Today we walk around in a poor residential area, just 500 meters south of the modern Beijing business district (CBD). The area has apartment buildings and, in front of them, simple one room houses that are hidden behind a white wall, shaped in traditional Chinese style and built by the government. We meet Mrs. Huo Zhiqing who invites us into her small room.
The room is less than 10 m2 and is the home of Mrs. Huo, her husband and their youngest son. Her oldest son, Xiao He, is 14 years old and studies in her hometown in the Henan province. Once a year the whole family is together, during the Chinese New Year celebration in their hometown.
The room has no heating and no water. The rent is 400 RMB per month.
Mrs. Huo works as a cleaner in an office building nearby. Her husband makes money with collecting recyclable bottles. Together they make between 2000 and 3000 RMB per month. Except for the rental costs, they pay 600 RMB per month for the kindergarten of their youngest son and they send another 600 RMB to their oldest son every month. They find it hard to save money, especially because of the increasing prices in Beijing. Mrs. Huo says that it is sad that both her parents and parents in law do not live anymore while noting at the same time that they do not need to send them money anymore.
We ask if the poster of the horse, outside her room has any special meaning. However, the only reason that Mrs. Huo put the poster up is to keep the wind out of the room. In the winter it is very cold in the room (the average temperature in the winter is around minus 10 at night). There is no central heating system and it is not allowed to burn coal for heating in the room.
Still, Mrs. Huo says, the living in Beijing is much better than in her hometown. The landscape may be beautiful, but there is not much arable land. Most villagers go to big cities, like Beijing, to make a living.