Friday, March 9, 2012
Gao Xiao Wei: Surviving in Beijing Subways
I wrote THIS ARTICLE (on 2 pages) about this handicapped guy who sings in the subways for a living. I think the article is pretty good, but totally unnecessary since when i got ahold of our interview's translation, i was like, "Wow, this is amazing. What a shame i have to take this and write it into an article."
Well, i post for you my translator's interpretation of my interview w/ Gao Xiao Wei. i prefer the raw version. You?
I was born in an ordinary rural family from Xuzhou, Jiang Su Province. I am 28 years old. I’ve had a lot of dreams since childhood. When I grew up I couldn’t pursue some dreams because of my physical limitations. So singing became one of my most important dreams. I have been singing in Beijing in underpasses and on the subway for five years.
My parents are farmers, and I have a younger brother who's in university now. My parents didn’t agree with me leaving the countryside. However, there’s nothing I could do if I was still at home since all the work there is physical labor. And being dependent on others is hard for me. Therefore, I chose to run away from home and went to the big city. Even if life is difficult here, I can live on my own.
I have been to many cities before I came to Beijing, such as Jinan, Weihai, and Qingdao of Shandong Provence and Changzhou of Jiangsu Provence. In Beijing I can have a relatively stable life.
After I arrived in Beijing I sold all kinds of toys and jewelry for ladies. But now singing in underpasses can let me live day by day better than selling things could before.
In winter, I sing on the subway everyday. I live in a basement, a small space. I only have room for a bed and a chest. I just go back there to sleep.
I used to enjoy listening to the radio because the radio helped me to know events around me better, though I was unable to act. But now I rarely listen because the signal in my basement isn’t very good.
I met my friend when I set up a stall, and he started taking care of me. He pushes me to the subway to sing, and takes me to the toilet when I need to go.
About the Medical accident
I caught a slight cold when I was three, and went to the small village clinic which wasn’t very proper. At that time, rural medical conditions were very poor and the doctor also wasn’t very professional. As a result, the doctor gave me an injection in the wrong spot, which led to a medical problem which caused me to lose the use of my legs. I was paralyzed, and my family rushed to save me without retaining any evidence.
On the one hand, we had no awareness about the law at that time, and it was difficult to sue doctors. On the other hand, the population in the country was small, and we all had close relationships with the doctor. So we didn’t have the nerve to sue him, and we didn’t want to cause any trouble. There were no consequences from any of this, and we think we were really a bit foolish at that time. Later, in large hospital, the doctor was sure that it was caused by the [country doctor’s] medical error.
With music, I’m like an amateur, without any skills. But I love music very much; I hope to have the opportunity to develop my voice.
I really like folk music. I also like foreign singers and hope to learn from them. Now I like Jay Chou and his films. I sometimes sing his songs in the subway. But I don’t sing the Jay Chou songs often because I don't want to sing anything noisy that makes people get off the train.
I used to sing the songs that I liked without considering the feelings of others. Now I consider how others might not love the same songs and will be more respectful to others. This is a change that life brings to me.
the most rewarding thing
Two years ago, I formed a band with two friends. We used to sing in a busy underpass at Wangfujing where the environment was very good. We sang with musical instruments. At that time, many people appreciated us, and we gave many interviews such as for Beijing TV. Later, one friend got married back in his hometown. Then we broke up just before our CCTV performance. Still, that was the best time of my life.
the most difficult thing
I felt lonely after my friends returned to their homes. The most difficult thing is that no one can share music with me and I don't have a partner. Now my work is just for food and clothing. I lost my passion. I hope to meet some close musical friends again.
I wrote a song about love. It was Valentine's night. The street was filled with a happy atmosphere and many boys carried flowers for their girlfriends. But I saw a scene: a girl asked to break up with her boyfriend. She said they wouldn’t see each other from then on and the boy stood there, almost in tears. I suddenly thought of myself; I had fallen in love with a girl, my neighbor. But because I’m disabled, her family couldn’t accept it. She treated me like her little brother.
Now she is married but I still remember her. Because of her, at that time I wrote many poems. Love is really wonderful and gives me a lot of inspiration on music. But because I felt so much pain from my lost love, so I burnt those poems. Now I can still cherish memories from that period.
Something I want to share
Music is an indispensable thing in my life. Music can give me peace of mind, to temporarily forget the suffering in life. Although my life isn’t very good (some people may think I'm a beggar) but I need more than just food and meeting the needs of the body. I also want to pursue spiritual things and I think music gives me a lot of spiritual comfort.
When I see other beggars, I feel that they’re more pitiful than me. Since I don’t just come out to make a living. I also like to sing. Singing is what I love to do, and I take it as a serious job.
I don’t approve of some beggars. The subway tunnel is very busy at rush hour, and some of them just keep hassling people for money. At that time, everyone’s tired and has their own troubles. They don’t have any obligation to help. But I can understand the difficulties of beggars’ lives.
On the other hand, I’m very afraid when I see the police. Now the management is very strict. At first, the police were very hard on me and I was forcibly sent home. Now their attitude is kind, and they can understand us, but I'm still afraid of them.
About organized begging
Life in a rural village can barely sustain you, but they didn't have enough money to deal with major issues such as serious diseases and children’s tuition fees and so on. So some families make the elderly beg in big cities to subsidize their families. A family can form a begging group. Then they don’t need to sell grain and their life will be better.