Stalled in Life

Updated: 2012-03-25 07:48

By Liu Ce and Wu Yong (China Daily)

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 Stalled in Life

Zeng Lingjun and his wife, Wang Zhixia, cuddle their 1-year-old in their makeshift bedroom situated between two toilet stalls. Photos by Bai Lin / for China Daily

 Stalled in Life

Clockwise from top left: Zeng makes keys and repairs shoes at his workshop, which used to be a sink platform, in the tiny apartment. Wang Zhixia and 1-year-old Deyi sit on their bed while showing off Zeng and Wang's wedding photo. A computer and a TV set, two of the family's most valuable possessions, sit atop a small table tucked between two urinals, which are used as storage for their son's toys as well as other household items.

A family of three makes a home in a converted hotel bathroom, Liu Ce and Wu Yong report in Shenyang.

Zeng Lingjun is awakened from sleep by his son's crying almost every morning. Usually, the first scene that comes to his eyes is his wife nursing their 1-year-old son.

"This is the happiest moment of the day," the 33-year-old with a bright smile says.

However, it's hard to believe that the happy family of three lives in a vacant restroom in a hotel in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province.

Zeng, who is a shoe repairer, has rented the 20-square-meter washroom since 2006. He married his wife Wang Zhixia in 2010, and they have a son named Deyi.

The room is packed, and there is little room to walk about. The rent of the unused restroom is about 600 yuan ($94) per month, which accounts for nearly one fourth of Zeng's monthly income.

Walking into the "bedroom", the two urinals opposite their bed stick out. Their "bed" is actually built above two squatting toilet stalls. The other two stalls were changed to wardrobes.

Zeng describes his home as "small but complete". And when a lingering odor persists, especially when the weather gets warmer, Zeng fights the smell by flushing and also opening windows. "Actually, we've got used to this odor," he says.

Outside the "bedroom", in what used to be a washbasin, is their kitchen and Zeng's workshop. "It's not convenient for cooking, but I'm used to it," Wang says.

Zeng's various tools are scattered all over the room. There are dozens of shoes on a tall shoe rack, but none of these belong to the couple and their son. Zeng's own shoes are broken. He brought Wang a pair of second-hand boots last year as a gift.

Wang recalls that they didn't have money for a honeymoon so Zeng spent 500 yuan to rent a 90 sq m apartment when they married in 2010. The couple lived there for six days, then came back to their home.

"I wanted to let her experience happiness. I will buy her an apartment in the future," says Zeng firmly.

"What I want," Wang says, "is a man with kind heart, diligence and enterprising. He is the right person."

Zeng worries about applying for low-rent housing in Shenyang. Because his registered residence status is still in Heilongjiang province, his home province, it is difficult for him to get his application approved.

In the eyes of some people, their days are too poor to be happy. But Zeng and his wife don't think so.

"Take it easy. We are still young. Life will be better as long as we work hard," Zeng says.

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(China Daily 03/25/2012 page6)