Shengliver’s Note: The Chinese lad you will read about has finished high school and is in university. This entry was done last year when he was in the second year of high school. Life then was not easy for him. Shengliver wishes him well.


This entry features a Chinese teenager, Jiang Xianbo. Xianbo is one of my students. He comes from a county called Yunxi. I became his teacher at the beginning of the second semester of Grade One. He talks little and smiles are hardly found on his face. His hair is not regularly shampooed, and dandruff is a daily sight.  In the beginning, the boy was a puzzle to me. Little by little, as time went by, bits and pieces of his life story came out and completed the jigsaw.




The school runs several scholarships and grants to encourage the academically excellent and to assist those whose family have financial difficulties. Mr Jiang lost his father when he was very young and his mother remarried. It is clear that the family have difficulty keeping him in school. He should get a scholarship or a grant, but he does not.


Last semester, a new scholarship was assigned to his class. It meant that one student would get it. His class director gave the scholarship to one of the boys who did well in exams. Jiang told me in the journal that he should have been the recipient of the scholarship because he found the money his mother provided could not last him for the term. He had to use his money sparingly.


Even though the scholarship was not awarded to him, he did not whine. Even though the boy who was given the money spent it on birthday cakes and gifts, Xianbo did not hate him. “Life is hard for me, and I must hold on. My difficulties will only make me stronger,” he wrote.




“Shengliver, I know you like rain very much. Why?” he asked me one week in the journal. Xianbo likes rain too. But the reason he gave made my heart skip a beat.


When Xianbo was a young boy, he lost his father. His mother raised him and his younger brother. It was a hard existence. As a boy Xianbo cried a lot when stuck in a difficult situation. He came to like rain this way. One day he was running home, crying. And it started to rain on the way. Tears tasted salty and the rain that poured on him made the tears less salty. “I like rain because it tastes sweet,” he explained.




The suit and tie is not the Chinese national costume. Most people in China do not wear a suit and tie. When Xianbo was very young, his father made a promise to him. Every year, the father left home to find jobs elsewhere in the country. Before the father set out on a new trip one year, he promised Xianbo that he would bring him a small tie as a gift for the Spring Festival.


Xianbo got excited for he had never had a tie before. He could not wait for the father to come back home sooner. The father normally returned just before the Spring Festival.


The father did come back at the end of the year, and earlier than usual. When Xianbo heard the news that father was coming home, he got happy. But his happiness turned to shock and grief. The father came home in a wooden box, carried by some people.


The father was buried. Xianbo did get the small tie that the father had promised him. “I cannot remember what father looked like, but the tie will tie us two for ever. When I meet with difficulties, the tie gives me hope and strength,” Xianbo wrote in the journal.




Xianbo lives in the dorm and does not go home until holiday comes. He does not have a cellphone so he keeps in touch with his mother using the public phones installed on campus.


On Mother’s Day this year, he called his mother during the lunch break. He got through and started to talk with the mother. The talk had not gone for a while when the call was discontinued suddenly at the other end of the line. The last thing Xianbo heard was a scream from the mother.


A few days later, he called his stepfather. He told Xianbo that the mother was working on a mountainside when Xianbo called. The mother missed her footing and fell down the mountainside. Luckily she was not seriously injured, and she was recovering fast.


If we use an adjective to describe Xianbo’s life, it is bitter. However, the lad never gives up. Instead, he is growing stronger and maturer. Good luck, Xianbo.

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