A Poem About Happiness from a Chinese Stay-Home Kid

Here in HOK’s Corporate group in St. Louis I sit across the row from two brilliantly talented programmers in the firm’s Advanced Technology Group: Nag from Hyderabad, India, and Steven, aka ‘X-Dog,’ from Nanjing, China. HOK has offices and is doing lots of work in both India and China, so it’s always fascinating to hear their perspectives on the development frenzy taking place in their home countries. But this story is about the lives of the people being impacted by these historic changes – one life in particular.

Steven’s wife, Mary, also comes from Nanjing. The other day Steven asked for my help translating a poem written in Mandarin Chinese by Mary’s eight-year-old niece, XinXin, back in Nanjing. It seems XinXin needed to recite the poem in English to her young classmates and had asked for a little ‘outside’ help from her relatives in faraway St. Louis. As we spent our lunch hour translating a poem written by an eight-year-old girl who lives 7,000+ miles away, two things struck me:

1. In doing the translation, Steven and I discovered that there is no English language equivalent for a term that is very common in China: “stay-home kid.” Many children of migrant workers in the rural areas of China stay back home with their grandparents while their parents travel in search of work. Some of these stay-home children – like XinXin - are able to rejoin their parents if they are able to establish permanent jobs and homes in the city.

2. The poem is just beautiful.

Thanks to XinXin for letting me share a glimpse of life in Nanjing here on Life at HOK. Our poet’s last line indicates that she may one day be joining the firm as an urban designer!

我将幸福告诉你
I’m going to tell you about happiness

写给关心我的每一个人:
This is dedicated to everyone who cares about me:

我以前的名字叫”留守儿童”,
In the past my name was “stay-home kid.”  

我现在的名字叫”农民工子女”。
And now my name is “working-class kid.”

我要告诉大家,
I’m going to tell you, 

我的幸福在哪里。
Where is my happiness.

我的幸福在哪里?
Where is my happiness?

我的幸福在城市夜晚昏暗的角落里。
My happiness is in the dark, shadowy corners of the city at night.

虽然这里的灯光比城市任何地方都暗淡,
Although the lights here are dimmer than anywhere else in the city,   

但是这是我心中最明亮的地方,这里有妈妈慈祥的目光。
Because my mother is always with me it’s the brightest place in my heart. 

我的幸福在哪里?
Where is my happiness?

我的幸福在城市的书店里。
My happiness is in the bookstores of the city.  

虽然这里的书没有一本属于我,
Although no book belongs to me,   

但是这是我心中最神圣的地方,这里有免费的知识让我获取。
It’s the holiest place in my heart where I can get free knowledge.

我的幸福在哪里?
Where is my happiness?

我的幸福在城市最简陋的学校里。
My happiness is in the simplest, crudest school in the city. 

虽然这里的设施比城里的任何学校都陈旧,
Although the facilities are older than any other school in this city,

但是这是我心中最快乐的地方,这里有循循善诱的老师。
It’s the happiest place in my heart because I am educated by kind and wise teachers.

我的幸福在哪里?
Where is my happiness?

我的幸福在郊外的草坪上。
My happiness is on the lawn of the suburban playground. 

虽然这里没有游乐场,
Although it’s not a park,

但是这是我心中最自由的地方,这里有童年最美好的回忆。
It’s the most relaxed place in my heart because it’s the home of my most wonderful childhood memories. 

我的幸福在哪里?
Where is my happiness?

幸福在我生活的每一个角落里。
My happiness exists everywhere in my life. 

我沉浸在幸福的海洋里,
I am immersed in an ocean of happiness,   

我要把这个城市变得更加美好。
One day I will help this city get better.

One Comment
  1. November 19th, 2008 - 7:14 pm
    Valerie said:

    This is beautiful, thank you for sharing!

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