Leng brings her daughter Zhang to work in the garment factory during her school vacation. She hopes Zhang will decide to stay in school after experiencing factory work. Leng encourages Zhang to complete her education and dreams she will get to live out some of her missed dreams. Leng and Zhang talk with one another just like any other mother and teenage daughter–some things just don't change across borders.


M: Mother  D: Daughter


Q: 你在制衣厂工作多少年了?

How many years have you been working in the garment factory?



I started work as an apprentice when I graduated from junior high school and I have been making clothes ever since. It has been 20 years.


Q: 这么年轻就在制衣厂工作是怎样的?

What was that like for you to be so young to come to work in a factory?



I have been apprentice for two year when I started out then I started to work in garment factory. It wasn’t as easy as it is now. I used to work overtime until 1am in the evening. It is better now and we only need to work overtime until 9pm.


Q: How do you feel about your mom’s story?




I think I should study hard so as to provide [my parents with] a better life when I grow up.


Q: 现在上几年级?

What level of school are you in now?



I just graduated from junior high school and passed the test to go to high school next semester.


Q: 对哪一门最感兴趣最喜欢的科目是什么

What are you interested in studying? What are your favorite things in studying?



I don’t think I excel in any of the subjects.



She is doing fine in all subject. She got the scores of 80 or 90 for everything subject. Maybe she likes English best.



I don’t think English is my favorite subject.



But your English score is the highest of all your subjects.



I like chemistry.


Q: 你将来想做什么?

What kind of job do you see yourself doing in the future?



If it were up to me, I would let her study fashion design, because she was so good at drawing when she was little. But she said she doesn’t like it.


D: 我什么时候说我不喜欢,我没想好。

When did I say I don’t like it? I just haven’t figured out what [I want] to do.


M: 她说她不喜欢。

You said you don’t like it.


Q: 你什么时候会来妈妈这边和她一起工作?

How often do you come and work with your mom?



When I am on vacation.



Summer vacation or other long vacations. I require her to work here with me when she comes [to Shenzhen].


Q: 小的时候的梦想是什么?

When you were small, what did you dream of doing?



I thought about my dream when I was little. I lived in a village and I was a wild kid back then. I thought to myself that although I was born in a village I wouldn’t stay there when I grew up. I would do whatever I could to get out of the village. I didn’t know what I would do in the future but I knew I would leave. My parents didn’t encourage me to learn more in school. All I thought about back then was playing around, not studying. When I grew up a little bit, my mom asked me to learn how to make clothes. I took that seriously. I was hard working and [when my skills were good enough] I finally came to the city.


Q: 除了缝纫之外,还有没有在这里学到什么技能?

What kind of skills do you think you are learning, working in a factory here besides how to sew?



I only learn how to make clothes. I have learned trivia things like doing choirs when I was in hometown. I only learn sewing.


Q: 你刚才说到你希望女儿学服装设计,我想是不是因为这是你未完成的梦想呢?

You said earlier that you want to daughter to learn fashion design so I am wondering if this is a desire of your own. Do you wish that you had done that?



Yes, I think so.


Q: 你觉得自己还有机会完成梦想吗是什么让你没法完成梦想?

Do you feel that you could achieve your dream now? What is stopping you from achieving that dream now?



If I had the chance, I would learn [fashion design]. I guess the pressures of life stop me from doing that though. I don’t think I have enough time or money to learn a new thing. If I [go back to school] I will have to give up my work at the garment factory. 


Q: 如果知道自己没法实现梦想,那有什么能让你感到生活还是快乐的?

How will you be happy in life knowing that you can’t achieve your dream?



Even though I can’t make my dream come true, my daughter would achieve that dream for me. If she can’t, maybe her kid can.


Q: 你会感到很大压力吗你?

Do you feel a lot of pressure?






I am putting a lot of pressure on her.


Q: 那这些压力会怎么影响你?

How does that pressure affect you?



I don’t think the pressure affects me.



Do you see…each of you, I ask you a question and I want both of you to answer. What traits do you see in yourself [that come from the other] or of yourself in the other?


M: 好像只有一点,像她爸爸家的人多一点,做每一件事很认真,就这一点好像我。

She is more like her father. There is only one trait she gets from me. It is that  she is meticulous in everything.


Q: 你是怎么想的?

What do you think?



I am more like you but I have my dad’s appearance.



Her personality is not like me. I am extroverted but she is introverted. Only her way of doing things is like me.


Q: 你爸爸是做什么的?

What kind of work dose your father do?



Making clothes.



My husband used to be a teacher. When I started to make clothes, he also followed me to do the same thing. We are doing the same work now.


Q: 你最喜欢自己工作的哪方面?

What do you enjoy most about your work?



I didn’t really love it back then [when I was younger] but it was the only thing I knew how to do. I have nothing else I can do so why not just keeping doing it. At least I can survive with the skill.


Q: 是不是因为遇到过什么困难让你有这种感觉?

Is there a particular challenge in your life that makes you feel that way?



No. How can I rephrase my answer. I learn [sewing] when I was young and have kept doing it for a long time. If I try to learn something else it may not be better than my current career. Making clothes is even harder than other jobs but I think that I have a knack for it. 



So I want go back to something earlier. You said your daughter visits you when she is on summer vacation and she has time off school. I want ask her where she lives for the rest of the time.



I go to a boarding school back in our hometown, Feng City in Jiang Xi Province. (a province in southern China and a neighboring province of Guandong Province ).



How do you like that, living in a boarding school?



I have to do everything on my own.



She is in a private boarding school. We can’t take care of her at home and she didn’t do so well in school when staying with her grandparents so I thought it would be better for her to go to a boarding school.


Q: 你觉得学校是怎么为你将来的人生做准备?

How do you think the school prepares you for life afterwards?


D: 我的知识,生活上会基本的照顾自己,自立一点。

I learn a lot at school. In life, I can take care of myself and I am more independent.


Q: 你的未来会是怎样的?

What does the future look like to you?


D: 基本没想过。

I didn’t think about it.



If you had to think about it now, what do you .. how do you envision it?



I just want a comfortable life….


Q: 还有什么是对你很重要的你觉得是教育,自己兴趣等这些广泛层面的东西或是自己的家人,那一样对你来说是首要的?

Is there anything that is really important to you? Do you feel like you prioritize your education or are you interested in the social part of the life or having a family?



Family is most important to me.


Q: 怎样才是舒服的生活

How do you define “comfortable life”?



Ordinary people’s life. Going to work and getting off work at a fixed time. I like regular life.


Q: 你对这样的人生是什么感觉?

What about that life appeals to you?



I don’t need to think or worry a lot.



Unlike my son, she is so simple. My son thinks a lot but she doesn’t. I think simple girls are better.


Q: 你喜欢深圳的哪些方面?

When you come to Shenzhen, what do you like about the city?


D: 繁华吧。

I like the hustle and bustle of the city.


Q: 深圳哪些地方吸引你呢是和你女儿的想法相似吗?

What appealed to you when you moved to the city? Is it similar to your daughter?



When I first came here, I think that it is easier to make money here and the weather here is nice. It is not cold here at all. Those two reasons are enough for me to stay [in Shenzhen]. 


Q: 你认为你女儿对深圳的看法和你的看法相似吗?

How do you think her experience of Shenzhen differs from yours?



It is totally different. As an adult, I need to make plans for the future. [I] thought about many practical issues, like whether it is good for me to stay here and whether it will help my daughter’s future to be in Shenzhen. Then I decided to stay here. [My husband and I] bought a house and we are paying a mortgage for it.


Q: 你也有儿子,你对孩子最大的期望是什么?

You have a son too. What are your greatest hopes for your children?



My son is in the office [here] now. My son’s personality is the opposite of my daughters. My daughter is a really simple girl but my son is imaginative, so I think I have higher expectations of my son.



How do you feel hearing that from your mom?



I don’t feel anything.


Q: 看来你妈妈的想法是对的,这就是我全部的问题了。还有没有其他想说的?可以是关于你们的个性或是关于你们生活中的重大事件?

I guess your mom is right, these are all the questions that I have. Is there anything that either of you want to add? Something about your personality that is very important or some events in your life that have a huge impact.


M: 实际上买房子什么的这些事都是大人的事,但是我就希望小孩子不要再走我们这条路了,太辛苦了,是不是啊,就希望他们多读点书,最少也要混个白领嘛,现在我们就算有那个心都没有那个力了,又要照顾老人啊小孩啊,所以你就没有那么多得时间去追求那些你想要的,所以希望小孩子就按照自己的想法,要比自己这一代强一些。

Making plans is an adult thing. For kids, I hope they don’t follow in our footsteps. Our job is tough. I want them to study well at school and at least become white-collar workers when they grow up. Even if [my husband and I] want a better life, it is impossible for us to achieve that at our age. We need to work and take care of our kids and parents. We don’t have time to pursuit our dreams. I hope [my children] can do the things they want and have better lives than we did.



How do you value creative work? How do you put creative work into your expectation of your children?


I will let them do whatever they want. Even creative work. We will be supportive of them.


how do LENG + ZHANG think about clothing?



I bought my clothes in a supermarket near here. I am very fat so I like clothes that can disguise my body and make me look thin. My daughter often wears sportswear and causal wear because she is fit.


Q: 你经常穿运动服吗?

Do you wear a lot of sportswear?



Yes, I like sportswear but I also wear other kinds of clothes.



In fact, what to wear has something to do with your age. Students like sportswear but when you work after graduating from school, you will wear more fashionable clothes.


Q: 那衣服的颜色呢? 为什么你喜欢这颜色?

What about the colors for your dress? What attracted you to that color?



Picking colors depends on personal taste and skin tone, right? If you have dark skin tone, you won’t pick dark colors that will make you look even darker. Your personality will also play a part when you pick up colors of clothes.


Q: 那你选的这个颜色说明了你什么个性特点?

What do you think the color says your personality?



I am more extroverted so I like bright colors. I think people will notice me when I am dressed in bright colors. I picked this color [teal] for my clothes because I have an outgoing personality. My daughter is different. You know why? It’s because she is introverted and she doesn’t wear bright color clothes. But I like wearing bright colors to attract attention. I think colors say something about your personality.


Q: 那你喜欢买什么颜色的衣服呢?

So what colors do you like to buy when you go shopping?



My mother bought these clothes for me.



She bought this outfit herself.


Q: 你会和妈妈一起去逛街吗?

Do you go shopping together?


D: 会



Q: 两人一起出去逛街买衣服时怎样的?

What is that dynamic like for you?


M:假如我觉得这套衣服好看,我就会问,这套衣服怎么样? 然后她就点头了,就让她去试一下,假如她没有点头,就不会试。

If I think an outfit looks good, I will ask my daughter if she likes it. If she likes it too she will try it on. If she doesn’t then we will pass on it.


Q: 你觉得你在制衣厂的工作经验会不会影响到你买衣服的选择?

How do you think that your experience in the garment factory affects how you buy clothes?



I think it does have influence on my clothing choices. I make clothes so I know the fabrics and how much they are worth. I will choose clothes worthy of their prices.



translation by zhu lei