by Claire Hou
Xiaohusai is a place brimming with stories, buried away like treasures, that reveal the humanity in us all.
This is the story of Wang Fang, a student at Mengku High School—the secondary school closest to Xiaohusai.
We stand on the patchy field of Mengku High School, Yunnan. Rubber soles pound against the turf as students race around the track like an angry stampede. A boy wearing a neon yellow t-shirt runs far ahead of the others, arms pumping furiously.
“My name is Wang Fang,” he says to us later when we find our seats in a hastily cleared office, harsh fluorescent lights beating down from above. “I’m sorry I’m late. I came here as soon as I could after class ended.” A glance at my phone tells me that it is just past 10 p.m. “I’m no good at school,” He laughs bashfully when we ask him about his academics. Instead, he wants to be a policeman, he says, so “Then I can beat up bad guys.”
His answer brings a smile to everyone’s face, and we ask, “What do your mom and dad think about your plans?”
“Oh,” He replies, smile barely wavering, “They’re in jail."
“Yeah,” Wang Fang continues, “My family is originally from Myanmar. We’re refugees. Mom and Dad got caught trying to smuggle drugs across the border, so I haven’t seen them in... a while.” Somehow, Wang Fang’s smile doesn’t leave his face, even as he tells us about the war-torn borders of China. “I feel really lucky,” he says, “I’ve seen refugees in the streets who don’t even have shoes on.” He pats his trusty New Balance sneakers.
“Although, things were pretty messed up before I came to this school,” Wang Fang muses. “One of my cousins was forced into an arranged marriage when she was 16.” He looks troubled, “She had already had a kid by then, but she wanted to abort the second one. I didn’t stay there long enough to know what happened to her.”
Wang Fang tells us about his life, back near the borders of China, stories that make us grimace in sympathy and incredulity. His best friend’s uncle killed himself when he was 22 by drinking pesticide, leaving behind two kids and a wife. He was bullied when he was young for being a refugee and having no money. “Everything’s better now, though!” He declares brightly, “I never thought I would say
this, but I love school!” He smiles, “My friends are great. I mean, I spend most of my time training and running, but even if I’m tired it’s a lot of fun to just hang around with the other guys.
“Time flies by at school. I’m really glad I came here.” His sneakers squeak against the tiled floor when he leaves.