowers in the city.
I had always been an obedient child. I worked hard and never made trouble. Entering the university and leaving the countryside were my main goals. However, people always have the time to think independently. I had a wealth of imagination. My father read a lot of folklore books for me when I was a little child. After I went to the secondary school, I started to live in a dormitory and have teachers who speak Mandarin. They were totally different from teachers in rural schools. Their education broadened my horizons.
I was gradually dissatisfied with my parents and school. My school didn't allow us to do after-school activities. What we could only do was to clean the classroom and study in the classroom. We knew about the examination-oriented education and quality education from the newspaper.
We looked forward to quality education, although we didn't understand what it was. We hated the school and went against it. We only had one day off every week with endless homework on the only free day. If we didn't perform well in the examination, we would be scolded by our parents. I felt like I was a slave supervised by my parents and teachers for continuous 24 hours every day.
My peers in the village also felt the same way because their parents also did so. Parents put their greatest expectations of leaving the rural area on us. The expectations were so empty. However, later on I found a person whose works impressed me and lighted up my life.
In 1998, a young writer, Han Han, won the first prize of the first National New Concept Writing Contest with a wonderful article named Watching People through Glasses.
I have fallen in love with literature especially poems since then. I dreamt of becoming a poet and living a free life. One day I saw Han's composition "wearing a jacket to take a bath" in the school propaganda column.
The composition hit my heart. I found that the problems in my life lie on the education system instead of me. Han Han's words made me realize that the society was so dark.
I didn't worship civil servants anymore. Han Han affected many of my peers. Many classmates of mine were still his fans. During the same year, I failed in the examination of entering the high school, which was a fatal blow to me. However, I calmed down in my second of preparing for the exam.
This is my experience of growth. I grew up in a closed environment where I was eager to leave. However, I had never thought of what I would be like after leaving it. In my opinion, I was living in the dilemma between the city and the countryside. My parents used to endure hunger and poverty, so they don't want me to continue their life in the rural area. However, I had no concept of future life at that time.
After I grew up, I found that the process of urbanization was not in accordance with my inherent concept of the city. We had little true knowledge of the city or occupation. We understood the majors in the university from the perspective of farmers and we didn't choose what we really want to learn.
The city was just like a strange monster for us. We explored everything in the city by ourselves. Parents pushed us to the city but we resisted to be integrated into the city because the city was unfamiliar for us. We also felt that the city was repelling us. This is why our generation has many fans of Han Han. When we read his books, we could release our anger of the political institution and society. We feel we are relieved.
Translated by Emma
Nobody cares how much you know---until they learn how much you care. -John Cassis
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