|Ten years later, reporter Li Wenjie reunited with Zhong Xiaoqin (middle), Zhong Qiwu (first from left) and Wang Jizhi (first from right) at Xiaoqin's home in a post-quake resettlement house. [Women of China/Fan Wenjun]|
Zhong Xiaoqin is from Muguaping, a village in Hongbai Town, in Shifang, in northern Sichuan Province. The village was a well-known summer resort prior to the earthquake in 2008. The scenic spot, with an amusement park and beautiful natural landscape, attracted many travelers from Shifang, Chengdu and other areas of the province. The locals became rich by operating agritainments. A family could earn tens of thousands of yuan during peak season. At that time, Zhong worked in the city's urban area. She returned to the village on weekends, and she helped her parents operate the agritainment.
Following a straight line, the distance between Muguaping and Yingxiu, the epicenter of the magnitude-8 earthquake, was nearly 10 kilometers. Only a mountain separated the two places. The earthquake virtually wiped out Muguaping; the tremor damaged hundreds of agritainments, felled countless trees, and plugged the river with debris. The agritainment operated by Zhong's parents was damaged.
Zhang Ping and Li Wenjie, reporters from Women of China English Monthly magazine, interviewed Zhong in July 2008. Zhong and her relatives guided Zhang and Li to the mountains on foot. The reporters wanted to see the devastation and understand the condition of the scenic spot after the tremor. Unfortunately, they were caught in heavy rain, and trapped for three days in the mountains by the flowing of debris in the rainwater. They witnessed the flood washing away the remaining buildings. The flood also swept away the furniture in the courtyard of Zhong's family.
"I feel such grief. The courtyard is not worth much money. However, my parents earned it through many years of diligent work. I have some happy memories about the courtyard. The houses in the village are proof that our villagers have escaped poverty and been able to live better lives," Zhong told Li at that time.
Zhang and Li had to remain alert, as there was considerable risk of aftershocks. They looked for food and water among the ruins. "We set up a table among the ruins. We placed the food that we found on the table. Zhong's sisters-in-law also cooked stewed rice and green beans, and she cooked a dish with pickled Chinese cabbage greens. We ate the food in the dark. We tried to be happy amidst the bad circumstances. At that time, I felt the moon was beautiful," Li wrote in her interview notes.
Ten years later, Li interviewed Zhong again, and Zhong talked about her experiences during the past few years. She became a disaster-relief volunteer after the tremor. Deng Jie, an actress who was born in Chengdu in 1957, donated 1,000 covers, after she heard that survivors needed them. She entrusted Zhong to hand out the covers to the people who needed them most. Zhong looked for a facility to store the covers, and she went to several temporary shelters to find out who could receive the covers. Finally, the covers were handed out to victims, especially some mothers who lost their children during the quake.
The villagers at Muguaping were organized to stay in Hongbai, a nearby town, after the tremor. Then, they used the subsidies given by the local government to build houses. Now, there are rows of two-story dwellings in Muguaping. The residents can exercise in a large square, and children can study in new schools.
Many young people have migrated to cities for work. Many middle-aged people earn a living by planting crops. Even though the villagers live in the town, most of them drive back to the mountains to plant crops. Some people have constructed temporary houses there, and they live in the houses in busy seasons. However, the natural conditions of the mountains are still not good. Floods often occur during heavy rain. "My cousin and his wife once built a temporary house in the mountain. The house was damaged by a flood. Recently, they have built a new house," says Zhong.
Zhong, a dietician, worked with some organizations, and, before the earthquake, she gave lessons to people who wanted to become housekeepers. She also ran a small clothing shop. After the tremor, she and her friends sold furniture on a commission basis, as there was great demand for furniture. They also offered decorating services, including making and installing plastic-steel windows for temporary dwellings.
Now, she is planning to open a spa that will provide acupuncture and massage services. "When I was studying sitology (the science of nutrition and dietetics), I thought the healthcare industry would be promising. Now, the health concepts of people are developing. I will grasp the opportunity and start my own business," says Zhong.
"I have become stronger during the past 10 years. I have had a better understanding of my targets and the meaning of my life. For me, nothing is impossible to overcome. I am happy that I will start my business, and that my daughter is studying at a medical university. Our lives will be better in the future," Zhong concludes.
(Source: Women of China English Monthly May 2018 Issue)