I’m very honored to be a volunteer with an amazing non-profit educational group that helps children in rural China so that they can receive an education. Currently, many rural families cannot afford to educate their children as public education is no longer free in China but rural salaries have not kept up with inflation.
SERC sponsors an annual essay contest for school children and teachers in rural China.
I translated some of the essays and will post them from time to time.
Here’s one of my favorites, written by a young girl of the Hui ethnic minority group.
Title: Two Bottles of Tap Water
Author: Ma Wenyue, grade 6
From: Tou Guan Township, Ningxia Hui Minority Autonomous Region
(Translation copyright 2008 by May-lee Chai)
I am a child who lives on a big mountain where we have very limited access to water. Therefore, getting drinking water is one of the biggest problems we face. In order to have enough water, every family has a big cistern for collecting water. In the winter, we gather snow to put inside. In the summer, whenever it rains, first we all clean our yards, then we dig a channel from the middle of the yard to the cistern so the water will run inside. We use water sparingly. The water we first use to wash vegetables, we then use to wash our faces. Next we use the same water to wash our clothes. Because it takes so much water to wash clothing, everyone must accumulate several days’ worth of water first. Even when the water has turned black, no one throws it away. We cannot waste a single drop.
One time my grandmother got sick and had to go the county hospital. My father and I went to visit Grandma at the hospital. The trees along the road seemed to fly backwards as the cars drove by. In the country seat, skyscrapers loomed, and “like the endless stream of horses and carriages from days of old,” cars and people were everywhere. Such prosperity! At the hospital, Nai-nai was lying on a cot, but when she saw us come in, she was overjoyed.
However, I realized I had a stomach ache and my aunt took me to the bathroom. Afterwards she showed me how to flush the toilet. Oh! It was such a shame that people in the city used such clean water just to flush a toilet! If this were our village, we could have used the water from a single flush for several days. Such precious water shouldn’t be wasted. I carefully turned on the faucet and sparkling water suddenly poured out. Every drop seemed to dance with life. I took a drink. So sweet! My whole body felt cool and refreshed.
After I returned to my grandmother’s room, I asked my aunt to give me two empty water bottles, which I filled with the tap water. I wanted to bring them home to show my mother, younger brother, and younger sister so they could taste the tap water, too.
The Journey Home
On the bus home, I held on tight to the two bottles of water. Once we got off at our stop, we still had to walk some seven miles to our village. On the road, the hot sun beat down upon the ground, and I grew thirsty. At one point, Papa asked me for one of the bottles of water, but I wouldn’t give it to him. We endured our thirst as the sun bore down upon us all the way home.
Village Taste Test
Once we got home, I brought out the bottles, and my brother and sister ran towards me. I held the water up high and said, “Look! This water is from the city!” They each took a sip then and proclaimed in unison, “So sweet!” Mama also took a bottle with great care, afraid to spill a single drop. She tasted just a drop, licking the side of the bottle’s mouth. She agreed, “Sweet. City people’s water is not the same as our water here.”
Promise to Mother
I vowed in my heart, “When I grow up, we’re going to have tap water too, and Mama can drink all she wants.”
Ma Wenxue wrote her essay in 2007. It was nominated by Ma’s teacher for the SERC student essay writing award. It has never been translated into English before.