My best friend Wen Zhu and I met in our first job after graduating from university.
We both graduated from college in 2017. Although from different universities, we are both language translation majors. I study Spanish and she majors in Japanese. Our first jobs were in foreign companies in the automotive industry. We met in the workshop of a major domestic automobile factory, and we hit it off right away.
Wen Zhu and I are both girls from the north, longing for the distance, yearning for the water towns in the south of the Yangtze River. We chose to come to Suzhou after graduation. At that time, we often discussed how gentle and sweet the place names in Jiangsu are, not as simple and rude as our northern place names. I remember that the towns near our factory are called Bixi and Meili, and the dormitory of Wenzhu Company is in Liyan Port.
Our job is to follow Spanish and Japanese engineers in the workshop as translators and follow up production. Most of the time, the workers are working silently, and there is not much communication required. We just walk around the workshop. Wenzhu’s work station is not with us, but when the manufacturer does not need an interpreter, we often get together to chat.
We always have endless topics to talk about: talking about each other’s boyfriends, gossip about colleagues, our love for foreign languages and cultures, and our longing for foreign countries. But more often, we can only be active in our respective regions. Wen Zhu often holds a book to read, or writes and draws in a notebook. I know that she, like me, is not willing to be reconciled to this small square space, and has more pursuits and yearnings.
Dream of going abroad
Both Wen Zhu and I come from ordinary families, and I once went to Spain for a year of study and exchange during my college years; while Wen Zhu loves Japanese and Japanese culture very much, but has never had the opportunity to go to Japan. So, at that time, she always had a dream, that is, to study in Japan, and she has been working silently for this wish.
I often laugh and say that Wen Zhu really looks like a Japanese girl. Perhaps, as a powerful carrier of culture, language can really shape a person’s temperament and character to a large extent, just as Spanish led me to a world I didn’t know, and made me more enthusiastic and unrestrained. And Wen Zhu is very gentle and cute, even dressed like a girl from a Japanese drama.
Within a few months, Wen Zhu told me that she was leaving Suzhou to work in Beijing. I heard that there is another big company in Beijing that needs Japanese car translators, and the salary is higher. Wen Zhu actually likes her current job and colleagues very much, but she knows that her current goal is to save enough money to study in Japan, so she resolutely went to Beijing.
After persisting in this way for a few months, Wen Zhu saved enough money to study in Japan, and soon, with the introduction and help of his senior sister, he applied to a good university and went to Japan smoothly. At that time, I was still working in a factory in Suzhou, and my life was uneventful. Sometimes I wanted to change, but it was only three minutes of enthusiasm that did not materialize. Looking at her courage and courage along the way, I really admired and envied her at that time.
In the first few nights she arrived in Japan, she sent me a video in the rented room, and I was so excited that I almost shed tears in the stairwell of the factory. I am really happy for her: “Wen Zhu, you are amazing, you have finally realized the dream you have always had.”
Because of living in a foreign country for a long time, Wen Zhu broke up with her boyfriend who had been in love for five or six years during her stay in Japan.
After hanging up the phone, I also began to think, in fact, I have a South American dream? I have been to Spain, but Spanish is spoken in so many countries in Latin America, but I have only seen those places in books. Don’t I want to be brave and fight for my dream once?
Not long after, I also got an opportunity to work abroad, to Cuba for a translation project for a power plant. During the 20-hour long-distance flight, I listened to the songs I downloaded on my phone over and over again: “I want to go beyond this ordinary life, and I am doomed to be temporarily adrift now. I can’t stop my inner fanaticism, my attachment to the future…”
Inside and outside the siege
Wen Zhu’s life in Japan was not smooth. Although she still shared some small fortunes with me from time to time, she mentioned more difficulties and various people in life.
To keep saving, she pursued three part-time jobs while studying in graduate school. She told me how every day she put on a dustproof suit, stood on the assembly line, and put pieces of meat in the lunch box. Sometimes the meat falls on the ground, and she quickly picks it up and puts it in again, haha.
Night view of Wanguo Bridge in Yokohama, Japan
Maybe it was because of too much fatigue and hard work, and her health was not very good during that time. Because of living in a foreign country for a long time, Wen Zhu broke up with her boyfriend who had been in love for five or six years during her stay in Japan. All kinds of difficulties in life and study made her become a little negative.
Not long after, the new crown epidemic broke out.
Needless to say, everyone knows the impact of the epidemic on life, no matter which country they are in. I also suffered a lot abroad. At this time, we are no longer like when we just met. We are a little more confused, a little more worried about the future, we don’t know whether to stay abroad or go back to China, and we don’t know where the road is.
Wen Zhu called me one night: “…you know what? Although we are very similar, I am different from you. I really feel lonely in Japan, without a sense of belonging, without a sense of security… that feeling is so fast Swallow me up, I think I’ve wandered enough… I want to go back to my small county town…”
After a lot of struggle and thinking, Wen Zhu finally decided to give up his degree and return to China.
On October 11, 2015, the author participated in local festivals while studying in Spain
Those in China want to go out, those abroad want to go back to China, and even those who have returned to China want to go out again.
Perhaps because we are so similar, I often feel that my life trajectory is a bit following her footsteps. After she went abroad, I also went abroad. After she fell in love, I also fell in love because I was in a foreign country. The only difference is that over the years, I have traveled around in several countries in Latin America, but I have never returned to live in China. It’s not like I haven’t experienced that feeling of wandering and homesickness. It’s just that I feel that even if some problems can be solved after returning to China, there will still be new problems. This is life.
After Wenzhu returned to her hometown, she worked as a Japanese teacher in a high school in the small city where she grew up. It didn’t take long for her to fall in love again, and her life gradually stabilized. During that time, I felt that she was very happy, and I also felt that this job was very suitable for the gentle and considerate Wen Zhu. It may be because she is often with high school students, and she feels that she has become full of energy. Sometimes she tells me about the jokes between her and the students, and some heart-warming details. Compared with working abroad Life is full of chicken feathers, which makes me feel so comfortable.
I did think about it more than once, I am tired, and I want to go home too. I want to go back to my small town in my hometown, to accompany my aging parents, to be an ordinary teacher or clerk, with a salary of several thousand dollars, and to be content with a mediocre everyday life.
Until one time, Wen Zhu suddenly called me and said in a crying voice: “I want to resign. I really can’t do it anymore…” It turned out that some boys in high school were too rebellious, refused to obey discipline, and even insulted teachers. “It’s the first time I’ve been scolded like this… by my own students.”
I suddenly felt that her life was not so beautiful, just as Eileen Chang said: “Life is a gorgeous robe covered with Got lice.”
Hold on to the longing for the distance
People with courage are always so courageous, and those who love to toss are not afraid to toss again.
On November 30, 2019, the author took a group photo with local colleagues in Cuba
After the epidemic passed, Wen Zhu’s new boyfriend went to Canada to continue his studies, and Wen Zhu finally chose to resign and accepted a job as a high school Japanese teacher in Guangzhou. She still chose to leave her hometown again to pursue the life she wanted.
I don’t know why, when I heard the news that Wenzhu went to Guangzhou, I was surprised but it seemed reasonable. “The Shawshank Redemption” said: “There is a kind of bird that cannot be kept in a cage by nature, because their feathers are too shiny.”
I talked with Wen Zhu on the phone a few months ago, and she was in a good condition. In Guangzhou, her work is busy and full, and she has a good relationship with her boyfriend in Canada. Talking about the future, she said calmly: “Actually, I have no idea what the future will be like. Maybe I will go to Canada to find him, and I will also go to Canada to study, maybe I will go back to Japan…”
Next, let’s look forward to: Canada Keep going south to South America. She can come here to play with me, and then the four of us will drive for a self-driving tour, and we will take her to appreciate the different customs and natural scenery here. We are immersed in such a beautiful fantasy, as if we have returned to the innocence we had when we were in the Suzhou factory workshop many years ago, imagining how beautiful and happy life abroad is, how exciting it is.
Now that we are on opposite ends of the globe, we already know that neither way of life is easy, happiness is always hard to find. But we still like to dream, and we don’t need money to dream, what if it comes true?
I think of Wen Zhu’s dream of studying abroad. She didn’t get her graduation certificate, the scenery she had seen and the sky she hadn’t touched. Looking back now, what is the meaning of all this? What is the meaning of life? It is a stage one by one. At that stage, we have chased, won, jumped, and been happy, and that’s enough. Don’t ask about the result, don’t ask about where we are going. Because the last end is the end of life, and it’s just “all the palaces and palaces have been made into soil”.
We “moisten” out and “moisten” back, stumbling. The precious thing is that we still have yearning. But why is yearning not “besieged city”? People in the city want to go out, and people outside the city want to come in. Those in China want to go out, those abroad want to go back to China, and even those who have returned to China want to go out again.
It’s just that any problem in life is not solved by changing the location. “Moistening” does not necessarily change destiny and life; what can change all of this is our attitude towards life, no matter where “moisturizing” is.