Sunday, February 10, 2013

First Job in the Real World

I went to the Sichuan Forest Research Institute in May 1982, when I was almost 21. It was my first job in life. Together, with students from other schools and colleges, we had seven or eight students from different majors. The director of the institute gave us a tour of the institute and introduced us to the staff.
     Later on, the party secretary took over the rest of the matters. Besides political activities, the new thing we had never heard from above was “you are all young and going to fall in love, get married, and have a child.” “Let me warn you first, it is going to be difficult for us to take your future spouse into the capital city. A number of scientists and engineers waited for more than ten years before they and their wife and kids were reunited in one place. Unless you want to give up this institute for a smaller one, otherwise, look around, not far away; you will be happy and I will be happy.” I knew the fact that my own parents didn’t get together for 13 years was because they worked in different places. But you can’t start a marriage around without love. I felt offended. No one could control how and where love comes anyway.
      The second point the party secretary made was that if any of us wanted to get married, not to even try if the boy hasn’t reached 25 years old, or if the girl is not yet 23, even though the marriage law indicated 23 for boys and 20 for girls. The institute wanted to guarantee that every couple followed the late marriage guideline. If the institute didn’t give you a permit, you couldn’t get married.
      The third point made was for one older boy who was just married. We all listened anyway. When you are married, you couldn’t just want a child at any time. Even then, you could only have one. Each year, the entire institute’s birth rate was fixed or the mother who already had one child and became pregnant with another was required to abort the baby. For married people who wanted to have a child, you had to apply first. Then after the institute gave a green light, you could try, or else wait for the next year. If you were already pregnant without permission, you were required to have an abortion. We were all outraged by what she said. I was sure this was the real world; I wanted to go back to college with walls protecting us inside.
     The first I was paid, I gave the money to my mom to show my appreciation. It was over 50 yuan, 2.5 times more than a high school kid could make. My mom brought me a new girl's phoenix bike with a golden phoenix painted on the black bar. This was the best bike in China. It was made in Shanghai where most of the best goods were made at that time. I had dreamed to have this kind of bike since high school. Even with the money, it would be difficult to find one to buy. I had to carry this bike upstairs and downstairs from the third floor everyday before and after work since I did not want to lose it. My brother and my father also helped me carry this bike while carrying their men's phoenix bike.