Thursday, July 31, 2003

So you say you want a revolution. Caroline is the oldest Chinese TA here. She's 50 and has been teaching English for 30 years. Unlike the other TA's who are in their 20s, she has first hand memories of Mao and especially the Cultural Revolution which turned the society upside down, sending intellectuals and white collar workers to prison, closed all the schools and sent then-children like Caroline from their urban homes to rural villages to work on farms.
"I was sent away for 5 years, many hundred miles from my home. My father was a university professor and he was publicly insulted, made to wear the pointed (dunce) hat and sent to prison," she said. "We knew nothing of farming and the villagers knew nothing of us. Some did not want us because we were taking food from their mouths. We wanted nothing but to go home and go back to our families and schools. The happiest time I remember was when a plane would appear in the sky. People would shout: 'See the plane, see the plane!' And we would all stop working and stand and watch the plane." She gestured, making an arc over her head. "We watched the plane until we could not see it anymore, imagining we were on it."
She is entirely self-taught unlike many of her generation who have no skills and are now in their 50s without jobs or futures.
"They only stay at home. They are a lost generation."
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