A letter for Auntie Yang – by 11287 Ren Tian Yin
Translated by Ronald Hwang
Dear Dear Auntie Yang,
How are you? I am Ren Tianyin , a PEACH student you have been sponsoring. I have graduated from the high school and have been admitted into the Electrical engineering and automation, School of Electrical Information Engineering, Southwest University for Nationalities.
To be able to be admitted into a good university was a dream since my childhood. Now, it has come true. I am writing here to express my most sincere gratitude to you for your selfless assistance.
When I was small, the possibility of ever going to high school, let alone college was unimaginable. I could only hide this dream in my heart and never mentioned to anybody. In the eyes of others, this was just a joke. Our family was too poor; we would have to sell every scrap at our home just so my brother and I could finish high school.
I can remember that most difficult period of our family when my older brother entered middle school. I was in primary school then. He loved to learn and worked studiously. But we were so poor we couldn’t afford to send him even to middle school. So it was decided that he would have to stop school. But on the day of the start of school year, my older brother put on the racked backpack and walked seven miles to the school. We had no money. Even though we were able to obtain a permission to postpone the payments of the tuition and book fees, the fees for board and meals were still a big problem. He did not eat for two days. When his classmates noticed that, they told the teacher. The teacher was so moved by his will to learn, he gave him help. He also found him a sponsorship. He finally got to finish his middle school and got admitted into a pretty good high school in the city. This sponsorship continued to help him until he finished his high school education.
By the time I entered middle school, the financial situation of my family had improved somewhat and I did not have to face the danger of needing to quit school. But life was still extremely difficult. The weekly living expenses of ￥30 were still a big burden to the family. In order to save some money to help my older brother who was in high school at that time, I devised a way to stretch the ￥18 to cover the ￥30 weekly expenses. I would spend 50 cents to buy a bun for my breakfast, and ￥1 for plain rice for lunch and ￥1.5 for rice and a little of condiments for dinner. That was during my growth period. I was half starved most of the time. I was thus undernourished and often fell ill due to malnutrition, and had all kinds of skin problems. Even under this stringent saving regiment, my dream for high school was still hopelessly faint. But I did not give up. I was determined that I would use my academic success to win over my teachers and hopefully they could give me assistance. So I worked hard from the start, I went from ranking the near bottom in my class to top five in my first year, and became the top student in the school by second year. In my third year of my middle school, I aimed to rank in the top five of the county. My success finally caught the attention of the school. After they learned of my family’s poverty, they extended their helping hands. I was gratefully recommended to PEACH and became a member of the PEACH family.
Unfortunately, when I was driven to the county center to sit for the high school entrance examination, I got severe motion sickness since I have never been in a bus to travel that long a distance. I threw up when I got off the bus. That night, I couldn’t fall asleep because the weather was very humid and hot. I had a headache the next day when I woke up, but I still had to drag my wasted body to the test. The result ended up not as I hoped for. I failed to be within the top five but ranked 33 in the county. Even though this ranking still could have put me into one of the top high schools in the city, I decided to decline it because my family could not afford it. I went to a lesser county high school that cost less and had more scholarship and sponsorships opportunities.
In the high school, my tuition, book and living expenses were mostly supported by your assistance. I also worked hard to get a few scholarships. With all of these helps I was able to finally finish high school. Without your help, I couldn’t possibly finish high school, let alone going to college. THANK YOU!
I am now writing this letter to you in a hostel in a small town next to the university. I started my trip five days in advance so I won’ t be late, I arrived at Chengdu yesterday and will do the registration tomorrow. The journey of travelling such a long way from home was not easy. But I got to see buses and trains that I had never taken; and big bridges, subways, high-rises, the planes that were taking off and the campus that is larger than the capitol of my county. …All these bring me such excitement! I came all the way from Yanyuan to this bustling city of Chengdu all by myself, figuring out all the transportation details and arrangements, and finding a place to stay.….All these proves my self-sufficient and I am not just flower in the greenhouse. It makes me proud that I can face the challenges even without my parents.
However, being here alone by myself in a strange new city does bring a feeling of lonesomeness. Yesterday was the mid-autumn festival. All the schoolmates who had their parents accompanying them here got to enjoy the festivities with their families. I could only stare at the moon and longed for my family. By the way, even though now the festival has passed, I would still like to send you my best wishes for you and your family at this happy festive season.
Besides loneliness, a foreboding sense of inferiority also engulfed me. All my schoolmates are wearing brand new cloths. I only have a patched up shirt that has been bleached white from repeated washes over the years on my back and a pair of worn out running shoes on my feet. After walking for two hours, the worn out lining have blistered my ankles. If I don’t have the admission letter in my hands, I could easily be mistaken as a menial laborer, or not even that. The thought of getting a new shirt had crossed my mind, but the expensive price changed my mind. I will just first wear this out and then see.
There is a tradition in my village: Whenever a family has a child that gets admitted into college, the family would throw a banquet. We call this the “Scholar Banquet” (“狀元酒”) . In fact, it is just a common ploy to raise money to cover the college expenses. The money received actually is a loan that is expected to be repaid in folds. My family managed to raised ￥20000. It is equivalent to having borrowed this amount and we will be expected to pay back ￥40000. You might wonder why we don’t approach PEACH for help instead. The truth is I really do not want to burden PEACH anymore because I am haunted by an unforgettable memory.
During my second year of high school, I partnered with another college student to do investigative visits on some potential recipient families for PEACH. To my surprise, the family I was to visit turned out to be a classmate of mine in my first year of high school. Her home consisted of three wooden shacks. One was the kitchen where both her mother and her slept. The other two were a storehouse and a bedroom. There was no trace of any electrical items in her house, not even a phone. They had a small pig and three chicks. My classmate was so welcoming and invited us for dinner. She said she would cook a chicken dish for all of us. When the dish came, the chick was so small that it could not even fill the bowl. My partner and I were dumb-found when we finally realized she could only kill one of the three tiny chicks they had. We were so stricken by her plight. Her father passed away ten years ago. Her mother was ravaged by illnesses from hard labour that she looked like a sixty year of woman even though she was only in her forties. My classmate and her brother had to take on the burden to support the family. Her brother would have to work in hard labour in the weekends like a character in Lu Xun’s novels. I couldn’t swallow the food. This dinner was too costly.
That night, she let my partner and I have the bedroom. I could tell that was the best room she had. But I also noticed there was a large crack on the wall in that room. I wondered if it would rain inside also when there were storms outside. I also wondered how cold this place could get being on such high altitude, how they could withstand it. Her situation made me understand what it means by: A family with four walls; Poverty brings premature burden to a child; Tragic Misery and Abject Poverty. In comparison to her family, mine was so much better. All that I have endured is nothing in contrast. It is so hard to imagine she had this heart of immeasurable strength behind that fa?ade of fragility and softness. While most girls of her age were still enjoying the tender nurture and protection in their parents’ bosoms, she had already shouldered the heavy burden of her family. From that point onward, I would never complain again. There are people that are more unfortunate than I. From now on, I must face all my difficulties with strength and determination. In the visits since this one, I encountered so many more examples of poverty, experienced the meanings of bitterness and misery.
From my visits, I realized that PEACH is really helping students in desperate poverty. Every dollar was spent on students in dire needs. PEACH gives us hopes and a new life. I am so thankful!
As a result, I have decided that as long as I could figure out a way to earn my way, I would not borrow from PEACH. There are others that need the help. I shall try my best to win some scholarships, and find some part-time work to lessen the burden for my family.
I wish I could communicate with you more often from now on. Finally, please accept my heart-felt humble salute and a most sincere “THANK YOU”! Thank you for the help you have given me all these years.
I wish you good health and happiness,
Your Child, Ren Tianyin