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A letter to myself

04055 Qiu Xian Qin
Translated by Angela Chin

This is my story, mychildhood memory, poor and determined, which I would like to share with my brothers and sistersfrom PEACH.

QiuXianqin, Dear Self, remember more than twenty years ago? You were young, and at home there were grandpa, grandma, dad, mom, brother and sister. Our adobe house had a wooden roof. The house was dark, there was no electricity. We had to burn pinewood at night for light. In the winter you could hear the wind howling and the door rattling throughout the night. The roof leaked all year round. We would catch several basin full of leaking water each day.We were so poor that our house had no furniture. Our food was mostly cornmeal and wheat pasta and our clothes were repeatedlypatched. I was sent to school at age 5. Since there was no pre-school, I was placed in first grade. School was a two-hour hike away from home. Each day I carried my backpack and my rice ball.

School was the happiest time. For the young me, happiness was my books, my teachers, and my friends! Books were my most precious possession. I would do anything to keep them from getting wet in the rain.

I am grateful to my parents who told me they would keep us in school no matter how hard things got financially. So I must do well in school. I am also grateful for how strict they were with me. Each night I was not allowed to go to bed without completing my homework. If I made repeated mistakes I would be spanked. I remember struggling to keep my eyes open many late nights under the faint pinewood light. Even so, I was still passionate about learning; I was fascinated by the wonders of knowledge school offered.

I went to primary school in the village. By the time I moved onto the county middle school, my younger siblings were going to primary school. Our family's finance situation was getting worse. The cost of keeping three kids in school, living expenses, and grandpa's hospital bills often left our family penniless. During my middle school, we had to sell our pigs, chicken and turnips weekly for our grocery money for the following week. When we ran out of money, my parents went around borrowing. After a few years we owed more money than we could ever repay. My parents started to fight often. The thought of the possibly dropping out of school made me cry unstoppably. I told myself to hold on to the promise to myself to never drop out of school.

Finding PEACH, Finding hope.

By the time I was in high school, things did not get better at all. My parents continued to fight and finally separated. At first, they took turns paying for our living expense each week. My last year in high school my mother left town for work and we did not hear from her for months. My dad started to carry the load by himself. During school holidays we would all help to sell pork door to door throughout the hillside. Sometimes we would not end up with any profit. Then we just had to eat less each meal. If I did not feel too hungry, I'd just lie that I had an ulcer pain and skip the meal.

One day my dad happened to be in the area and he came to visit me in my high school. He looked so pale, his clothes torn and shoes worn. It made me so sad. My English teacher, who happened to also be a PEACH representative, saw me and asked me if that was my father. I said yes. He then had a chat with my father. Later on my teacher called me into his office and asked about my family situation in detail. I remember helplessly crying just talking about it. And then, my teacher gave me a form to fill out. At that time, I did not know I could be so lucky to receive support from PEACH.

I still remember the moment when my teacher told me “you have been selected to receive support from PEACH to receive 800 yuan”! I could not believe my ears! Was this real? That means I can study for the college entrance exam without worries! That means I don't have to worry about the living costs for this semester! That means my parents would have a lesser burden! I was so happy I almost cried. I was so thankful for PEACH. Their help came like charcoal in the snow. The warmth stayed in my heart for years to come.

My college dream came true, keeping faith for my future

In 2004, I graduated from high school! Although I did not do as well as I should have during the college entrance exam due to my parents' divorce, I nonetheless got into college. PEACH once again provided me with college loan to resolve all my financial concerns. Once again I was so happy I cried.College tuition would have cost thousands plus transportation to Kunming. With PEACH's help I entered college worry free.

However, something horrible happened to my family the first week in college. We lost our father, and our mother lost her freedom. Just when I thought life was going to get better, we fell back into grief. We suddenly lost both of our parents at once and were left with our aging grandma. My younger sister and brother were in middle school then. My sister ended up dropping out of school in order to support the family. I only found out about it a month after. That was how I started my college life.

Wiping away my tears, I continued my college dream. I shouldered the hope of my entire family. There was no room for doubt, no option to back out. My sixteen-year-old sister could not possibly support the entire family alone. So I decided to support myself and my family by looking for parttime jobs on top of my studies. Although I was shy back then, I told myself not to be a coward. Looking back now, I am really thankful for the challenges I faced. It forced me to charge forward and made me who I am today.

In order to find a breakthrough for myself I joined the freshmen speech contest. I also became the editor for the school newspaper. College was full of opportunities for new challenges. Besides gaining a sense of accomplishment, the best part was that it also paid nicely! These incomes were precious. I didn't need financial support from home; I even had time to work part timeto make money. I made about 30 yuan a day. I distributed flyers, sold bottled water, apples and more. I learned to be independent without compromising my studies. With these incomes, scholarship and financial aids, plus the loan from PEACH, I was able to get through college. I was also able to visit my mother and bring her some money and daily necessities and bring my family some gifts when I went home.

Dream came true after graduation

After college I told myself I must not take the path my ancestors had taken. I must come out of the mountains. I believed I could endure any hardship. During my last semester I started looking for jobs. I took any intern opportunities I could. After graduation I stayed in Kunming. I tried many different jobs. There were times of challenges and doubts. The burden on my shoulders was heavy. I needed to pay for rent and my college loan. I also needed to support my brother who was in his last year of high school. I had to find a job; life was again forcing me to charge forward.

That determination carried me to where I am today. I paid off all my loans, supported my brother to complete college, and sent money home as much as I could. I also took my grandma to the county hospital to treat her chronic health problem and I took the whole family for a trip to Beijing. Now I have a stable job and a happy family. We own a house in Kunming and invited my in-laws to live with us. I realized my longtime dream to migrate to and settle in Kunming.

 

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