Friday, March 27, 2015

From rural China to tall-building careers in Shanghai

Frank Langfitt reports for NPR in a two-part series.  The second is headlined "An NPR Reporter Chauffeurs a Chinese Couple 500 Miles to their Rural Wedding," and the related story from the prior day is "Two Brothers in Rural China Beat the Odds; Practice Law in Shanghai."

Here are some excerpts from the second story, which focuses on the village wedding of one of the younger son:
Chinese New Year is the world's largest annual mass migration, when hundreds of millions of people pour from the big cities on China's developed coast back to their rural roots.

* * *
"When I was little, I used a bucket to get water here to water plants," says Rocky, 30, as he walks through his family's farm fields. "We also helped harvest peanuts." 
Most of the village's young people moved to cities long ago to work in factories and offices, he says. "Now, nobody takes care of this place." 
The concept of one's hometown is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. 
"They are supposed to come back," says Guo of her two sons. "Even if you are at the ends of the earth, this is where your ancestors are from, this is your birthplace." 
But Rocky may not do that.  He is planning to buy an apartment in Shanghai.   Rocky comments:
We had thought about coming back to the village after we get old, but I think this may not come true.
Langfitt observes that China's booming economy in recent decades has enabled migrating children to send some of their urban earnings home.  Rural homes are now larger, and some villagers now own cars or motorcycles.  Yet the boys' mother, Guo, still cooks with wood, and her home is not heated.  She does, however, have running water and a flat screen TV.

And here are excerpts from the prior day's, which introduced the family, this time focusing on the two sons' fortunes as lawyers in Shanghai, having successfully escaped village life with education: 
[M]any educated Chinese choose English names. And this Rocky, he took his name from Rocky Balboa, the fictional boxer from my hometown, Philadelphia. It's quite appropriate. Both Rockys were real long-shots. Our Rocky, the lawyer, he's the son of poor farmers. 
Many farmers' kids do end up in factories on the coast, but it's a lot harder for someone like our Rocky to actually make it to a Shanghai law firm. We begin our story on Rocky's wedding day. 
I'm driving some wedding guests in my rented Buick van. And up ahead, Rocky and his college sweetheart - her name is Xiao Piao - they're standing halfway out of the sunroof of a black sedan. And they're racing passed these terrace rice fields. Rocky's older brother, Ray - he's also a Shanghai lawyer - he's driving. It was this great image. 
You get an incredible sense of how far Rocky and his brother have come from this small village. … They're in a BMW. And they've just driven past a woman, an old woman, who has a bamboo pole on her shoulders. And she has two wicker baskets on either side. 
ROCKY: (Through interpreter) Everyone's fate, career and job are the result of one's struggle. They don't fall from the sky. It has nothing to do with feng shui. If I didn't take the bar and sat around at home, what use would good feng shui have been?
Langfitt emphasizes the influence of the boys' mother:  
You know, to understand the brothers' journey and what it means, you've got to meet their mom, Guo. She's 58. She's a spark plug with copper-colored hair. 
Guo financed the boys' education by selling fruit and vegetables—and even funerals clothes, but also had to borrow money to pay for Rocky and Ray's education.

One of the anecdotes Langfitt shares is that the mother has prepared her own tomb, though it is traditional for one's children to do this.  She proudly offered to show the tomb to Langfitt when he arrived in town for the wedding.  You can see a photo of it on the story. 

No comments: