Shengliver’s Note: This revised entry features one of my former teenage students, Mr Zheng Junyi.


Who Is Zheng Junyi?


Zheng Junyi is doing his last year of high school. He will sit the National Matriculation Test in June 2010. I did not teach him from the very beginning. He joined my class in the first term of Grade 2.


He comes from a village in Fangxian, a satellite county of Shiyan City. His home is in that village but only his grandma lives there all year round. His parents have been working in the city of Leqing, Zhejiang Province, as migrant workers for several years. My school is a boarding school located in the regional capital, so Junyi lives on campus most of the time throughout the year. When vacation comes, he goes back home to join his grandma in the hamlet.


The other day, Junyi did the daily talk in front of his classmates. Talking excitedly in simple English on the platform, he announced to the class a big piece of news—his parents would come back for the Spring Festival this year. They will arrive in Shiyan next week. We all shared his joy. It is two years since the boy stayed with his parents. For the past two years, he has been in touch with them on the mobile. I said that Mr and Mrs Zheng would be surprised by their son’s change. A teenager grows fast. The lad must have grown taller and stronger. I asked him, “Will you hug or kiss your parents when you meet them, Junyi?” The teens burst into laughter, for we Chinese are not that explicit about our emotions.


Two Yuan


I read Junyi’s journal entry for this week. What he wrote touched me when I was reading it. I think the boy in the story was himself. But he did not use “I” in his narration. Instead he used “he”. Shengliver will recount the story as follows.


A boy was staying with his grandmother in the hamlet. It was winter vacation, the Spring Festival a few days off. In the home were only the boy and the granny.


The boy missed his parents. “How I wish they were home!” the boy murmured. He knew his mother’s phone number and he decided to call her.


He reached into his pocket and fumbled there for the two coins he had saved. “I have got two yuan,” he said to himself.


He ran to the village shop. Besides selling groceries, the shopkeeper also had a payphone installed on the premises. The villagers who had no home phone often came and used the payphone calling their family or friends. And if a caller from elsewhere dialled this number and asked the shopkeeper to go and fetch someone he wanted, the shopkeeper would go and get the man. After a call, the shopkeeper would charge the villager who answered or made it one extra yuan apart from the rate for the call. A meter that went with the phone timed a call.


When Junyi reached the shop, he told the owner he would make a call. “I have only two yuan, sir,” Junyi said. The man nodded a go-ahead.


Junyi picked up the receiver and dialled the number he kept in his mind. It was a long number and he remembered it well. He had practised this number mentally so many times.


The line was through. At the other end of the line was Junyi’s mother.


“Mother, will you and father come back this year?”


“Dear, we wish we could. But you know, this time of year is when our business is best. And it is very difficult to get a train ticket. It would cost an arm and a leg. We are saving for your high school, son.”


“I see, mum. But I miss you and daddy,” the boy sniffled.


“We will come back next year, son and—”


The line went dead. Junyi realised that the shopkeeper had disconnected it. His two yuan was not enough for him to talk on.


Junyi put down the receiver and slowly trudged back home, where his granny was waiting for him to have supper.


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