Here comes the 3rd episode of my series of translated travel posts. We’re halfway, guys! Please remember, these are old. My mind changed on some points since, and the one-child policy has been relaxed a bit, I believe.
September 8th, 2011
A few days ago, I went fishing with Sandra and a colleague. We had only one fishing rod for 3 persons, but I still caught 5 fishes in one hour! And that’s not counting the smallest ones.
We were fishing from the “poor people’s” river bank, but I took a picture of the rich people’s place:
When we went back at Sandra’s, she cooked us a magnificent lunch: dried bamboo shoots, cured pork, celery and paprika;
Some greens, and my fishes with garlic shoots;
Some cured fish in a spicy sauce;
Duck eggs cooked in rice;
It was freakin’ delicious!
Sandra is a good cook: she’s been cooking for her siblings since she was little. Sunny, on the other hand, pretty much never cooked at all: she’s the youngest of 6 kids. Her brand new husband doesn’t know how to cook either, so they always eat outside – restaurants are not much more expensive than cooking at home. The “one-child policy” isn’t a reality outside of well-off families, living in big cities where the government might perform controls. This was the case for most of my Chinese classmates in college, all single children. Really rich families simply pay the tax that grants them the right to have a second child. Anyway, once an illegal second child is born, what can the government do except fine you?
But when you look further than big cities and go to the countryside, and even as close than the ever-growing suburbs, the one-child policy is everything but a reality. I don’t think I’m exaggerating if I say that most Chinese families have 2 to 3 children. None of the friends I made in 3 trips to China is a single child. Yet China has managed to keep its birth rate under control in the last years.
Here is a last picture. It is a dorm like the one Sandra lives in. It is quite better than the factory dorms, which don’t have doors or windows except for big bare holes in the walls. Sandra makes about 120$ a month. It’s a misery, even here where the cost of life is so low. The mold industry is facing a crisis. Sandra’s a salesperson but she has no formation or experience; this is simply the only possible job for people with good spoken English skills. Some do well; as for Sandra, she’s only got 2 orders in a year. She must ask money to her husband every month, or she couldn’t live a decent life. She made more money when she couldn’t speak English, she was in industrial design and was financially independent. But it’s hard to admit that you had a better life when you had no qualifications and that all your efforts and money invested in a language school just made you poorer… In a few months, she’ll quit, and become a housewife (at the great joy of her husband who lives in a different city at the moment; and certainly for her own happiness too). She’s in her 30s and she thinks it’s more than time she had kids. Here women have their first kid when they’re about 20 or 21, and while life expectancy in China is over 70 years old, I haven’t seen anyone over 50 in this city. Yet every morning, thousands of teenagers rush to the factory lines.