Humans Outside the Bubble

Features  /  by Isabelle Lee '21  /  December 08, 2017

Guan HongTao, a 37-year-old Chinese man, works as a security guard in a wealthy gated community in the city of Shanghai, China, the largest and one of the most populated cities in the country. He works from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM daily, seven days a week, a schedule that Guan does not consider tiring. However, his journey didn’t begin in Shanghai. Guan was born in Henan, a Chinese province 577 miles from Shanghai.

When asked about his dreams and why he travelled an extensive distance to come to a faraway city, Guan said, “I dreamed of coming to Shanghai four years ago in order to pursue my goals by starting my own business and, ultimately, provide a more wealthy life for my wife and children.” Like many migrants from rural China who travel to large cities to make money to support their families, Guan decided to leave his family and come to Shanghai in hopes of becoming an entrepreneur, and he is only using the job of being a security guard as a platform for his dreams. “I can’t be a security guard for my entire life,” Guan said.

The modern city is known to be a place of success, but there is another, more heartbreaking side to the opportunities it provides. Shanghai is flooded with hundreds of migrant workers every day, each with hopes of pursuing his or her career and starting his or her own business. However, the opportunities available are limited compared to the number of dreams, and not everyone is able to withstand the challenges the city imposes.

The happiest moments in Guan’s life are times when the paycheck rolls in and he is able to bring the money back home to his family. Guan said, “I am filled with happiness when I am able to return to my family with my hard-earned money.” Unlike most Lawrentians, Guan only gets to see his family once or twice a year, either during Chinese New Year Holiday or for a short time during Summer Holiday, he said.The trip back home takes about 15 hours, and he often only gets to stay for about one week or so.

Guan’s family means a lot to him, and besides earning money, his happiest moments are when he is able to bond with his family. Guan said, “Love is having your wife, children, peace, prosperity, and happiness; that is love.” Guan also said that love is an essential part in everyone’s life, and his most heartbreaking moments are when his own family members pass away and he is unable to spend time mourning with his wife and children. He said that the reason he works hard and wishes to start his own business is so that he is able to spend more time with them.

When asked about the saddest and most unpleasant moment in his life, Guan recalled, “My saddest moment was when I lost my family members, my own father and mother; without them, no one was able to take care of my children, and my wife couldn’t go out to work.” When Guan’s parents died, Guan was put into a troubling situation and had to take care of his children on his own. During that time, he was unable to make money, and his family underwent a tumultuous year.

Not everyone gets to experience a luxurious lifestyle, and for him, Guan said, money is the foundation of a wealthy and loving family. All Guan wishes for is to spend time with his loved ones, but without the money, he is unable to do so and is left with no choice but to work away from home and try to create his own pathway towards success, a road that wasn’t paved for him by his parents.

Guan’s lifelong struggle to earn money and support his family away from home isn’t rare among the majority of people in this world. As Lawrentians, we are privileged enough to be constantly given opportunities for success, but we often don’t take time to look around and venture beyond our enclosed bubbles. There are many people in this world who have undergone fascinating experiences that may be eye-opening for many of us, but what shields us away from knowing these experiences is our dedication to our individual pursuits and not looking beyond the scope of Lawrenceville.