Cen has a sunny disposition. she is positive about life and talks of the past with a great sense of humor. Though she did not have the chance to achieve her own dream of becoming a nurse, Cen is optimistic that her children are able to have better opportunities.  

C: 二十一岁就结婚了。

I got married at 21.


M: Is that young to you?



C: 是啊,在我们那里算年轻的啦。

Yes, it is young [to be] married at 21.


M: What is a more appropriate age?



C: 25岁,像我哥我妹都是三十多岁才结婚。

25 years old. My older brother and my younger sister got married at 30.


M: Why did you get married at 21?



C: 缘分到了。

I met the right person.


M: What makes him the right person?



C: 觉得我老公好啊,就跟定他了。

My husband is a nice person and I want to be with him.


M: Can you tell me more about his personality?



C: 他很好,比较温柔,很老实。

He is kind, gentle and honest.


M: Did you get married in a rural place?



C: 在家乡结婚。

Yes, I got married in my hometown.


M: How did you make the decision to move to a big city?



C: 因为我老公十几岁就在深圳这里打工了,然后我就跟他过来了,来这里十几年了。

My husband has been working here [in Shenzhen] since he was a teenager. He had been here for a decade already, so I came here with him after getting married.


M: Do you have any children?



C: 两个,一男一女。

Two kids. A boy and a girl.


M: How old are they?



C: 一个大的16,小的14,儿子14,女儿16.

My son is 14 and my daughter is 16.


M: What do they think they will do next?



C: 我女儿现在刚报读幼儿师范。

My daughter wants to be a kindergarten teacher.


M: What did you hope when you first moved here?



C: 我们也是在这边租房子,有个店面,然后他一直都是做那些工程,一直都是在这里,这边比较熟悉一点,回家里找不到好一点的工作,在深圳习惯了。

We rent a house here and we own a small store. My husband is working in construction. He has been here for a long time so he knows the place better than his hometown. We can’t find good job back home and we are used to living in Shenzhen.


M: How do you think living in Shenzhen will affect your children?



C: 我的小孩就在这边读书,没有影响,他也是在深圳出生一直在深圳长大,就像半个深圳人。

My kids go to school in Shenzhen and they were born and have grown up in Shenzhen. They are like Shenzhen local.


M: What do you like about having them grow up in Shenzhen?



C: 这边的生活水平跟家里都不一样,那些人啊,思想啊风俗啊,跟家里都不一样,那些人都觉得我小孩都不敢带回家,因为家里那些调皮的小孩都比较多。

The living standard is higher in Shenzhen than in our hometown. People in my hometown have different values and attitudes towards kid’s education. People in my hometown are so different from people in the city. I don’t like taking my kids back to my hometown because I am afraid that they may learn from those bad kids in the village.


M: How do your children feel about what you do or what your husband does for a living?



C: 没有说过这些。

We have never talked about it.


M: Do you think they know how hard you work?



C: 知道,我老公更辛苦,我老公做那些工程,就铁啊。

Yes, they know. My husband’s work is even harder.


M: What do you hope for your children in the future?



C: 现在没有什么,就是要听话,不要再外面做坏事就可以了。

Not yet. I just want them to be good and stay out of trouble.


M: I want to ask you what is the biggest part of your identity. Is it being a mother, being a woman or a migrant worker, garment factory worker?



C: 妻子母亲都要做好,做母亲比较重要。

I want to be a good mother and a good wife. I think being a mother is most important to me.


M: What kind of values do you think your children should learn from you?



C: 就要学到比较要有耐心,细心,我那个孩子说她要读幼儿师范,我就说你要学会温柔一点,有耐性一点。像那些小孩子,如果你出来教人家,那现在小孩都是个宝贝,你就不能很急的脾气,要学会,现在她还小,就还不懂。

I think they should learn patience and carefulness. I told my girl who wants to be a kindergarten teacher that she should be gentle and nice to little kids and she shouldn’t be a short-tempered teacher. Most kids are the only child in their family and they are the apple of their parent’s eyes. My daughter is still very young and I am afraid that she doesn’t know these things.


M: How do you feel about having two children versus having one child?



C: 有两个孩子比较好,一个那些性格会比较孤僻一点,两个孩子,虽然小的时候会吵,打一下小架。但是会沟通一下,有人说话,现在中国的独生子女很多的很孤僻,那些性格。

I think having two children is better. Only children can get lonely. Although two kids might fight with each other when they are little, at least they have someone to talk to and be with. I think most only children in families are lonely and introverted.


M: Do you have siblings?



C: 有两个,一个哥哥一个妹妹,我是中间的。

I have an older brother and a younger sister. I am in the middle.


M: Do you see them often?



C: 很少,一年才回一次。

No, I only see them once a year.


M: So they live in your hometown?



C: 是的。



M: Why did you decide to work here [in Shenzhen] and they didn’t?



C: 他们没有出来打工,我老爸在家里做点小生意,他们是不会去打工的。

My father has a small business to support the family so they don’t need to work in the city.


M: What did you dream about when you were a child



C: 以前小时候我就想去读护士,后来没有去报考,没有读。

I wanted to be a nurse when I was a kid but I didn’t take the test and go to nurse school.


M: Why not?



C: 因为我二哥出去读了,我以为我爸没有钱,后面我没有去考,他们成绩比我差的都考上了。

My elder brother was at school at that time and I thought it would be too much for my father to afford my education. I didn’t even take the test. Some of my classmates who weren’t as good as I was in school passed the test and went to nurse school.


M: Is there anything you would like to add, that you think it is important?



C: 没什么规划,我小孩读书,我那个儿子不是很好,可能读了高中就出来打工了,在这里买房子买不起,现在还没想好,见一步走一步。

I don’t have any plan for the future yet. My kids are still in school. My son is not good at school and he may start working when he graduates from high school. Buying a house in Shenzhen is too hard for us. We will just go one step at a time.



how does CEN think about her style?


M: Can you can tell me about your outfit [you have on]?



C: 我是在外面那个店,那个商店里买的,然后就是自己太胖了,比较难买衣服,这件穿上去可以,穿起来不会太胖。

I bought it in a store. It is different for a woman of my size to get nice and suitable clothes. I look good in this shirt. It won’t make me look fat.


M: Other than maybe disguising your body a little bit, what about the shirt do you like?



C: 裙子现在很少穿,就像这种比较宽松的,比较舒服。

I rarely wear dresses now. I like this shirt because it is not tight on me and I am confortable in it.


M: How did you feel about the color?




I like this color combination with red and blue. This color combination makes my skin white.


M: What do you associate with the white skin?




White skin can go with any clothes.


M: What about the pattern on the shirt?



C: 款式是这样的,在外面买的。

Nothing special, I just bought it in a regular store.


M: 那其他穿着呢,比如说裤子和鞋子,有什么特别之处吗?

What about the rest of your outfit? The pants you have on, the shoes, what do you like about them


C: 随便穿的样子,我们都没有讲究什么。

I just put on the clothes I saw. I didn’t think much about it [this morning].


M:Your hair, how do you usually wear your hair?



C: 就这样扎起来。好长了,太长了,都不舍得剪了。

I just do it this way [in a pony tail]. I have really long hair and I don’t want to cut it.


M: Why don’t you want to cut it?



C: 好难留的嘛,留了好久,不想剪。

It took me so long to have long hair like this. I don’t want to cut it.


M: What do you think long hair says about your personality?




I don’t know. I just think I look good with long hair.


M: How long have you had long hair?



C: 我也剪过短头发,就是刚毕业出来剪了短发,被我老爸骂了。

I have had long hair for a long time. I had short hair when I graduated from school and my father didn’t like it.


M: Why do you think he didn’t like it?




My face is big and fat. Short hair doesn’t go with a big face.


M: What about your glasses?



C: 眼镜啊,近视差不多八百度,我戴了二十几年了,十几岁就开始戴。戴着太累啊。

I have been wearing glasses for 20 years. I started to wear [them] when I was a teenager. I am shortsighted and my glasses are 8 diopters. I can’t see things clearly without my glasses. Wearing glasses is not comfortable.


M: Do you dress according to your mood? How would you pick out your outfit?



C: 没有,看到喜欢的就买,适合我穿的就买,一般选雪纺料的衣服。那种T 恤显肚子。

No, I will just buy clothes I like. I like chiffon so I buy chiffon clothes a lot. I don’t wear t-shirts because they make my waist look big.


M: What do you love about chiffon?




It is a comfortable fabric and it flows. Chiffon clothes can help disguise my body.


M: Are there any other fabrics that you like



C: 我好多件衣服都是这样的,也是跟,每年兴什么我都买什么,今年好像就兴雪纺料。

I have many chiffon clothes like this. I will follow the trend and buy trendy clothes. I think chiffon is trendy this year.


M: What other trends do you follow?




I don’t go out a lot these days. I will check [the trends] out next time. I also know about the trends from the Internet. 


M:Do you look at pictures or read articles?



C: 看图片,网上很多大号的衣服,在实体店很难找得到。

Just check out the photos online. I can buy clothes with big size online but I can’t find them in the shopping mall.


M: How do you feel about shopping online?



C: 一般吧,有需要就购一下,买鞋子都会买。

I don’t buy a lot online. I will just buy things that I need and I buy shoes online too.


M: When you go shopping here or in a market, what would you buy?




I will go to a big shopping mall to get everything I need, including daily necessities.


M: You said that you look at fashion trend online. Do you think about your age and the fashion trend or do you think that fashion transcends age?



C: 没有,现在肯定要,好像外面兴什么,哪个阶段穿什么衣服,不会说随便买的。

No, I think no matter how old are you, you should always know about trends so you can know what to wear at your age instead of buying clothes that are out of date.


M: How has your style changed as you have gotten older?



C: 没有,应该不会改变很多,我就比较喜欢穿年轻点,不显老。

No, I don’t think my style changes a lot as I’ve grown older. I like wearing clothes that make me look young.


M: What do you associate with being young?



C: 打扮漂亮一点,女人都喜欢打扮。

Dressing up pretty. I think all women like dressing up.


M: What do you think is the advantage of being pretty?



C: 自信

It will make you feel confident.


M: How would that help you in your life?




It will make me a sunny person.


M: Have you always been a sunny person?



C: 那个很开朗的性格,一直很开朗,所以我长得这么胖。

I have always been outgoing and optimistic. That is why I am fat because I am happy and I don’t worry a lot. 


translation by zhu lei