Cui Yunliang waits for clients to pick up packages near the gate of Beijing Foreign Studies University on Dec 2. [Chen Xiaoxue / for China Daily]
BEIJING - Thanks to the Internet, Cui Yunliang spends much of his day riding a bicycle.
In rain, snow or unbearable heat, the 23-year-old deliveryman zips back and forth from every corner in western Beijing's Haidian district.
"Without the booming of e-commerce, especially Taobao (China's eBay), there wouldn't have been the flourishing of deliveries, nor our way of life," Cui said, leaning against his electric bike fully loaded with packages in three baskets - one in front and two across its back seat.
Cui came to Beijing in 2004 to try his fortune with others from his hometown of Zaozhuang, Shandong province.
A fresh 17-year-old junior high graduate, Cui landed his first job as a security guard that required no previous working experience or higher education.
But Cui gradually got tired of it. "As a security guard, you don't feel free. I didn't want to stay at one place day in and day out," Cui said.
Cui often chatted with the deliverymen who sent express mail or packages to the company he worked for.
"Compared with me, they had more freedom. They could do whatever they like after delivering their packages," Cui said.
So he decided to join them.
At the end of 2004, he bought his first bike in a second-hand market, which cost him 90 yuan ($13.5).
Since then, he's been through a few bikes-five pedaling ones and three electric ones, to be exact.
"One electric bike was worn out; one was stolen and this is the third," Cui said, pointing to his gray electric bike parked at the small garden of Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU).
"A bike is not a big deal. The worst thing is losing the packages," Cui said.
Because deliverymen work solo, they can't look after packages left with their bikes when they make another delivery.
Before 2006, the packages Cui sent were mainly documents from companies, so figuring out their value was difficult.
Now, the packages are mainly from online shopping, which have price labels - if they are lost, Cui can compensate the cost.
But losing one document can bring him a fine of 500 yuan from his employer. "So I have to be extremely careful about those documents," Cui said.
Delivery is hard work. Cui remembered his first day at work cycling two hours only to deliver one package.
Many of his peers left the trade within one year because of the hard work it involves. But Cui has stayed on, seeing its great potential for growth in the future.
"Express delivery began to take off in 2007. We had more and more packages to send. It became hard to finish a day's work," Cui said.
He has since turned to an electric bike to run the daily errands, and his income has risen from 600 yuan to about 9,000 yuan per month, almost triple that of an average new college graduate.
"I have too much gratitude for this job. I don't have a higher education, but I've improved my ability to communicate by dealing with different people, and made a living from it," Cui said, wearing a brown leather jacket and worn-out blue jeans.
He usually spends at least three hours on the road and another four waiting for customers to pick up or leave their packages.
Years of hard work have allowed Cui to secure a contract with his employer this June to get all the business around Weigongcun, an area centered around BFSU.
"Online shopping defies the weather," Cui said. "Customers are waiting for their packages, and we have to satisfy them."
Like most of his colleagues, Cui doesn't wear gloves when he completes a delivery.
"You won't be able to tell the authenticity of the money handed over by the customer if you wear gloves," Cui said, referring to another potential pitfall deliverymen are usually wary of.
"But I don't think my work is that hard. You see, I can rest when nobody comes to fetch packages," Cui said while waiting in the cold air.
Cui lives with his girlfriend-his high school sweetheart who just graduated from college this year-in a room measuring less than 15 square meters.
"The rent is not too high because there is no heating," Cui said. "Yet I'm satisfied. I think I will continue to do this job. After all, it's promising."
"2011 is my year," continued the deliveryman who was born in the Year of the Rabbit, which returns again in 2011. "That's when I want to marry my girlfriend."