Straight from the Source: Huang2 years ago
22-year-old Huang has been working in garment factories for about five years. Photo by Daniel Huang
I have been working in garment factories for four or five years. I am 22 years old now. When I graduated from junior high school I had nothing to do. Someone told me how good making clothes was and they introduced me to the industry. At that time I thought I was young so it would be good to learn something new. I started to make clothes then and I still do now.
I had many dreams when I was little, such as being a doctor or a policewoman or even being rich. I was so naïve then. Take the doctor dream for example. I am so scared of seeing blood. I once saw someone’s injury from a car accident. OMG, it was terrible. I couldn’t even look at the wound, let alone touch it. I even saw a dead body once. How can I be a doctor if I am so afraid of blood, injuries and death?
My plan is to work at the garment factory for a few more years but I won’t do it for the rest of my life. I will go back to my hometown to open a store in a few years. I just want to open a store, but I don’t know what kind yet.
When I graduated from junior high school, my mom asked me to keep studying but I didn’t. I was in a dilemma. My mom didn’t want me to work in the city at such a young age. She wanted me to stay in school but I was rebellious. I didn’t do well in school so I thought, “Why bother studying and spending money on my education?” I just came to the city to work so I could support myself. It was a very difficult decision for me. My mom tried to force me to study but I wouldn’t go. Honestly, I regret the decision a bit. I should have gone back to school.
For girls, it is better to learn something not so tough. I think I would learn to make patterns for clothes or something using electronic devices if I could go back to school. I want to learn something easy because I am a lazy person. I like doing finishing work for others so I don’t have to make everything from the beginning.
In terms of social life, garment factory workers like us don’t have time to take a break because we need to do overtime to keep up with production. I go out on public holidays, but there are so many people and cars during that time. I remember I went to a museum park once and I waited in line to get in from 7am to 10 am at the entrance. There were so many people there. For me, having a social life means going out shopping. Girls like shopping and buying cosmetic products. We should spoil ourselves from time to time.
For example, I once spent 2000 RMB (330 USD) to buy a set of Mary Kay products. It is a big brand that I can trust. I buy skin care products instead of make-up. It is important for me to take good care of my skin to look young and pretty because there is dirt and dust around the factory. When I first came to the city, my skin was dark but my skin is getting better with good care. I think it is better to take care of my skin as I grow older. Dirt around the factory may clog the pores in my skin and cause various skin problems. To help, I give myself facials.
Concerning other self-care, I rarely exercise. Firstly, I don’t have much time and secondly, I am too lazy. I will sleep late whenever I have a day off. I am so lazy that I miss the time to exercise. I also hate to wash my clothes because I am lazy. I think it’s best if there is a washing machine but there is no machine so I just wash the clothes myself. When I finish my shower at night, how I wish someone would wash my clothes and I could just lie in bed and play with my phone. But no one is there to help me. Even if I forget about them for half a month, I still have to wash them myself.
This interview has been edited. It was conducted on July 13, 2014 at the factory where Huang works in the industrial area of Yantian east of Shenzhen, China. You can read the original interview here
Primary Voice is a collection of primary source interviews dedicated to documenting the living stories of garment factory workers worldwide. It was created by urbanist Mikaela Kvan. To read more interviews and to get in touch visit www.primaryvoice.org