High am­bi­tions and a dream ful­filled

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By HOULIQIANG and YANG JUN

When Xu Yan, from the Song­tao Miao au­ton­o­mous county in Ton­gren, a city in Guizhou prov­ince, was in ju­nior high school, she would avoid con­ver­sa­tions with her class­mates if the topic turned to kinder­gartens. “I was afraid that they would laugh and say my home­town must be ter­ri­ble be­cause it didn’t even have a kinder­garten,” she said.

In­stead of at­tend­ing preschool ed­u­ca­tion, the 19-yearold spent most of her early child­hood on the farm where her mother worked, and when her mother left to look for work in the city, Xu was car­ried to the fields by her grand­mother. “I had a dream that my ex­pe­ri­ences would not be re­peated by chil­dren in my home­town,” she said.

To fol­low that dream, she de­cided to study preschool ed­u­ca­tion and be­come a kinder­garten teacher in her home area. Last year, af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Hu­nan Zhi­jiang Nor­mal School, Xu re­turned to Song­tao and be­gan work at the new kinder­garten in Houzhai, based in dis­used pri­mary school class­rooms.

She re­called be­ing “so as­ton­ished” by the tough liv­ing con­di­tions when she ar­rived. Her dorm room con­tains just a bed and an old ceil­ing fan, which hardly stirs the hu­mid air dur­ing hot sum­mer nights. There is no bath­room, so she has to take wa­ter to the bed­room for a bath. “I mop the floor to clean up the wa­ter that splashes out of the tub so of­ten that the ce­ment floor is now as shiny as metal,” she said.

The only toi­let is in the dis­tant school, and be­cause she is afraid of the dark, Xu is hes­i­tant tomake the trip at night. “I try to avoid us­ing the toi­let at night be­cause I have to wake up my col­league and ask her to ac­com­pany me,” she said, re­fer­ring to the only other in­hab­i­tants, her col­league Zhou Xiaoyun and her daugh­ter.

Life in the vil­lage is mo­not­o­nous. There are no restau­rants, just a cou­ple of small stores with a lim­ited range of goods, but itin­er­ant ven­dors some­times ar­rive to sell food. The school canteen opens at noon and only pro­vides lunch for the stu­dents, so Xu cooks break­fast and din­ner for her­self. She’s a poor cook, so she usu­ally pre­pares dried noo­dles.

There are al­most no peo­ple of Xu’s age in the vil­lage, and al­though Houzhai is only 7 km from Panxin, the near­est town, there is no public trans­porta­tion. She has to try her luck by wait­ing on the road­side to see if the lo­cal taxi— a three-wheeled truck — is avail­able. If not, she spends about 90 min­utes walk­ing to Panxin.

Her only entertainment comes from an­i­mated pro­grams that she watches on her cell­phone. Her fa­vorite is De­tec­tive Co­nan. “I have watched all of the more-than 800 episodes. If I am in a bad mood, I feel good af­ter watch­ing an episode,” she said.

The dis­tance be­tween her room and the wire­less router in the school means the Wi-Fi con­nec­tion is un­sta­ble, so she of­ten sits in the door­way of her dorm at night to surf the in­ter­net.

Now, she has two new dreams: to visit Bei­jing and one of the steppes dot­ted around China. “I have a friend who works in Bei­jing. Ev­ery time she posts pho­tos of Bei­jing on WeChat (an in­stantmes­sag­ing app), I ad­mire her very much,” she said.

How­ever, her dreams are likely to re­main un­ful­filled be­cause she doesn’t have enough money to achieve them. She earns 2,000 yuan ($297) a month, and gives half to her mother. In­stead of spend­ing the re­main­der on her­self, she uses it to buy clothes for her fam­ily.

“I en­joy buy­ing clothes for them be­cause they are so happy when they wear their new clothes,” she said.

I had a dream that my ex­pe­ri­ences would not be re­peated by chil­dren in my home­town.” Xu Yan, 19-year-old teacher at a ru­ral kinder­garten in Ton­gren, Guizhou

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