shu and joe

man at the wheel

Published on February 7, 2006

The graying man named Feng had left his farm in the north to earn money for his son’s education. Wrinkled and weary, he admitted he was only 35 lived but felt and appeared so much older. 100 years old some days, 50 on others. Usually somewhere in between. Absentmindedly threading his way through traffic, he described his hometown of Hubei, frostbitten in winter and witheringly humid in the summer. Dusty crops cornered by rough brick houses inhabited by families of ten or more. Because of their reliance on labor, farmers are allowed to have more than one child and for a small fortune, another field hand may enter the world. Feng’s only son needed money for high school, so the farmer moved to the city and became a cab driver, hoping to secure a better life for his child.

Inspired by my mom’s fascinated gaze, he began to list out all of his expenses. Monthly salary: 5000 RMB ($700), with 4000 of it going to the cab rental agency. His twin bunk bed in a room shared by four men set him back 150 RMB, with additional utilities totaling around 300 RMB. Another 250 RMB for tuition and the rest he used for food and cheap cigarettes. “I don’t buy too much,” Fengconfided. He coughed, squeezed his palms around the steering wheel and sighed deeply. “This is my life.” He held each word for a second, emphasizing the finality of his predicament, setting the phrase in front of us, almost proudly.

Filed under: Beijing, China

1 Comment

  1. Vikram says:

    If I lived in China I’d have some Chinese children
    If I lived in China I’d have some Chinese children
    Well out of my toes my little black baby grows
    And that’s my fact

    Well if I lived in China, I’d have some Chinese children
    Yeah if I lived in China, I’d have some Chinese children
    Well if I lived in China, if I lived in China, uh huh
    Well out of my ears my little black baby hears
    And that’s my fact

    Now if I lived in Russia, I’d have some Chinese children
    If I lived in Prussia, I’d have some Chinese children
    Well if I lived in India, they’d still be Chinese children uh huh
    And out my toes my little blue baby grows
    And that’s another fact

    Now if I lived in Ireland, I’d have some Chinese children
    Yeah if I lived in Ireland, I’d have some Chinese children
    Yeah if I lived in Ireland, if I lived in Ireland, uh huh
    Well if I lived in Spainland, they’d still be Chinese children
    And if I lived in Greeceland, they’d still be Chinese children
    But out of my thumbs my little red baby runs
    And that’s another fact, an unchanging fact

    Now if I lived in my land, which I do, I’d still have Chinese children
    And if I lived in Iceland, I’d still have Chinese children
    Well if I lived in Greenland, I’d still have Chinese children uh huh
    But out of my ears my little gray baby hears
    And that’s my fact

    Well if I lived in Thailand, I’d have some Chinese children
    Well if I lived in Japan, I’d still have Chinese children
    If I lived in this land, if I lived in that land, uh huh
    And up from my lungs and standing on my tongue
    My little blue baby sung

    Yeah if I lived in Brooklyn, I’d still have Chinese children
    Yeah if I lived in Oakland, they’d still be Chinese children
    Oh if I was an engine yeah, if I was an engine, uh huh
    Whatever I do they’re Chinese through and through, uh huh

    Well I got Chinese children
    I got Chinese children…

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