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In The Field - School Stories - Chen Zhipeng

Chen Zhipeng and his family are recent migrants from Anhui province in Northern China. As they settle into their new migrant neighborhood, the Chen family deals with strained resources, leading to questions about decision to move and their future in urban Beijing.

"He can do anything he likes... as long as its legal," said migrant worker Chen Wei Long* of his son Zhi Peng's future career plans. Former farmers from Anhui, Wei Long, his wife Kai Ling, and Zhi Peng have been living in Huilongguan for only three months. Zhi Peng attends the local migrant school, and Wei Long and Kai Ling both work temp jobs in the neighborhood when they can find them.

These days Wei Long has had a tough time finding odd jobs, so he stays at home. Although small and dusty, the family's one room residence is decorated with brightly colored advertisement posters for Fanta and Coke. Taking up about half the small room is a large bed covered in a thin plaid flannel covering and a Winnie the Pooh blanket at the end: presumably where Zhi Peng sleeps.

Wei Long explained the difference between his son's curriculum and that of his own education: "I only learned Chinese and some mathematics. Here, they teach the students more moral lessons," he said. Wei Long completed third grade and Kai Ling never went to school, so he explains "We are putting all our hopes on our son." Zhi Peng stared into the room from the edge of the doorway with deep dark eyes. "My favorite subject is Chinese," he stated shyly, "but I also like English."

Initially the family came here with some relatives, but they recently returned to Anhui. "I have no idea why," shrugged Wei Long. "It's easier to earn money in Beijing if you can find short term jobs, but the labor is very very hard." He sat on a cinderblock near the doorway with his elbows on his knees, his laughing eyes shine amidst the rest of his gaunt, weathered face. "I like it here a little better than in my hometown," he explains. "There's more opportunity." However, the Chen family has not found a strong community network here quite yet. "I don't have any friends here because I don't have any money here," he concluded with a light-hearted chuckle.

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

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