DOING THE DISHES

DOING THE DISHES

 

This entry was triggered by a talk given by a teen boy Chen Si. Currently we are retelling a story from the past journal entries. I ask the teens to review their written pieces and to choose one that they think worth retelling. When it is their turn, they will have to come up and share the story with the whole class.

 

Mr Chen Si told the class the other day:

 

I attended a get-together in a restaurant last year. In the toilet on the premises I came across a young boy about my age, who was mopping the floor. It disturbed me to see someone as young as myself working in the toilet. I asked the cleaner how old he was, how many hours he worked, and what his wages were. The boy told me that he worked long hours and got about 800 yuan a month.

 

Chen Si’s presentation above provoked another teen in the class, Zhiqiang, to write about one of his middle school classmates in his journal. Zhiqiang thought that the toilet cleaner’s experience was quite similar to that of his ex-classmate, which, too, helped change his attitude to the world.

 

Zhiqiang’s ex-classmate, Miss Yuan, had a dream in middle school that she could be admitted to our school, one of the best in the region. Having sweated over her lessons in middle school, the girl went through the high school entrance exam with flying colours. However, she could not afford the tuition fees and the expenses that it would cost her to study in the regional capital. Therefore, she had to give up the opportunity. Now the girl is a student of her high school in Danjiangkou.

 

Miss Yuan was unfortunate in Zhiqiang’s eyes. When she was a primary school student, her parents got split up, upon which neither party wanted to take her along. The court’s verdict was that she should be taken care of by the father. So she joined her father, who later remarried.

 

In the new household, the stepmother treated Miss Yuan badly, and the father was no kinder. She found that she could not stay with them any longer. She ended up being sent away to live with one of her aunts.

 

One evening last summer holidays Zhiqiang was taking a stroll in the street when he happened to see Miss Yuan doing the washing-up at a restaurant. It was high summer. It was so sultry that the girl’s face was red while she was doing the dishes. Zhiqiang was curious. He asked his friends about it.

 

Upon inquiry, Zhiqiang was informed that Yuan had to find a summer job to earn her school fees and living expenses for the coming term. The boss of the restaurant agreed to pay her 800 yuan a month for doing the dishes.

 

For two months the girl was working at the restaurant. Every day she drudged at the sink from 7 pm to 2 am. It was boring exhausting work, but Yuan did not complain in order to earn her education. Every night when she came back to her aunt’s after work, she was dog tired.

 

When it was time to go back to school for the new term, Yuan asked the owner of the restaurant for her wages. The boss tried to persuade her to work for him another two months. Yuan refused. Then he would not pay her unless she agreed to his condition.

 

From Miss Yuan’s perspective, education was far more important than earning more cash at the restaurant. She pleaded with the boss to let her go and pay the wages. In the end, the man paid her 1,400 yuan, instead of the 1,600 yuan, which was the originally agreed amount for the two months’ employment.

 

In his journal entry, Zhiqiang cursed the boss, calling him a bastard. He said that every time he saw the girl doing the dishes in the hot weather when most people were watching TV or having fun, he could not hold back his tears. Every time he felt an impulse to go over and say hello to Yuan, he bit his lip and refrained from it lest the girl should be embarrassed.

 

Not everything about the girl is hopeless, though. The good news is that Miss Yuan earned the first place in the last final exam in her high school. She is in one of the best classes in that school, whose authorities help her out by providing a generous scholarship.

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