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How to contain your life

Global Times)  09:16, March 11, 2013  

A well-dressed woman walks by shipping container homes in a suburban Shanghai village on March 4. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

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In Shanghai's Pudong district, there are not only glossy office buildings and shopping malls.

A dozen kilometers south of Lujiazui, the city's symbolic business center, some families, who survive by collecting waste, have set up houses inside shipping containers. This is a neighborhood of migrant workers in the village of Guijing, not far from subway Line 8 that threads its way downtown.

Living in a suburban village which hasn't been completely dismantled yet, some villagers have found new ways of making ends meet. Renting out houses has become an important way for them to make a living.

One villager hit on the idea of putting up shipping containers on his property and renting them out.

Some people use containers as canteens, but three families also live here besides the landlord. One could be identified only as Wu, as they were unwilling to identify themselves further.

The three families all hail from the same village in Anhui Province. The Wu family has been living here for five months.

The rent of 500 yuan ($80) a month is enough for a nearby room in a normal house, but Wu's wife accepts their current situation as living in the container allows them to use a nearby vacant lot to store products collected from the garbage.

Besides looking after her sons and doing housework, Wu's wife collects waste that is brought to her. "There is no place for us now in our hometown since we work far away all year round," she told the Global Times, explaining why the family didn't go back to Anhui for the Spring Festival holiday in February. Their main hope now is that their oldest son studies hard and can go to college.

Another family has two sons. They have been here longer than the first, over two years. Their oldest son has left Shanghai for their hometown, as he cannot take the gaokao, the national college entrance examinations, in Shanghai without a local hukou, or household registration.

They are very strict with their youngest son. He is pushed constantly to finish his homework, even inside the dim light of the container, as he is also expected to make it to college.

The third family has slightly better living conditions. The husband has a decent job while the wife stays at home.

Unlike the other families, she has no particular expectations for her two children, a son and a daughter. She is "satisfied" with their current life so long as the government doesn't force them to relocate.

The containers are not strictly allowed by the government, but the owner has refused to move them away even after being told to do so by the local police, nearby villagers told the Global Times.

The owner now lives in a container, too. He set up two cameras at vantage points outside, just in case local authorities may bring cranes to remove the containers in a surprise move during the night.

(Editor:WangXin、Zhang Qian)


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