“I know people probably look down on the kind of job I do. I sweep the floors and take out the trash. But I take pride in the work I do here. I know that I am at Tsinghua University; this is China’s most beloved university. I take pride knowing that I am helping the students here enjoy their time studying. You know, when I first began to work here, I knew it was an international students’ dorm. I was so excited because I thought I could learn English from all the international students here. But, in the two years I’ve been working here, you’re probably the first one to take the time to talk to me. I must sound silly; me a 60-year-old woman still trying to learn another language.”
“I first came to Beijing in 2005. At that time I was only 13-years-old and my uncle was in Beijing. I did all the touristy things, I saw the Summer Palace, Tian’anmen, and the Great Wall. I came back here again after I finished high school to enlist into the military on my family’s wishes. I think there’s some sort of calling for Chinese to enlist into the army, it’s like innate. At the time, I thought it was a way to train my body and clear my mind. It was actually pretty stressful time, I had to take courses on the government’s ideology and run for hours, morning and night. After completing my service, I decided to stay in Beijing.”
“What are you doing here in the cafe today?”
“I’m here today to help with some remodeling for this building. I’m not sure that I can capture everything that happened in these past few years. The current generation is very complicated. The younger generation here thinks in ways that are so different from their parents’ generation. To be honest, I don’t really like China. There are too many people here. If I had the chance to live in a different country, and that chance is very small, I would go to Europe. Seeing the world in movies, I feel like there is so much more outside of china. But I also I think I watched too many movies.”
“There was a time I saw a foreigner helplessly looking at one of those tourist booklets for directions to a place near the city center. I think she must have been from Europe. I saw the Chinese translation of her destination and stared at her for a while. She eventually noticed and asked me for some help. I escorted her. Once we arrived, she gave me the biggest hug I had ever received. I wasn’t ready for that. I was shocked. I felt so embarrassed.”
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