Reading Comprehension or Translation exercise "I fought for 18 years to have a cup of coffee with you"

A coworker of mine used this story in Chinese to practice her reading comprehension & translation skills. It's a story about the differences in opportunities for people with Shanghai hukous vs those in Rural China and could be an interesting way for you to practice.

 

Depending on your skill level, it may make sense to read the English version first (to get an overall idea of the story) or if you're advanced, you can go ahead and dive into the Chinese below.  Chinese version of the story from douban here.  Coffee image & English version from ChinaHush here.

 

Good luck.

我奋斗了18年才和你坐在一起喝咖啡

 

我的白领朋友们,如果我是一个初中没毕业就来沪打工的民工,你会和我坐在“星巴克”一起喝咖啡吗?不会,肯定不会。比较我们的成长历程,你会发现,为了一些在你看来唾手可得的东西,我却需要付出巨大的努力。
 

从我出生的一刻起,我的身份就与你有了天壤之别,因为我只能报农村户口,而你是城市户口。如果我长大以后一直保持农村户口,那么我就无法在城市中找到一份正式工作,无法享受养老保险、医疗保险。你可能会问我:“为什么非要到城市来?农村不很好吗?空气新鲜,又不像城市这么拥挤。”可是农村没有好的医疗条件,去年SARS好像让大家一夜之间发现农村的医疗保健体系竟然如此落后,物质供应也不丰富,因为农民挣的钱少,贵一点儿的东西就买不起,所以商贩也不会进太多货。春节联欢晚会的小品中买得起等离子彩电的农民毕竟是个别现象,绝大多数农民还在为基本的生存而奋斗,于是我要进城,要通过自己的奋斗获得你生下来就拥有的大城市户口。

考上大学是我跳出农门的惟一机会。我要刻苦学习,小学升初中,初中升高中,高中考大学,我在独木桥上奋勇搏杀,眼看着周围的同学一批批落马,前面的道路越来越窄,我这个佼佼者心里不知是喜是忧。激烈的竞争让我不敢疏忽,除了学习功课,我无暇顾及业余爱好,学校也没有这些发展个人特长的课程。进入高中的第一天,校长就告诉我们这三年只有一个目标——高考。于是我披星戴月,早上5∶30起床,晚上11∶00睡觉,就连中秋节的晚上,我还在路灯下背政治题。
 

而你的升学压力要小得多,竞争不是那么激烈,功课也不是很沉重,你可以有充足的时间去发展个人爱好,去读课外读物,去球场挥汗如雨,去野外享受蓝天白云。如果你不想那么辛苦去参加高考,只要成绩不是太差,你可以在高三时有机会获得保送名额,哪怕成绩忒差,也会被“扫”进一所本地三流大学,而那所三流大学我可能也要考到很高的分数才能进去,因为按地区分配的名额中留给上海本地的名额太多了。
 

我们的考卷一样我们的分数线却不一样,但是当我们都获得录取通知书的时候,所交的学费是一样的。每人每年6000元,四年下来光学费就要2.4万元,再加上住宿费每人每年1500元,还有书本教材费每年1000元、生活费每年4000元(只吃学校食堂),四年总共5万元。2003年上海某大学以“新建的松江校区环境优良”为由,将学费提高到每人每年1万元,这就意味着仅学费一项四年就要4万元,再加上其他费用,总共6.6万元。6.6万元对于一个上海城市家庭来说也许算不上沉重的负担,可是对于一个农村的家庭,这简直是一辈子的积蓄。我的家乡在东部沿海开放省份,是一个农业大省,相比西部内陆省份应该说经济水平还算比较好,但一年辛苦劳作也剩不了几个钱。以供养两个孩子的四口之家为例,除去各种日常必需开支,一个家庭每年最多积蓄3000元,那么6.6万元上大学的费用意味着22年的积蓄!前提是任何一个家庭成员都不能生大病,而且另一个孩子无论学习成绩多么优秀,都必须剥夺他上大学的权利,因为家里只能提供这么多钱。我属于比较幸运的,东拼西凑加上助学贷款终于交齐了第一年的学费,看着那些握着录取通知书愁苦不堪全家几近绝望的同学,我的心中真的不是滋味。教育产业化时代的大学招收的?
 

我终于可以如愿以偿地在大学校园里汲取知识的养分!努力学习获得奖学金,假期打工挣点生活费,我实在不忍心多拿父母一分钱,那每一分钱都是一滴汗珠掉在地上摔成八瓣挣来的血汗钱啊!

来到上海这个大都市,我发现与我的同学相比我真是土得掉渣。我不会作画,不会演奏乐器,不认识港台明星,没看过武侠小说,不认得MP3,不知道什么是walkman,为了弄明白营销管理课上讲的“仓储式超市”的概念,我在“麦德隆”好奇地看了一天,我从来没见过如此丰富的商品。

我没摸过计算机,为此我花了半年时间泡在学校机房里学习你在中学里就学会的基础知识和操作技能。我的英语是聋子英语、哑巴英语,我的发音中国人和外国人都听不懂,这也不能怪我,我们家乡没有外教,老师自己都读不准,怎么可能教会学生如何正确发音?基础没打好,我只能再花一年时间矫正我的发音。我真的很羡慕大城市的同学多才多艺,知识面那么广,而我只会读书,我的学生时代只有学习、考试、升学,因为只有考上大学,我才能来到你们中间,才能与你们一起学习,所有的一切都必须服从这个目标。
 

我可以忍受城市同学的嘲笑,可以几个星期不吃一份荤菜,可以周六周日全天泡在图书馆和自习室,可以在周末自习回来的路上羡慕地看着校园舞厅里的成双成对,可以在寂寞无聊的深夜在操场上一圈圈地奔跑。我想有一天我毕业的时候,我能在这个大都市挣一份工资的时候,我会和你这个生长在都市里的同龄人一样——做一个上海公民,而我的父母也会为我骄傲,因为他们的孩子在大上海工作!  

终于毕业了,在上海工作难找,回到家乡更没有什么就业机会。能幸运地在上海找到工作的应届本科生只有每月2000元左右的工资水平,也许你认为这点钱应该够你零花的了,可是对我来说,我还要租房,还要交水电煤电话费还要还助学贷款,还想给家里寄点钱让弟妹继续读书,剩下的钱只够我每顿吃盖浇饭,我还是不能与你坐在“星巴克”一起喝咖啡!
 

如今的我在上海读完了硕士,现在有一份年薪七八万的工作。我奋斗了18年,现在终于可以与你坐在一起喝咖啡。我已经融入到这个国际化大都市中了,与周围的白领朋友没有什么差别。可是我无法忘记奋斗历程中那些艰苦的岁月,无法忘记那些曾经的同学和他们永远无法实现的夙愿。于是我以第一人称的方式写下了上面的文字,这些是最典型的中小城市和农村平民子弟奋斗历程的写照。每每看到正在同命运抗争的学子,我的心里总是会有一种沉重的责任感。
 

写这篇文章不是为了怨天尤人,这个世界上公平是相对的,这并不可怕,但是对不公平视而不见是非常可怕的。我在上海读硕士的时候,曾经讨论过一个维达纸业的营销案例,我的一位当时曾有三年工作经验,现任一家中外合资公司人事行政经理的同学,提出一个方案:应该让维达纸业开发高档面巾纸产品推向9亿农民市场。我惊讶于她提出这个方案的勇气,当时我问她是否知道农民兄弟吃过饭后如何处理面部油腻,她疑惑地看着我,我用手背在两侧嘴角抹了两下,对如此不雅的动作她投以鄙夷神色。
 

在一次宏观经济学课上,我的另一同学大肆批判下岗工人和辍学务工务农的少年:“80%是由于他们自己不努力,年轻的时候不学会一门专长,所以现在下岗活该!那些学生可以一边读书一边打工嘛,据说有很多学生一个暑假就能赚几千元,学费还用愁吗?”我的这位同学太不了解贫困地区农村了。
 

我是70年代中期出生的人,我的同龄人正在逐渐成为社会的中流砥柱,我们的行为将影响社会和经济的发展。把这篇文章送给那些在优越环境中成长起来的年轻人和很久以前曾经吃过苦现在已经淡忘的人,关注社会下层,为了这个世界更公平些,我们应该做些力所能及的事情,让社会责任感驻留我们的头脑。
 

我花了18年时间才能和你坐在一起喝咖啡。

 

English version via ChinaHush

Reports on Rural China from Shanghai by Maizi (麦子) – a popular read on the Chinese Internet. Translated by Cathy

Cathy is a recent college graduate who tweets here. If you’d like something translated on ChinaHush or offer her a job, you can reach her at xiaosongbird[at]gmail.[dot]com

-----

Here’s a question I pose for my white collar friends: what if I never graduated from middle school, and had become a migrant worker? Would you sit down for a cup of coffee with me at Starbucks? The answer, unequivocally, is that you wouldn’t. That is simply not a possibility. If we compared our experiences growing up, you will find that for the things that you take for granted, I have sacrificed and exerted huge amounts of efforts to acquire.

 

From the moment I was born, our life’s path swerved away from each other. I was given a rural resident card while you got a city one. If I grew up keeping my rural residence, I wouldn’t be able to work in the city today. I would also be denied social security, and proper medical care. You might ask: “Why must you come to the city? Isn’t the country good enough? The air is fresh, and it’s never crowded.” But the country has no proper healthcare system. During the SARs scare our country seemed to “suddenly” realize that its rural healthcare was completely defunct. Plus, we have a very small consumer market. Because farmers make very little money and can’t afford much, companies refuse to distribute products in our areas. During the New Year only a tiny percent of families can afford the color T.V to watch the New Year’s broadcast. The majority of families are still fighting for their basic survival. This is why I want to be in the city. For the object you were simply born with, this city resident card, I have had to fight and struggle.

College was the only way out of rural China. I needed to work very hard to graduate from elementary school, to be accepted into a middle and high school. I was a lone traveler on a narrow and precarious bridge above a deep valley, and while I was on it, I watched my friends and classmates fall one by one. Meanwhile, the road ahead of me became increasingly narrow. Should I have been happy or worried? Because of fierce competition, I was terrified that any misstep might drag me off course. Apart from studying, I was never able to have a hobby or partake in extra-curriculars, not that the school ever offered any opportunities. On the first day in high school, our principal told us that we had only one goal during those three years– Gao Kao.(college entrance exam) So, during that time, I woke up at 5:30 every morning, and went to bed at 11:00 PM. During holidays, I was memorizing test questions.

For you, there is no question that you’ll graduate elementary school and go onward to middle and high school. The competition isn’t that fierce, and your homework load isn’t that heavy. You can take the time to develop a hobby, to read the books you want, to play basketball, to take excursions to the countryside to enjoy its blue skies. If you don’t want to work so hard for Gao Kao, and your grades aren’t atrocious, you can opt for a school who’s willing to recruit you without test scores. And even if your scores are indeed atrocious, a third tier university will still accept you. Meanwhile, I have to earn exceptionally high marks to get into that same third tier university, since universities demand more from out-of-state students.

We take the same test. The minimum score requirements for you and me are not the same. But once we’re accepted, our tuition fees are again the same. Every person pays 6000RMB per year – that’s for tuition only, which comes out as 24,000 RMB for all four years. Housing (1500RMB), and books (1000RMB) add up to around 4000RMB – and I’m only talking about eating cafeteria food the entire time. Four years of college comes down to 50,000 RMB. In 2003, a university in Shanghai announced that it was raising its annual tuition to 10,000 RMB due to the “campus renovation” That means 40,000 RMB for four years of tuition alone. Count in living and text book costs and a university education adds up to 66,000 RMB. For families who live in the city, 66,000 RMB isn’t much. For a rural family, 66,000 RMB is a life time’s worth of savings. I come from a coastal province that has been getting steady foreign investment. We were better off compared to some inner provinces, but still, after a year of hard labor, we were hard pressed to save much. A family of four who consume only the very basics can save 3000 RMB each year. That means to send one child to a four year college at 66,000 RMB a family needs to save for 22 years. That’s assuming that no one gets sick. It also means that no matter how talented the second child is the family must still deprive him or her from attending college since they can only afford to send one.

I was lucky compared to others. By throwing together all the funds we had, and by taking out student loans, I was finally able to pay my first year of tuition. Meanwhile, I watched those students who’d been accepted and the heartbreak their families experienced for being unable to send them to school. I felt a pervasive sense of wrongness. Our education industry nowadays don’t only recruit the best students, they recruit the students with the richest parents.

But, finally I found myself on a University campus! I worked hard and earned a scholarship. During the holidays, I worked to save spending money. I couldn’t bear asking my parents for money. Every cent they made was an exchange of their sweat. That money was sweat money, blood money.

Upon coming to Shanghai, I realized that compared to my classmates, I was green beyond belief. I couldn’t draw, couldn’t play an instrument, didn’t know who the hottest pop stars were, had never read a best selling novel, didn’t know what an MP3 was, didn’t even know what a Walkman was. To understand what our management professor was lecturing about during his class on “Warehouse style supermarkets” like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, I spent a day at “McDonalds” watching with astonishment. I’d never seen so much stuff.

I’d never touched a computer, so I spent half a year sitting in a computer lab learning the skills you’d learned in high school. My English is the English spoken by a deaf or a mute person. Neither westerners nor Chinese people can understand what I’m saying. But that wasn’t my fault. There were never any foreign teachers in my village. When teachers don’t even know the language, how can they possibly teach students to speak? With a poor foundation, I spent an entire year correcting my pronunciation. I admired city students for how talented they were, how much they knew. I only knew how to study. I’d only known studying, test taking, graduating, because only by getting into college could I study amongst you and become a part of you. Everything had to be geared and pointed towards this goal.

I could bear the mockery of my classmates, could go weeks without eating any meat, could spend my entire weekend cooped up in a library, could come back from studying on the weekend to see boys and girls dancing, could go running at the deep of the night out of loneliness and boredom. I dreamt that one day I would graduate, and find a job in the city. I wanted to work with the city-dwellers of my generation, and like them, to become a city resident. I wanted my parents to be proud because they had a son working in Shanghai!

Finally, I graduated. Finding a job in Shanghai was hard, but going back to the village was not an option. The average salary for our class was 2000RMB per month. Perhaps you think that 2000RMB is an adequate salary, but I still needed to pay for rent, to pay for utilities, to pay back my student loans, and to send money home to put my brother and sister through school. What was left, I used for food. After all of this, I still couldn’t join you for a coffee at Starbucks!

Since that time I’ve earned a master’s degree, and currently live in Shanghai where my annual salary is 80,000 RMB. I fought for eighteen years, and can finally sit down with you for a cup of coffee. I’m now a resident in this big, international city, and I’m no different from the white collar workers here. However, I can never forget the struggles my family and I went through. I can never forget my classmates who will never see their dreams come true. For this reason, I’ve written this in the first person. What I’ve written is nothing special. It’s the typical tale of those who come from rural China. Every time I see a student who’s been dealt same hand I got, I feel a heavy sense of responsibility.

I didn’t write this to complain. The terrifying thing isn’t that justice is relative. The terrifying thing is to witness injustice and to act as if one sees nothing. While I was getting my masters, I once had a conversation with a girl who at the time had 3 years of work experience under her belt. She is now the HR director of a joint stock company. We were talking about a marketing strategy for Weida’s paper industry. Her idea was to carve out a new market by advertising Weida’s high quality dinner napkins to China’s nine hundred million farmers. Surprised by her cocksureness, I asked her if she knew how farmers wipe their mouths after each meal. She returned my question with a misgiving look. I raised my hand and wiped my mouth on my sleeve. She looked at my graceless action with contempt.

During a macro-economics class, a classmate attacked blue collar workers who’d been laid off, and unemployed high school dropouts: “80% of them are where they are because they don’t work hard. They chose not to specialize in something when they were young, so they can’t get jobs now! Those kids are perfectly capable of studying and working. I’ve heard that a lot of students use their holidays to make thousands to pay their tuition.” You can’t find a person who knows less about the struggles of rural China than this classmate of mine.

I was born during the 70s. People my age are starting to become leaders and our actions affect the social and economic development. I wrote this essay for the young people who grew up in well-heeled communities, and for those who grew up struggling but have since forgotten. Pay attention to the classes beneath you. For this world to be fairer, we need to do what we can for others, to be aware that social responsibility warrants a permanent place in our thoughts and actions.

You should follow me on Twitter or add me to a circle on Google Plus → Brandon

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Tags: I fought for 18 years to have a cup of coffee with you, advanced, china, comprehension, exercise, reading, translation

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Top Member
Comment by Thomas Doherty on March 21, 2012 at 7:43pm

Here is that last comment in Chinese and Mandarin Pinyin.  I am not sure that a native speaker would say "eye opener" as an English speaker would.

 这是好事,读了30年期间在中国社会中一个人的经验。学院的学费是一个大开眼界。

 Zhè shì hǎoshì, dúle 30 nián qíjiān zài zhōngguó shèhuì zhōng yīgè rén de jīngyàn. Xuéyuàn de xuéfèi  shì yīgè dà kāi yǎnjiè.


Top Member
Comment by Thomas Doherty on March 21, 2012 at 7:35pm

It is good to read one person's experience in Chinese society over a 30 year period.  The college tuitions  are an eye opener.

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