Life isn't cheap (2)

09:27, July 16, 2010      

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Sweaty rides

As a man in the banking industry, Wang has to wear a formal white shirt and black pants to go to work in the burning Beijing summer. Every morning he has to squeeze himself carefully in a congested bus and endure the sweat of the crowds. If he's lucky, he can get a spot close to the windows, where he can look at the view of this rapidly developing city. The bus flank a dirt road that has many empty buildings still being built, while the blank silver billboards on the side reflects the sky, advertising nothing but early July sunlight.

"When I take the bus in the morning, I love to see what others are doing," Wang said. "I remember many years ago in Beijing, people on the bus were always carrying something to read, a book or a piece of newspaper. But now, many people are sleeping on the bus, and they look as tired as I am. I don't want my child to be someone like me, tired and exhausted."

"China is transitioning from an agricultural society to an industrial society, but at the same time, stepping into a stressful society," said Li Lulu, a sociology professor at Renmin University. "In today's transitional society, wealth is the only criteria to measure success. This makes people anxious to achieve quick success and get instant benefits, thus for many parents, a better kindergarten education is an early start that could help their children to win at the starting line."

Falling enrollment

The number of kindergartens in Beijing dropped from 3,000 in 2001 to 1,200 this year, and although the Beijing government agency recently announced it would open more kindergartens, Li said that will not be a permanent solution.

"People today have realized that the society is very competitive, and they have to be very good to earn a life in big cities in China. They understand the pressure, and they have to push their children to study hard before their children lose the competition with the contemporaries," said Li. "Basically they have no choice."

After lunch, Wang Yang and her husband drove out under the blazing sun, and tried to find an English class for their kid. Most of the English schools will charge them another couple thousand of yuan at least every year, but they feel it is worth the cost.

"Now in China, every kid studies English before they go to elementary school. If our kid doesn't learn it, he can't compete with others in the school," Wang said.

They were also checking other kinds of school, and want their only son to learn piano, painting, and may be Chinese calligraphy. They have great expectations for Afu's future, no matter how much it will cost.

In the Chinese language, the word "Afu" means "good fortune."

After hours of school hunting, Wang's husband got tired and thirsty. He wanted to buy a bottle of coke, but his wife refused and brought a bottle of water from her bag.

"Don't buy drinks, take this, we have to save money for our kid," she said.

Source: Global Times
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