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Life-saving straw

03007 Li Yan Fang
Translated by Yao Hsu

I am a farming girl born in a poor family. These are the most appropriate words to describe the house of my childhood and my family: “destitute, shabby, depressed, exhausted, struggling, and unwilling”.

My parents were born in the early days of liberation and went through civil wars without enough food and clothing. Their lives were full of suffering, but they still had respect and hope for life. My father once told me, during that time they really wished for a “life-saving straw”, which they could hold on to and keep on climbing till the life got better. Material life is inferior, but the willpower is tenacious. I was influenced by their love of life, indomitable spirit, hardworking attitude, and trustworthy character. The best gift my father gave me was this phrase: “Nothing is more important than learning. To be a scholar is to be the top of the society.”

My father is an enthusiastic, warm-hearted, and strong Hanibeima (note: inheritor of Hani customs and culture). He was forced to drop out of school in the second grade, but he completed the rest of elementary school education all by himself. Since I was young, he has taken me from one village to another and served the villagers with his Bema culture. He taught me literacy whenever and wherever he could. Once, he taught me how to write the words “(olive)” on the floor of someone’s house by using the charcoal. What complicated words! Besides, I have not been to school yet. No matter how hard I tried, I still couldn’t write it and I didn’t want to learn. Then my father said to me sternly, "Lawyers have to be able to speak and write. They speak better than others, write better than others, and understand more. Few people in the village know how to write these two words. Keep on trying and you can do it!” Thanks to my father’s patient teaching, I was already able to write my name and many words when I enrolled in school at the age of seven. I also learned that I don’t have to be a teacher when I grow up. Lawyers and judges are both good choices, too.

My mother, a rural woman in duty, is uneducated, but she is gentle, virtuous, hardworking, housekeeping, and filial. She lost her father when she was little. After she got married, she brought my grandmother along to live with them. Usually it would encounter some difficulties from the in-laws, but because of my parents' filial piety, my grandparents had a great time together and they shared joys and sorrows with each other (My grandmother, from my mother side, passed away at home at the age of 101). My mother never wears shoes. With her bare feet, she goes up to the hills to cut firewood, and down to fields to plant seedlings. The soles of the feet are so thick that they are cracked, and she still doesn’t wear shoes. She seldom talks. She didn’t scold me for skipping classes, and she didn’t praise me either when I got the award. During the New Year and holidays, no matter how poor or suffering we were, she always took me to buy clothes, but she never bought me any toys no matter how hard I cried.

I was a well-known top student in the village, but wherever I went, the first words everyone said to me were: "Don’t be afraid! Study hard, so your family’s life won’t be that tough anymore. Things will all get better when you finish school.” It can be seen how poor my family was back then. When everyone saw me, the only word they could think of was “poor”.

I had smallpox in the second year of junior high. My father walked from Nansha to home overnight, and then rushed to my school. It was the coldest and wettest season on the high mountains. My father wore sandals and had a ride on mountain road for more than three hours. When I saw my father's freezing cold face and trembling lips at the school entrance, my heart was broken. For the first time, I felt the pain of poverty so strongly. My father looked at me pityingly and said, "It's okay. Dad will take you to the hospital." In the hospital, my father said to the doctor, “I will pay you three hundred yuan first. If it’s not enough, I will sell the piglets later and pay you the rest. Please don't tell my daughter how serious the illness is, how much the medical expenses are, and etc." I overheard their conversation which made my mood gloomier than the cold rainy weather outside. I couldn’t imagine how my father with self-pride belittled himself and begged someone so desperately. I began to blame myself and feel guilty. I even naively thought my family was poor because of supporting my education.

After recovering from my illness, I secretly packed my luggage and prepared to go out to work, but I was caught by the teacher. The teacher was so kind that she didn't tell my parents I wanted to drop out of school. She comforted me and gave me her clothes and shoes instead. This inspired me and made me realize that I can finish school with the help of these good, generous people in the community, then make some money, and let my family live a happy life.

During my third year of junior high, Aunt Jeng and her group came to visit Shengcun Middle School. The principal introduced them to me. Even though it has been a while and my memory became very vague, I still remembered that day I cried so hard in front of Uncle, Taiping Jin. I didn’t know how long I cried. Aunt Jeng said to me earnestly: "Be strong! When God is about to place a great responsibility on a great man, it always first frustrates his spirit and will, exhaust his muscles and bones....” Since then, I joined PEACH and I am no longer alone on this long academic journey.

While seeing the hardships of my parents, I was worried and scared, but when I think of Aunt Jeng, I was full of hope. PEACH is my life-saving straw which power is so strong that I have been holding on to and keep on climbing and climbing. In 2003, I was admitted to Jianshui No.1 High School with an impressive grade. In the second year of high school, I passed the test and got into the top liberal arts class. In 2006, I was accepted to the Law School of Yunnan University.

In 2010, I applied to a certain local court as the "2010 Outstanding College Graduate in Yunnan Province", and later became a judge as I wish. I have married, and my husband works in a government agency as a public servant of the people. I have a cute baby girl named Jindou, and she loves babbling. My husband and I have supported my brother to build a four-and-a-half-story building, and we also remodeled our home according to our styles. Now we are in good health, live in a happy life, and have decent jobs. We often take our parents out to see the beautiful world. My husband and I also concern about current affairs and politics. We like to discuss some hot topics on the news and social economic issues. Our written articles and online post comments were often published in the newspaper. Currently, I am preparing to apply for the in-service graduate student of Law School in Yunnan University.


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