Growing up in China

Text read by Mary Peters

Wenya shares moments from her childhood.

I was born in September 1972 in Tianjin, China. My grandmother was a little disappointed because she wanted me to be a boy. What a surprise! Okay, I’m glad I’m a girl.

I lived at the university with my parents, my sister, and my brother. My father worked there as a professor in the political science department.

The first memory of my life is in 1976. Tangshan was devastated by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, and many houses in my hometown collapsed. So, all the staff and families of the school moved to the playground. I ran excitedly back and forth between tents and open beds, as free as a child in a primitive tribe, completely unaware of the worries and fears of the adults.

In 1979, I started school. I had to walk across the university campus to my school every morning. I smelled fresh toothpaste and soap, and there was the boys’ dormitory with shirts and trainers hanging on the windowsill.

I saw the students, with their lunch boxes, walking to the canteen to get their food.

I found the chemistry department building ugly. It was grey and white, cold, and impersonal. Why didn’t it have warm colours like the houses I built with my wooden blocks? How beautiful!

I loved the outdoor cinema in the summer. I loved lying in the playground, looking up at the star-filled sky and walking through the beautiful flower gardens that opened the gates of China that summer.

One day, a teacher in the foreign language department gave my mother a gift. It was a tea that foreigners drink. It’s called “Coffee”. My mother handed me a cup of black water the morning after. Oh dear, the foreigners’ tea is terrible! My mother explained to me that it was probably bad or expired. Twenty years later, I can’t pass up that bad, expired tea every morning.

Life is so amazing!

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