Life & English: “A story in Shenzhen”

One evening as I left a McDonald’s fast food restaurant, I saw a young girl, 19 or 20 years old, she was kneeling and weeping between two roving fruit shops on sidewalk. She was wearing black clothes, and a white mourning headband. By her side was a small black box laid on a white coarse piece of cloth. In front of the box were some pictures, few Chinese coins and small paper-money. Some big Chinese characters were written on a large paper.

Although I could not read Chinese language, but the pictures, the coins, the mourning headband and the black bone-ash box told me that her close relative (her father or brother or husband) had died. She was kneeling to beg the walkers for a little money for traveling expenses to return home with the bone-ash box of her relation. The way was crowded with many walkers.  People were busy shopping. They did not stop or pay attention to the young girl. In silence, I gave a little money to her and then hurried away, as I did not want to see her kowtow to me.   

I thought the old story of selling body or doing menial work for someone to beg for money to bury father was a 19 century story, now could only see in films. I was astonished to see that heart-breaking ancient story happened in the first decade of the 21 century, in front of a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant in the center of Shenzhen, a rich and modern city. I was even more astonished when I saw many people coolly buy some mandarin oranges and throw these peelings near the suffering girl and the box.


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