His bare feet ached but he continued to walk. Ah-Chun had walked 12 kilometers to the city and back to purchase the rice seedlings his family needed. It was a warm autumn evening and the heat made the trip almost unbearable, but Ah-Chun continued to follow the path home and was greeted by his grandmother waiting at the door.
“You’re back! How was it?” His grandmother said as she embraced him. Her feeble limbs struggled to reach all the way around him but she gave her best effort.
“It was all right. I got to see some of the process of construction on a new apartment complex. It was so big!” Ah-Chun said with amazement. Throughout his 15 years of life, he only had the chance to go to the city a few times. He was not accustomed to seeing such innovation as he lived in the rural lands of China all his life. His family was too poor to climb the social ladder, so they remained living as farmers.
Ah-Chun set the sack of rice seedlings down on the ground outside the door. He noticed his parents were nowhere to be seen. “Are Ah-Ma and Ah-Ba in the fields?” he asked, washing his feet. “Are they still working?”
“Yes, they have been out working since you left at dawn. It has been awfully quiet today,” his grandmother said while ladling chicken soup in a small bowl for Ah-Chun. The sun was about an hour out from setting and he wanted to help his parents wrap-up the day.
“That’s all right grandmother, I will try to help Ah-Ma and Ah-Ba finish up. I will eat with them when we come back,” he said as started out the door.
The bright orange sunset was a sight for Ah-Chun’s sore eyes. After the long day of trekking to the city and back, he was glad to be home where he was most comfortable and no one judged him for his dirty clothes and rural lifestyle. He felt grateful to be living in such a beautiful place. Sure, living conditions were not ideal but he knew that this place had so much to offer.
Ah-Chun spotted his parents preparing the rice fields and approached them. His mother heard his footsteps and turned around. “Ah-Chun! You are back so soon! What are you doing out here? You should go home and get some food, you must be hungry, son,” she said as she yawned and stretched. From the looks of her face, he could tell it had been an exhausting day for his parents. They always work so tirelessly, Ah-Chun thought as he watched his mother and father work. He remembered the time it rained for a few days straight. When it finally ended, Ah-Ba ran outside to salvage everything he could and got sick. Even so, his father had not regretted his actions. Ah-Chun smiled. Everything his parents always did reminded him to persevere and always work hard. Snapping out of that memory, Ah-Chun walked over to get some tools.
“It is okay Ah-ma, I am not hungry right now. I want to help you and Ah-Ba before the sunsets,” he said as he surveyed the field. He walked over and went to plow the rest of the row for his mother.
The following day, Ah-Chun woke up and saw the sun shining brightly outside. He stretched and rubbed his feet. They ached from his trip to the city yesterday, but he overlooked it because he was eager to begin planting the seedlings in the fields. After putting his clothes on, he walked out of his room to find that his parents were missing. He peeked outside the door and noticed Ah-Ma and Ah-Ba talking to two men he did not know. They both wore bright orange construction vests and one held a clipboard in his hand. Ah-Chun approached them and listened to the conversation.
“We are hoping to start as soon as you leave,” said the man with the clipboard. His cheery voice was deceiving because of what he would say next. “Once you leave, this land could be used to create so many buildings and institutions!”
The contractors made eye contact and nodded. Ah-Chun furrowed his brow and continued to listen.
“What do you mean, leave? We do not even know who you are,” Ah-Ma said.
“We are contractors, and our client has hired us to spot land here in the rural area for building,” the first man replied. “My partner and I are hoping to use this land, and if you could leave…”
“We are not leaving,” Ah-Ba said with a frown. “This is not your land to use.”
The other contractor did not appear to be in a happy mood as his peer was. “This is not your land either,” he said. There was a hint of irritation in his voice. “You do not own this land and you definitely cannot buy it.”
Ah-Chun stood next to his parents in shock. Were they planning on evicting them from their home and destroying their fields? Tears began to well up in Ah-Chun’s eyes.
“We never got a notice, let alone agree to this,” Ah-Ba said with a frown. His arms were crossed and they could sense the tension.
“You will have to force us to leave. This has been our home for years and so much of our lives have been devoted to creating all of this,” Ah-Ma said, gesturing to the fields. She began to plead in desperation. “You can’t do this to our land. We’ve been living here for years and it is our home!”
His parents were not willing to give up. “Without documentation I know you can’t do this. Unless you get the paperwork, you are going to have to leave,” Ah-Ba said, authoritatively.
Ah-Chun could not comprehend what was happening. Were they going to lose their home? Where would they go? He looked to his parents and saw their eyes, pleading. Never in his life had he seen his parents, his motivation and symbol of strength, look so vulnerable in a situation.
The contractors walked away to discuss something. After a few seconds, both returned with, unhappy. “You all are delusional,” muttered the man without a clipboard. “We will be back, and next time, it will be with bulldozers and excavators.”
The contractors sighed and climbed into their car. Ah-Ba, Ah-Ma, and Ah-Chun watched as they drove away. It remained completely silent until the car was out of sight, and Ah-Ma sighed.
“They will be back soon,” she whispered. Although she spoke quietly, Ah-Chun knew without a doubt that she was not scared. Ah-Ma and Ah-Ba would not give up.
“We need to fight back,” Ah-Ba said as he started walking back towards the house. “And it will not be easy.”
Ah-Ma followed Ah-Ba towards the house. “Come on son, do not be scared. We will be okay.”
Ah-Chun stayed a while longer outside to watch sunrise. The land around him seemed so peaceful and still. When those men come back, he thought, I will not let them take this away from me.