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(原创)The first time home visiting for the Spring Festival  

2013-02-20 19:53:52|  分类: 英语文章 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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I have tried to write my first home visiting for the Spring Festival 43 years ago in English. It is of course an unforgettable experience. But I am not satisfied with my English expression. Would you please have the patience to read through it? If you could take the trouble to tell me what you think about it, I would be grateful!

Thank you!

 

 

The first time home visiting for the Spring Festival

I will never forget March 17, 1969, when I was uprooted from my hometown Shanghai where I was born and spent twenty years completing my elementary and secondary education, thinking that there would be no hope of my coming back to live with my family again. Thousands of so-called young intellectuals like me went to board the train at the remote PengPu station, where a sea of people, family members, relatives and friends, gathered to see us off, thinking that they might never see us again. With a sharp and heart-tearing whistle, the train suddenly started to move forward slowly, and immediately earth-shaking shouting and crying burst out in and outside the carriages. The scene was carved deep in my mind.

Having gone through Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangxi Provinces, fifty-three hours later, we finally reached our “exile” destination, Dushan Guizhou, one of the poorest provinces in China. In ancient times, criminals were sent there as punishment. Then we were further sent to a mountain village of Buyi nationality, where we were supposed to work as peasants for the rest of our lives. You can hardly imagine how hard life was for us in the first nine months. However, we managed to pull through after overcoming countless hardships. When December came, there was not much farm work to do. And it was time for us to go back home for the Spring Festival. With eager excitement, we couldn’t wait any more, wishing to grow wings and fly back home right away.

My mother had mailed me the money for the fare of the train, 31.6 yuan, as much as half of her monthly salary! It was a 46-hour 2,196 km journey. Unlike me, some daredevils were bold enough to go without tickets. They even believed it would be a most thrilling and romantic experience. Some were caught on the way and were forced to do hard work. But I, as a senior high school graduate, had received too much traditional education. It never occurred to me that such an act could be possible. Getting the ticket and taking the train  was a firm and deep-rooted rule for me with no room for any tricks.

Preparations had to be made before I left. But first of all, I got my hair cut. Strange, isn’t it? Well, I heard that if one grew hair and beard long, he would be stopped at the Shanghai railway station and wouldn’t be allowed to go out until he was “cleared up”. The reason?  Well, it was said that such a bad personal image could spoil the good image of the international metropolis. Any action out of social discontent should be strictly forbidden. To avoid the possible trouble, I might as well say goodbye to my long hair first. Next, I must do some shopping. As the pay for the nine months’ work, which was unexpectedly tough and hard indeed for me, I not only got enough food for next year, but 15 yuan in cash as well, which was a great surprise and joy! (Only many years later did I realize I took away food from the poor peasants. In fact they had never enough food for themselves. They had to go hungry for two or three months next spring as a result. How could they be happy to have us there? But they were still very kind to us.)With the money in my pocket, I walked around in the small town on the market day, searching for the things that could rarely be found in Shanghai then, such as dried mushroom, sunflower seeds, peanuts, chestnuts, walnuts and dried bamboo shoots. I knew my mother would be very pleased to have them. But the local people started to complain. They said whatever the Shanghainese laid their hands on would become much more expensive right away. And it was true. Some boys and girls brought the famous red pepper home, as they were so fond of the hot stuff that it had become indispensible in their daily life. They had grown half Guizhou style already, I often joked. My friend from the village gave me some specialty of sticky rice his wife made, which turned out to be very popular when I served my family. Finally I managed to jam everything into two big bags with great satisfaction. I was ready to go. What I couldn’t  understand was that later I found I carried the fewest bags, while a fragile girl got seven bags in all! How could she get home with so much luggage?

From the village to Dushan it was 24 km. If I could catch the bus at the town, it was only an easy one-hour trip. But no such luck for me! At that time, there were very few buses running on the road. And who could get the tickets was determined by the local postmaster. He was the only one who had the power in his hands and was so arrogant as if he owned the whole world. He put the local officials at the top priority, because he knew he mustn’t offend them. The next of course came his relatives, friends, acquaintances and those who he knew. As for the young intellectuals, they always stayed at the end of the waiting list. The only exceptions might be a few girls with beautiful faces. A special favor was possible only for them. The past experience told me that instead of queuing for a long time at the post office and having my nice hope struck ruthlessly to pieces again, I had better depend on my own feet. Let’s just walk to the railway station. So it was settled. We would start out at midnight so that we could arrive at Dushan in the early morning. The train would be there around noon. We would have enough time to take a rest, eat something and get the tickets before the train came.

In the night before we left, everybody was too excited to sleep. After supper, we circled around the fire with some peasant friends who came to say goodbye, chatting happily. The kind-hearted neighbor prepared some rice dumplings, sweet and warm, giving us energy to walk the long distance. With a pole, I carried the luggage which weighed about 30 kg. After nine months’ hard work, I had become so strong that the load seemed nothing on my shoulder. We walked out of the quiet village and in no time we came to the road leading to Dushan. The moon was shining brightly so that we could see the road clearly. With plenty of pumping energy, we hurried forward with big strides. Everybody was talking and laughing loudly, with the light rustle from the  rubbing of the sole against the gravel and rhythmic groan made by the pole under the heavy pressure of the bags. One was singing a piece of Peking opera, while another was humming a popular revolutionary song. Less than half an hour later, we removed the heavy overcoat and started to sweat. After one hour, we quieted down a bit. Heavy and rapid panting took over.

We realized that we had walked too fast. After all everybody had to carry a heavy load. Over two hours had passed. We came to the Big Slope, which was a small hill of more than 200 meters high. We took a rest at the foot and went up slowly. We had learned the skill to climb up slowly, or we would be out of breath very soon. By the time we reached the top, we were so tired and wet all over with sweat that another break was badly needed. We sat down, drank a little water and ate a bit food we brought with us. Refreshed, we went down the slope quickly. One guy was telling a joke and made us all laughing. Another 5, or 6 km covered, now we had finished two-thirds of the distance. And the hardest part began. We felt the load was getting heavier with each step forward on our shoulders. We had to rest more and longer. Could we go the wrong way in the dark? No. We knew clearly that there was only one road to Dushan. How far should we go? We had no idea. We just kept pushing on and on.

The moon went down. We could hardly see anything except the vague surface of the road. We had to walk very cautiously and slowly. Exhausted, we began to feel sleepy. Sometimes I felt that I seemed to wake up suddenly from short naps and was in panic that I had got lost. My mind told me repeatedly: “We will be there in a moment. Just keep going.”At long last, when the first ray of the sun pierced through, I saw through the heavy fog the gate of the bus station in the distance. “Hey, look there!” I pointed my hand forward and cried excitedly. We had made it! Everybody dropped the luggage on the ground and burst into cheers.

The shabby railway station was only 200 meters ahead from the bus station. We carried our luggage into the small dirty waiting room. It was still too early and the ticket office window was closed. They wouldn’t start to sell the tickets until half an hour before the train arrived. But a notice on the wall brought us the bad news that we didn’t want to believe. The train was over packed with passengers. They were not sure whether we could get the tickets. And even if we did, we might have great difficulty getting on. What should we do? Go back to the village? No way! We made up our minds to fight to the end. Nothing could stop us from boarding the train. But first we must get something to eat. We also needed to buy some food when we travelled on the train. As was known to all, the food served on the train was both very expensive and of poor quality.

The final crucial moment came! When the old dirty locomotive with a long line of green carriages like a huge and ugly monster pulled into the platform with white steam and black soot, we knew our trial had come. Before the monster stopped, people rushed forward. The windows were their choice. The wild ones recklessly threw their bags into the open windows, jumped up and then climbed in. Some succeeded, while others found before they jumped up, their bags were thrown out mercilessly and the windows were shut immediately. Fierce quarrel followed. One guy was so furious that he even smashed the window with a pole. I ran for one of the door and was lucky enough to reach it first. As soon as one passenger got down and before the stewardess shut the door, I managed to squeeze in. The door was closed just behind me. If I had been one fraction of a second late, I would have had to wait at least one more day. The train stayed at the small station for a long time. When it finally pulled out, a great relief came over me. My goodness, I was on the way of going back home at last. Thank God!

    The train was overcrowded and the passengers were like canned sardines. I had to stand straight near the door of the toilet, which was occupied by three people! In spite of the terrible smell, they seemed to be quite satisfied with the situation. You may wonder where they could go when someone wanted to use the toilet. Well, it was impossible, since nobody could move even an inch in any direction. No water was available on the train. You wouldn’t feel the call of nature, as your stomach was dry and empty. Patient endurance was the best policy. It was getting dark. Keeping on standing up, with the click-click-click, I nodded off in the stifling atmosphere and began to dream. Of course it could not be a good one, in which my bags disappeared and were nowhere to be found no matter how hard I tried to find them. Then I woke up in alarm, with cold sweat all over my body. But I smiled. I realized that even the smartest thief couldn’t take away my luggage or anything, because nobody could move at all. Almost twelve hours later, things began to improve a little bit. I could leave the smelly toilet and move inside. Sitting on my bag, I felt the worst had passed.

During the long night, I kept on nodding off and waking up. My mouth was as dry as a desert, but I had no water to drink. I felt very hungry, but the dry food would not go down without water. Dirty clothes ?  That was the least to worry about. What made me sick was the soot stuck deep in my hair. My fingernails were shining black, because I couldn’t help scratching the dirty and itchy head from time to time. When the day broke, the train was pulling into a big station. I saw a line of water taps on the platform! Having grabbed a towel, my toothbrush and a cup, I hurried down the train. I was determined to wash my face and hands, drink some water, and if possible, brush my teeth. But by the time I got to the taps, they were surrounded by large crowds of people. And some taps didn’t work at all! Finally I got my towel wet and drank a little water (which was not supposed for drinking!). I rushed back just in time to catch the train. Now it was time for some entertainment. Young people were not so easily defeated in bad situations. I found some young guys and soon we began to play cards to kill the time.

The second night fell. It was hard to fall asleep without lying flat on the bed, and then a good idea occurred to me: “Why don’t I get off somewhere?” The ticket was available for four days anyway and I had enough time to visit some place. So I decided to get off as soon as the day broke. The broadcast announced the next station was Jinhua, a city in Zhejiang province. Suddenly I recalled that my father had a friend there. Perhaps I could visit him. When the train stopped, I carried my bags and got off. Standing alone on the dark strange platform, I suddenly realized I had never met my father’s friend before. Should I go ahead with the adventure? Afraid and worried, I knew I should get back on the train again. But it was too late. The door was closed, and the bright warm train was pulling away and plunged into the darkness.

Now the waiting room was the only place to go. I found a corner in it and wanted to take a rest since it was still dark outside. Some people were chatting loudly. I didn’t understand their local dialect except the word “fight”, which alerted me. I knew at that time in many places, two revolutionary parties often fought each other. They had weapons! People on both sides got killed. So Jinhua was not a safe place. A railway worker told me that fight broke out almost every day. The red hot front was the street from the station to the center of the city. They made holes in the walls along the street, through which they would shoot at their enemy or anyone who happened to pass. They had submachine guns and grenades. Electricity was cut off in the city except the railway station. One might run the great risk of losing his life if he went to the center of the city. A kind old woman warned me not to go to see my father’s friend who worked in the downtown area. She assured me that the only safe place was the waiting room. And I should leave as soon as the next train came. But the railway worker said the revolutionaries were lazy and loved to sleep during the day. So the fight usually resumed after four in the afternoon and lasted until two or three in the morning. Young, curious, foolish and bold, I thought I would be safe if I went at nine and came back before two. Besides, secretly in my mind, I wanted to witness some fighting with my own eyes, as I had never seen people fighting with guns. That would be something I could boast about to my friends later indeed. So I decided to ignore the warning of the kind old woman.

It was really foolish of me to carry the heavy bags to the city. I should have left them with the luggage storage at the station. I walked through the street, looking around vigilantly. True, I saw holes in the walls. But to my relief, I was not the only one there. Some other people were walking quietly and quickly. Finally I found the company where my father’s friend worked, but I was told that he had left three days before. (To this day, I still haven’t met him.) Very disappointed, I had to go back. I ate some noodles at a small roadside restaurant and then found a local market nearby. Since it was still early, why not go inside to have a look? I might find some interesting and strange things. Well, I did find something I had great interest in: lard! Now of course nobody wants it. But in those years, it was really precious and valuable for anyone. Overjoyed, I bought nearly 10 kg of lard with almost all the money I had. When I was in the mountain village, we often ate just vegetables without any oil. The lard could last us for a long time! It was more than worthwhile for me to visit the place.

I was very fortunate to come back safe and sound. Soon after I reached the railway station, a strange noise“tut-tut, tut-tut”came from far away. People in the waiting room were not frightened as if it was a normal matter. “There it goes again.” they said calmly and even easily, “How many will be killed today?” Now I knew it was not fun at all. Who could guarantee that I would be lucky all the time? Taking departure was the best I could do. When the next train came, I got on and went directly back home-Shanghai.

The first person I met when I got home was my grandma, who stared at me in disbelief for a long time as if I were from outer space. Putting down the heavy bags with ease, I had a glance at myself. I was shocked by what I saw. I was in dirty rags with one toe coming out of the shoe. My hair must be in a terrible mess. Dark and thin, I was like an old peasant. No wonder my grandma couldn’t recognize me right away. “Granny!” I cried, which startled her and she blurted out quietly: “ Is it really you? You are back home?” Then she cried loudly: “zhi-tao is home!” She caught my hand and pulled me inside hurriedly and asked: “Are you hungry? Sit down for lunch now.” That was the most beautiful words I wanted to hear! Like a starved wolf, I wanted to gobble down everything on the table. I couldn’t believe the bowl seemed so small. It was just enough for only one mouthful. God knows how many bowls of rice I could finish. I felt I was in heaven. Everything was so nice and delicious. Sitting nearby and looking at me, Granny kept on reminding me not to eat so quickly. She assured me that there was enough for me to eat. I didn’t slow down until I finished the fifth bowl. And I ended up filling my stomach with seven bowls of rice as well as all the dishes on the table. But what about now? I still use the same size of rice bowls. Only one bowl is enough for me. I often wonder if my memory is accurate. It is beyond the wildest imagination. You see I can write down what happened 43 years ago in detail. My memory is out of question.

    What about the result of eating like that? I put on five kg by the end of the first week I came home.

 

 

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