My Story ~ 6. From “Falling Leaves Settling On The Roots” To “Falling Leaves Growing From The Roots”
“I think we should change the traditional Chinese thought that ‘falling leaves will settle on the roots’. We can let falling leaves grow from the roots in Australia. Work hard and struggle to make a living—my major life decision.”
It was on the 5th June, 1990 that I arrived in Australia. At that time, the reform and opening-up policy was taking place in China. So I wanted to widen my knowledge and see a brilliant and colorful world outside China and experience the difference between capitalist countries and China. However, when I set foot in Australia for the first time, I did suffer a lot from being unfamiliar with a new country and the language barrier.
Nevertheless, Australians were friendly to me. After a lot of arduous effort, I accumulated some savings and I settled here in Australia.
When I first lived in Australia, I worked hard although I didn’t master many technical abilities. I took several part-time jobs, from cutting vegetables on a farm to picking fruits. Washing dishes occupied most of my working time. Now I can’t remember how many odd jobs I have done. I was always changing my jobs. Others work for eight hours a day while I had to work twelve hours, sixteen hours or even eighteen hours a day.
Later on, I took a part-time job in a restaurant. The boss was a kind man and now we have become close friends. He was an Austrian while the landlady was Dutch. In those days, my wife was still in China with our children so you can imagine my loneliness and hardship in a foreign country. Two years later, several companions who came with me couldn’t bear the suffering and loneliness anymore and intended to go back to China. The boss asked why. I answered: “We can’t get ID here, so we want to go back.” He asked again: “Do you like it here?” I answered: “Of course, but we can’t get our ID here.” He told me seriously: “Australia belongs to everyone. As long as you step on this land, it must belong to you! You ought to stay here! If you like it here, you should keep trying for your ID .Then you are sure to settle in this country.” Many years later, when Australia News interviewed me, I told this story to the reporter .Those 457 workers were moved by my words. They say that if they had not known my story, they would have gone back to China.
Then I started to learn electro-welding and shipbuilding; later I started my own business, manufacturing ships. At first, there was not much profit. What’s worse, on account of switching to this business, an area that I had never been trained for, I had to keep on exploring and studying professional skills. Yet, generally speaking, if you make great efforts, you will be rewarded. Just as we do hourly manual work, the longer and the harder you work, the more the boss will like you, the more you will earn. Therefore, in my opinion, Australia, where we don’t have to follow hidden rules or depend on relationships, is a place for us to make a life; it’s a suitable country for industrious and diligent people to live here .
About “English”—-my ironic past
Soon after I came to Australia, I made a lot of stupid mistakes because I didn’t understand English. Now when I recall those memories, I describe them as: “I have forgotten all my past difficulties, but I have kept my ironic English in mind.” Read more
刚来澳洲时由于不懂英语，我们闹出过好多笑话。现在回忆起来真可谓“辛酸往事俱忘却，啼笑英语记心间。”当时我和其他中国工友的英语基础几乎是零，但幸好我们还知道“tomorrow”这个词。工头是一个很通情达理的人，每周一在分配工作任务时就扳着手指，把后天说成“tomorrow and tomorrow”,当然大后天就是“tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”，依此类推……我们都在心里嘀咕：幸亏一周只有七天，扳手指还能数得过来，要是数天数就麻烦了！有一个工友，只会几个英文字母，在Fremantle迷路了，焦急地给朋友打电话。当时根本就没有谷歌搜索之类的卫星定位系统，大家出行时都随身带着一本地图。偏偏他那天忘记了带地图。朋友安慰他说：“别急！你只要把你附近的一个路标牌念出来，我就能知道你在哪儿！”于是我那位“可爱”的工友就一个字母一个字母地艰难地读起来：”S-T-O-P……”,后来他被警察送回了家。还有一次，我去一家餐馆面试，老板让我十二点去上班。我当时还不懂得十二这个单词，始终听不懂他叫我什么时间上班，后来他就拿了一张纸张，画了一个钟，从一点、两点最后一直数到十二点。我就想：我的天呐，我一到十一都学会了，怎么不早点学十二呢！这家餐馆生意很红火，常常顾客爆满。有一天，老板着急地问我：“Any more fish?”我知道fish这个词，但不知道什么是“more fish”，还以为是一种鱼的名字，于是迅速打开冰箱，看着满冰箱的速冻鱼，扯着嗓子回答：“No More fish！”老板只得自己过来找,看着那些鱼，又无奈地看看我，哭笑不得……尽管闹出了不少笑话，但当时年轻，有股不服输的劲头，觉得英文也没什么了不起的，就是一种语言，多学多练就一定能学会。于是我把厕所、天花板、厨房、卧室等凡是眼睛能看到的地方全贴上英文单词，早上一睁开眼睛就能看到；开车的时候，不管听得懂听不懂，都把收音机打开，不停地磨耳朵；回家就打开电视看新闻。刚开始，我听广播如同听天书。但中国古话说得好“只要功夫深，铁杵磨成针”，我一边打工，一边学习，我的英语也渐渐熟练起来。 Read more
“Australia is my father, and China is my mother. If you ask me whom I tend to love more, then you are actually asking whether I tend to love my mother more than my father. This is a really tough question.”
My hometown is Shanxi. In October, 1990, I came to Australia as a visiting scholar sent by the State Education Commission. Three months later, I received an Australian scholarship, after which I transferred my study to a self-financed model and started my PhD program. After graduation, I found a job. My major was chemical engineering and I focused on the consultation work for the device of this field. Later on, I had my own shares and earned a lot. At present, we bid for the projects as partners, and choose the one which won the bidding. Then we subcontract and manufacture the products. Generally, there are four to five countries responsible for the same number of parts. The products are made in different countries, there are so many products to make, but only when the selected country has the expertise and ability to produce the product. Therefore, several countries combine to make the products. I am satisfied with my job. Through all the hardships over the years, my partner and I have reached a tacit agreement and things are going well between my subordinates and me. Now, I live in Perth, Western Australia with two kids and a happy family.
Actually, I planned to go to America as a visiting scholar in the first place. But due to many reasons, my visa was cancelled and was transferred to any other English-speaking country except for America. Via the reassignment by the State Education Commission, I came to Australia. My settlement in Australia was not without difficulties, because the State Education Commission disapproved of me staying in Australia and demanded that I return to China after graduation, even if the Australian government granted me a scholarship. Fortunately, the policy at home was soon relaxed. At the time, Deng Xiaoping delivered a speech, saying that the country should give the overseas students freedom to come and go as they wish, since they were rooted in China. At a result, I paid 800 Yuan as the national training expense, after which the Education Commission agreed to let me stay in Australia.
Australian people are patient and greatly assisted me when I arrived in Australia. They helped me with such things as cultural background, rules and regulations. Bit by bit, I gained a favorable impression of this country. However, during the first six months, I felt kind of lonely. After all, there were cultural differences, especially when I spoke with a strong accent—my colleagues could hardly understand me. But gradually, they became used to it. I have to say, Australians have a high level of tolerance towards these kind of difficulties. Now my family is here, and we have already blended into the Australian society. But up to now, my mind still boggles when it comes to the Australian Aboriginal language because I really cannot understand it. However, the Aboriginal language is part of the Australian culture. So I have to give it my best effort and become used to it, since I chose Australia and she accepted me. Read more
我用好奇的眼光打量着这个陌生的国度，这个曾经刻板地印在地图上或者在电视新闻中一闪而过的国家。我感觉到了澳大利亚的先进和富足。在那个年代，澳大利亚就有免费喝茶和咖啡的公共场所，能用微波炉热饭……所有这一切，对于我都是那样新奇。我强烈地感觉到，中国闭关自守这么多年，真的需要向国外学习，来到澳大利亚之后确实发现这里的科学技术比中国先进。 Read more
Before I left China, I worked at the Changchun Geography Institution of China Academy of Sciences. During the English language training before I left China, the English teacher who was from an American church gave every trainee an English name. I was called Mike.
I came from the countryside, where my ancestors have been farmers for generations. My hometown is called Yangmingpu, a town where the Japanese invaders built an air base which was bombed by Chinese army. After I graduated from high school in 1976, I worked as the chief of Youth League Branch of my village; in addition, I was the assistant instructor of the village in addition to being a militiaman. In the year 1977, the college entrance examination system resumed, and most of the high school graduates started to prepare for the college entrance exams. Although I had my high school education in my county, I was not good at math, physics, and chemistry, especially inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry. At that time education in rural schools was taught without textbooks and there was no standard curriculum. After I graduated from high school, I held an administrative post in my village; as a result I had almost no time to review my lessons to prepare for the college entrance examination, so I went back to county high school and prepared for three months. I almost knew nothing about choosing which university and major, but I did know most boys chose science and engineering, therefore I chose science and engineering as my major. In my last application to Shanxi Normal College I choose physics as my major. After I got the letter of admission, I knew there were one major normal college and one major university in every province which would enrol you if you were lucky enough to be selected. As a country kid, all I was thinking was that as long as I could be a university student, I would get a job and be able to earn a living, so I didn’t care which university accepted me. A Normal university was better, because they had free tuition, and students would get a food coupon and an allowance, so that was my preference. Finally, much to my surprise, I was admitted to Shanxi Normal University my major geography. I thought it was typing error, because I chosen physics not geography. I was worried, so I went to ask the Taiyuan Admission Office what had happened. Staff in the office told me they did not make a mistake, because the Department of Geography belongs to science and engineering. They also said the Department of Geography is the best department in the university. Students graduating from this department need not be teachers but could work at the Seismological Bureau, Hydrologic Station, and Land and Resources Bureau. I was very happy, so I studied very hard and achieved good results
As a child born and raised in the countryside, I knew that the Letter of Admission to a university was extreme important, it meant that I was no longer restricted to a life in the countryside. I slowly began to love university life. At that time students who went college in 1977 and 1978 studied very hard. I also tried my best to work hard; I was chosen to be the study monitor. If you wanted to be in that position you had to be the top student as the top student, I got the highest average scores when I graduated from the university. Back then, the knowledge and teaching quality of my teachers was not of a high standard. Most of them were from the May Seventh Cadre School, and they simply repeated what the books said, so we had to study on our own. I started learning English from scratch. However, after one year’s study, I took part in an English speaking contest and got very good scores in the non-English major group. I was the only student awarded the prize from my department, which encouraged me to study much harder. When I was a junior, I heard I could sit the Master’s degree test, I started to prepare. After the test, I got letters of admission from two different departments: Department of Physics and Department of Chemistry. I was the first person to get this qualification in my department. That year, only three students qualified in my university. I chose Changchun Geography Institution of China Academy of Sciences to further my studies. As a student from the countryside, this was an outstanding achievement. I was quite excited to get the Letter of Admission. If going to university was an important step in my life, to obtain a Master‘s degree would make life even better. Read more
研究生读了三年，毕业以后，分到中科院，单位很器重我，但要想出国学习深造那可不容易。作为国家第一批人才，单位不会轻易把人放走的。科学院出国名额特别多，我工作了三年，才拿到一个公派名额，做访问学者。我选择了温哥华的英属哥伦比亚大学，导师是一个亚洲问题研究所的主任专家。这一年期间，我们在一起交流共同做了一个项目，当时他提出一个新的理论，研究亚洲城市化和城市群的特征差异，很多学生参加这个项目，其中有研究中国长江三角洲、珠江三角及澳洲，我选择研究大连沈阳城市群，及新加坡城市群。导师当时鼓励我考托福，我得到一个奖学金，开始了我的学术生涯。 Read more