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Faces of Belt and Road: The highs and lows of a Chinese couple working on Jakarta-Bandung rail
Source:CGTN Date:2019年05月07日


Wan Zulong and Li Li might look like a regular Chinese couple from a small town, but their story is a little different than their peers'.

They are working on the construction site of the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Rail (HSR) in Bandung, Indonesia, far away from their hometown and family in east China's Anhui Province.

The Jakarta-Bandung HSR is the first in-depth cooperation project between China and Indonesia, and China's first overseas high-speed rail project. The project's success will put the brakes on Indonesia's notorious traffic jams, and speed up bilateral cooperation between the two Asian countries.

Wan, 39, said he's proud that his company, China Railway Engineering Group (CREC), has sent him and his wife to work on such an important overseas project. However, working abroad comes with its own set of challenges for the couple.

Wan and Li, 38, met at an Internet café 10 years go, and got married shortly after. They have two children, a seven-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy.

Both of them work as administration officers on the project - Li at a branch, and Wan at a girder prefabrication site. Although their offices are just a 20-minute drive away from each other, their demanding jobs make it hard for them to meet very often. Most of their communication happens on instant messaging app WeChat, the Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp.

Wan(L) and Li in the office. /CGTN Photo

They also don't have time to see their children as much as they want to. Li told CGTN that she feels sorry for her family members, especially her parents and children. In 2012, before her predicted day to give birth to her daughter, Li was still working on the site of another project.

Their children were sent to their grandparents when they were a few months old. Li said when they returned home for Spring Festival earlier this year, their son could not recognize them. He hid behind his grandparents, thinking they were strangers. After spending 20 days together and as they re-established a connection with their younger child, they had to leave for Indonesia again. Their son was really sad to see them leaving. Li recalls he ran after their car, shouting "Please don't go!"

Hearing and seeing that, the couple cried in the car.

Their parents are in their 70s, and smartphones are too complicated for them to operate. The couple had to ask a relative of theirs to visit their parents and children, take pictures and videos of them and send them their way. When they miss their children, all they can do is look at the photographs.

A family photo of Wan(L) and Li with their daughter. /CGTN Photo

Wan said he would be lying if he said they don't miss their family and children. However, for their own sake and to provide a better life for them and give their children a better education, he and his wife have to work hard. He notes that they do appreciate their company giving them such a good job opportunity. With their company operating projects abroad, they need workers to travel. If it's not Wan and Li, someone else would seize the opportunity.

Wan said the Jakarta-Bandung HSR is an important project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He feels proud to work on the frontlines of this project, and that's why he's here in Bandung.

Despite the separation from children and their busy schedule, Li said working in Indonesia is fun, and that they have a great working environment. She likes the weather in Indonesia and is offered different ways to spend her time off work – from a library to a gym. She's also grateful for the cafeteria, where Chinese cooks prepare dishes she grew up eating.

She gets along pretty well with her Indonesian coworkers. On this year's International Women's Day, all Chinese and Indonesian female workers on the project went to Bandung, and watched a film together. It was the first time she had been to the movies since arriving in Indonesia in 2017.

The couple is planning on seeing through the construction of the project before heading back home. They're looking forward to bringing their children to ride the Jakarta-Bandung HSR when it comes into operation.



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