Chang Huan (常欢) Chapter 3

Double update! ~v~

 

 

The next day I nevertheless went to work, going to a new student for the first time, their house was at the other [west] end of Shanghai. 

The season was already approaching winter: late Autumn in Shanghai is actually very pleasant, particularly on this street, where the golden rays of twilight spilled through the Chinese Parasol’s canopy of yellow-green leaves onto the ground, peaceful everywhere. While all the way over here, there was no [train] stations—refined in all aspects.

But. I know clearly the reason why. It was not at all because I had the leisure to travel from one end [of Shanghai] to another [just to sightsee], rather it was because the driver had told me to come—this caused me to directly get off on another road and hence had to walk the entire long distance to my destination. That’s right, the reasonings of the poor will never have anything to do with the dissipated life – this is the reality.

Time was tight; I nearly ran the entire way.

After the lesson today, the Chinese Classics professor had called me. She was a very fashionable middle-aged woman who wore skirts all year round, with that pair of winter boots, the toes of her shoes always shiny—and when speaking, she’d always be able to see through me regardless of me keeping my head down. 

The problem had been about the school assignment: she said that the others had already given her their ideas in accordance to her web bibliography list of focus tips – only I still lacked a concrete answer.

I explained to her quietly: because I didn’t get to borrow several books from the library, and books from other students are also in use, I will try to find a way, or instead wait, until they finish using it, to borrow.

In reality, it was because the other students didn’t at all want to lend me their books, but these things, even if I’d told her, she would not be able to help—it’d be better for me to just keep quiet. 

She told me that I could also buy the books, because they were indeed very useful, also told me the address, said that the textbooks of that field from that particular [franchise], must buy.

I nodded while my heart began to calculate the costs, these textbooks are not cheap, however I really do need them. These things one could not do without, that I know. 

With this delay, I’d grown very nervous by the time I was rushing to class. I sped up my steps while keeping eyes on both sides of the road for the address plaques. Old-fashioned houses lined the street; in between them were exquisite shops, small jewelry stores, hand-tailoring Cheongsam ateliers, as well as shoe stores, meanwhile my reflection in the various shops’ display windows—that sorry figure rushing past—stuck out like a sore thumb.

Finally, I saw a wine gallery, occupying the bottom floor of a storied building while facing the street, the fences a profound green, and placed on the front door was a blackboard sign with the hour of today’s wine-tasting written on it. Although the sky was not yet dark, the light was bright inside that place, illuminating the rows of vintage wine cellars. Inside the garden, waiters in black and white uniforms quietly walked around with trays in their hands. The tables had already been well set up with snow white plates laid over wine-red tablecloths: every angles of this arrangement rendered people unwilling to look away.

Even I became so entranced I could not move for a few seconds. 

After that, I noticed that the blackboard sign actually, other than what I’d initially seen, had another row of easy-to-miss-sized letters: a job posting. The part-time recruitment was written at the top in chinese and english, basically it was an evening shift, with basic salary and even a commission—definitely favourable treatments.

I walked over and carefully read the term of employment that had been written very simply: requiring nothing else but to have all the common five sense organs (t/n: nose, eyes, lips, tongue and ears), to be fluent in English conversations, and even better if familiar with wine.

The sky had finally turned dark, hence I did not have time to stay, only getting to glance over one more time before I had to continue moving forward—after three steps, I turned around again. For a split second all the lights in that garden seemed to light up, seemingly a paradise. 

The two hours of tutoring was lackluster; the student was a girl in her second year of junior middle school who solved math problems as if she was ingesting poison. When I told her to explain the idea, her yawning was incessant. She then lied on the desk and looked at me. 

“Teacher, my mom said that she’s sending me to Australia for high school. Shanghai these past two days are cold to death, my uncle is over there. I chatted with my younger sister (on msn) yesterday and she said that she’s waiting to go surfing with me during the holiday. What do you plan to do during the holiday?” 

I smiled and took her English test paper, then used english to say: “So you need more English speaking practicing, right?

[t/n: the italicized phrase is actually the original text]

She rolled her eyes, probably thinking that I’m that type of dull and boring person. 

I was not qualified to have fun; after all, I was still thinking of those Chinese Classics textbooks.

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Chang Huan (常欢) Chapter 2

Just like that, I dragged a simple suitcase to take the train to Shanghai and got into the university dorm. 

I got into the best university in Shanghai due to my good performances. After settling down, I carefully calculated the money in the bank account, finding part-time and tutoring jobs to make a living. 

My grades were the only thing I was proud of, apart from that, my university life was pretty much lackluster, nothing to write home about. The majority of the fellow students are Shanghai born and bred; they also dressed fashionably, completely incompatible with me. My dorm-mate, Fei Chun Ni, [was also pretty young when she first moved here from an educated family]—well, in any case, she still had something a little in common with me. Chun Ni has an uncle living here in Shanghai, but just like me, she wasn’t welcome. 

At that time, everybody’s living space in the city was narrow and cramped, [generation after generation the old and the young were crowded together], so they’d be unhesitant to look on with hostility at outsiders who’d show any hints of trying to invade and squeeze into their already small spaces. Back then I really felt the chilling coldness of humanity, and yet right now I completely understand it—if you cannot even ensure and safeguard your own shelter, who are you to ask them to be kind to outsiders? 

Compared with me, Chun Ni is much more livelier and very quickly got herself acquainted with the city. During break she’d drag me to window-shop at the People’s Square, but we’re both not very rich — extremely poor, in fact — still, she’d been very excited, so I could only, for the rest of the time, stuff my hands inside my pockets and smile. 

I also like being pretty — having and wearing pretty things — but I’ve long made up my mind not to depend on a single cent from back home, so now is not the time. 

Chun Ni had bought her first pair of boots then, spending a hundred and thirty five yuan, which was nearly a month of living expenses. She couldn’t wait to change into the new shoes right at the store, and after that was even more unwilling to take it off, so in the end she returned with her old pair of shoes stuffed inside the new shoebox.

Before school started I laughed at her for being like a mouse who couldn’t wait overnight to eat — couldn’t even wait one day, that excited to let the dorm security guard uncle see you come back so prettily? She grabbed my arm and replied, “Chang Huan, I don’t want to wait anymore, I want to dress up prettily just like the city girls, even for one day I don’t want to wait.” 

It was a Sunday — the Shanghai city girls who had previously gone home over the weekend to visit had finally returned, immediately noticing Chun Ni’s new boots. Amongst them, one opened her mouth and said, “new boots ah.”

Usually they rarely talked with us, Chun Ni laughed and was going to answer, but that girl continued walking towards us [holding a water basin for the shower], “Must be fake leather right? It looks just as hard as a cardboard.”

Chun Ni froze in her place, my heart also felt cold, but I still took her hand and advised, “Don’t mind them. I think the shoes are pretty.”

Suddenly she shook off my hand and yelled, “What good use is there in you thinking it’s pretty!” 

The next day Chun Ni apologized to me when I was about to leave for the library. I smiled and said that it was nothing, also asked her if she wanted me to save a seat.

We appeared to have reconciled, but I never saw her wore those boots again. Just like that, the shoes seemed like it was short-lived, and soon disappeared. After that, Chun Ni always returned late to the dorm, also started to dress differently and stopped visiting the stores. 

One day two months later, she still didn’t return overnight, causing me to panic when I checked her bed, [fortunately she’d slept in the upper bunk and put away the blankets before she left, and in fact was safe and sound.] 

The next day, Chun Ni came to school in a car, on her feet were a pair of black sheepskin boots,  the bag in her hand had a gleaming golden handle.  

I didn’t know what happened, and Chun Ni also didn’t say anything, one time I accompanied her out of the school I saw again that car, there was a man that had pulled up, rolled down the window and looked at her with a smile, his gaze sharp, even under broad day light could make a person feel naked. At the same time she took a step back, as if she’d just seen a ghost. 

That episode shocked me greatly, I couldn’t sleep that night after returning back to the dorm, could only force myself to shut my eyes in the dark, had a hazy dream. I woke up in sweats and immediately got out of bed to find my suitcase and the bank book inside, it was only until my hand found that wrinkled cover that I finally made the decision.

The remaining money that I had — half of it will be used to pay this semester’s tuition, leaving just barely enough for me to pay for the next one. I definitely can not afford to be envying anyone due to a pair of sheepskin boots and a bag, because if this [bank deposit book] becomes empty……

I shuddered in the dark.

Ever since I started school I work all the time as a tutor as well as a part-timer at McDonald’s, would always frequently have to rush to the 24/7 restaurant to work the nightshift only after I finished dealing with the stubborn and mischievous junior high-schoolers. 

The regular hourly rate at McDonald’s is 7.5 RMB, while for the night shift it’s a little bit more at 9 RMB, so of course I immediately applied for the night shift in order to earn as much as I could while I can; moreover it also had fringe benefits like subsidized meals (free burgers) — at least I could save money on dinner. 

The tutoring job that paid 20 yuan an hour was not stable; once I went to a male junior school student’s house, his home was in Songjiang (suburban district of Shanghai), took me three transfers to get there. Just his room was twice as big as that small house I’ve lived in for more than ten years; out the window you could see the vibrant green view of Sheshan Hill. [He raised his foot to play games], watched me from the corner of his eyes. Later in the middle of the lecture he stretched his hand towards me and into the collar of my shirt. I gave him a slap to the face, and then his mom shuffled me out the door.

Even so, the income from working the two jobs is just enough to sustain me; I once again think of Chun Ni—I definitely would not, because of a pair of boots and a bag, change who I am, but I need money. 

Once again before I go to sleep, I decided, that I must find a better paying job.

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When reading fiction, some of us could easily view a character like Chun Ni and point fingers. In reality, just like Chang Huan at the end, it’s really hard to not be affected and not get tempted by these materialistic desires, especially when the society you live in completely dictate your values based on your money and appearances. 

Chang Huan (常欢) Chapter 1

 

Just to be clear, translations in the square brackets [ ] are usually the ones I’m unclear about, so if I’m way off, feel free to correct me. There are also a few that I just left alone (in mandarin) because I have absolutely no idea what it means, and if you do, kindly leave a comment and I’ll edit it!

 

My family register is in Shanghai, but in reality I was born in a small town inland. Both my parents worked at the same factory; the whole factory had moved from Shanghai, and is on the production of heavy machinery.

[t/n: straight from wikipedia – “A household registration record officially identifies a person as a resident of an area and includes identifying information such as name, parents, spouse, and date of birth.”]

The factory was very big with most of the technical staff being Shanghainese, who had brought along with them their family members and all their belongings. 

The factory [area] has a living area, a kindergarten, a primary school, and even its own food market. Many people spent their whole lives there. A long road runs from the north through to the south of the [factory] area, the pavement thoroughly damaged by large trucks while big lumps of black and yellow iron rust [?] can clearly seen from both sides. The sign at the [beginning of the road] read “All the way to Plant 406”.

The large factory held several thousands of people—aside from those who had moved here with it, the remaining all came from nearby towns, first they were farmers, and then labourers, [therefore they were all dark and thin?] straightforward and carefree, wearing the same work clothes from start to finish working, their faces indistinct, very hard to distinguish. 

In such an environment, my father appeared to stand out even more being the only university student who had moved here with the Plant. He [got hired] right after graduating from Zhejiang University, and then came straight into the inlands. 

There wasn’t anybody in the factory who didn’t remember him: the Chang Zhi Liu who was soured by his loss of hopes; the Chang Zhi Liu with the extreme temperament, the cynical Chang Zhi Liu, the Chang Zhi Liu who was destined to fall from heaven into the mud, and moreover, destined to stay in that mud for the rest of his life.

 

Our family of three lives in a small [house] with dim ceiling light, narrow and tight, the corner wooden shelf a mess as it overflowed with books, all of them thick and filled with complex diagrams and numbers. Because they’d never get to see the light of day all year round, a lot of the pages inside have yellowed — you could even sniff out a moldy smell if you’re close enough. 

Father was full of ambitions when he brought those books with him to this place; however, he later realized that he’s brought himself into [a quicksand]. What was even more frightening was that he wasn’t capable enough to escape, the only thing he could do was to continue sinking in this place and helplessly watch himself fade away, finally drowning in the end.

I don’t remember how he and mother could’ve gotten married. She only had primary-school education and came from a peasant household in the suburbs. It must’ve been better when they were younger: back in those days, to be able to stand out amongst the several thousands of people in the factory, to be married to the only university student from the city, I think she must’ve been proud, but she’d soon realize how wrong the decision was. 

The atmosphere in the house had always been heavy, the perpetual aura of unhappiness emitted from father infected every nooks and corners, and only became even more severe after I was born. 

Back in my childhood I didn’t dare stay inside the room with him; I feared that he’d break out into a sudden rage as well as that hatred in his eyes. I study quite well though, but he’d never show a face of satisfaction, only wordlessly reading over my report card before throwing them back at me, then turning around and leave. 

As a child, after running out of ways to try and please my father, I started to distance myself away from him. Fortunately my mother was very optimistic in nature; she alone assumed all the household responsibilities, tenderly took care of me, she was also not [high maintenance?], liked to sit by my desk and silently watch me [do homework]. In the winter she’d bring over [a stew] of eggs and dark brown sugar and watch me gobble it down my throat, smiling when she took away the empty bowl.

It was later that father hopelessly returned to the city, started to excessively drink and would become gloomy after he was drunk, would find anything by his side and throw it at us. The most terrible episode had been during New Year: mother had been in the kitchen using a steel ladle while making danjiaopi (蛋饺皮) and he was drinking alone inside the room. He’d called for me when the bottles were empty, but at that time I was immersed in [kneading] the mincemeat so I didn’t hear him. I’d raised my head only to see his bloodshot eyes from three feet away; he broke the bottle and walked over, 当胸一记。

[t/n: 蛋饺皮 is a kind of dumping with meat stuffings but wrapped with egg. Google-image it if you want to see what it looks like.]

Mom dropped her ladle and ran over so that she was between us. At the same time I turned around and ran outside into that world of ice and snow. My stomach dropped when I ran out the door, the wind like knives cutting at my skin. Around the tenth step, I turned around and ran back. I saw them all tangled up—my mother’s small physique, like that of a leaf that could easily be blown over by the wind, looked like it was twisted in an awful angle as she tried to resist his wrath. 

I pulled her up to run and cried by the riverbank afterwards. I also said a lot of things teenage girls would after such an experience, those words came out of me in choked hysterics. Meanwhile, mother silently shed tears and held me while reassuring that everything will be alright, that it’s just my father. 

Inside, I’ve always had a feeling that father hated me and this family, but no one ever told me why, and later I also no longer cared. During the last year of high school, when I was filling out my career form, I chose to return to Shanghai. My paternal grandparents had already passed away a long time ago, my paternal aunt [and her family] lived in a house up an old alley, the space so small you couldn’t turn over a body, thus treating us coldly when we arrived. 

In the end, mother and I stayed in a stuffy hotel room for a month, and only returned to the factory after my college entrance exam was done. It was the summer of that year, that my mother suddenly passed away.

She’d always been a healthy person, yet by the time of her death she was so thin and frail, the day of her burial my grandmother cried heaven and earth, endlessly cursing my damned father’s heartlessness and hated him for the rest of her life. 

I finally knew of the secret that was buried so many years ago: when I was about two or three years old, my mother was again with child and father had wished and hoped for a son. Yet by the time she was three-month pregnant, without telling anyone she took a [bus/train] to the city to get an abortion. When she came back and was faced with father’s violent rage, she’d only given him a single reason: “[It was for Xiao Huan’s good. 我想小欢过得好]”

I’m called Chang Huan, the name [taken from/given by] my mom, after I grew up I often think that the name is quite good. Because even during the time I am wronged, I could think back to the original intention of my name—that at the least the person who gave me this name had wholeheartedly wished for my happiness. 

[The circumstances back home had always been so: mother had always known what it meant if she’d given birth to my little brother, also knew of father’s eagerness for a son, and so unexpectedly used this method to help me.] <— This paragraph is very unclear.

Father had always wanted a son, and after experiencing his own share of despair in life already, just wanted that son to carry for him all those dreams, to walk the path he couldn’t walk, to go places that he’d wished to go, and so my initial birth naturally disappointed him, although my mother’s action afterwards gave him an even more fatal blow. Or perhaps, in his eyes, I was actually the one that had dealt him that, perhaps in his eyes my existence had always been a sin. 

After all those hated and disgust were finally explained, I stopped talking to him altogether, and never opened my mouth to call him again. The day I received my admission notice I immediately began packing, also saw him walking over and wordlessly stood by my side. 

I didn’t look up; out of the corner of my eyes I saw the hand that was hanging by his side. After all those years of heavy drinking, his hands had already long become trembly, and yet that time the shaking was even more terrible. I still remained silent, he also didn’t speak. Finally he crouched down and set something over my suitcase. Afterwards, he turned and left. 

It was a [(bank) deposit book], with my mother’s name on it. 

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How’s the first chapter? It’s not exactly exciting per se, but I actually don’t mind getting to know more about her background (even though it’s quite sad) ’cause it really does give her character a good foundation to build on.

P.S: I’ll try to find some pictures later to decorate this post.

Chang Huan (常欢) by 人海中 – Introduction

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Blurb by wisteria9bloom2 from Shusheng Bar:

A person’s life will have many different feelings, there is a feeling only once, and that is love.

While studying, Chang Huan juggle a few part-time jobs and tutoring. One day, after finishing her part-time tutoring job, she passed by a wine gallery and met Yan Zi Fei.

On first meeting, Yan Zi Fei’s gentlemen behaviour led Chang Huan to have a very good impression of him.

While tasting wine together, the gentle clicking glass sound,  swishing red wine, makes her happiness bubble in her heart.

On New Year’s Eve, she was distraught, he rushed to her side. They countdown the New Year together, watching firework and she received a warm hug from him.

In the ensuing year, he once again warm up her life, spelling up a pure relax good time.

She thought happiness is such, even though he never said “I love you”.

However, she did not know, sometimes, like a beautiful mirage, when reaching out to touch, it will be shattered.

Those things she did not know, how much he hid his secret?

When the secret is reveal, can they still go back to the beginning.

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So, first thing first. There are two titles to this novel: one being Shadow Lover (which is complete cringe) and the other (the original title) is the female character’s name Chang Huan, which also happens to mean “always joyous”. I find the latter one with a better prospect, so I’ll stick with that.

Ok, so now we’re going to hit the bullet points:

  1. I don’t speak, read or write Mandarin. I am taking lessons on it now, and I do actually understand basic dialogues but that’s it.
  2. Following along this trend of paraphrasing, I will do my utmost best not to embarrass myself and properly “translate” – or as I like to call it, machine-power through this.
  3. I’m actually reading this as I go, so don’t ask me what’s going to happen next because I have absolutely no idea.
  4. Why did I pick this particular novel? Easy: google-friendly.
  5. Do I hate google translate? Yes, and no.
  6. I actually, originally, wanted my first project to be another novel (which I won’t disclose at the moment because I might pick that one up) but I thought I should start with a modern novel just to be easier on myself for now.
  7. What even give me the ideas to put myself through this? Also easy: I like being santa.
  8. My schedule at the moment is to try and update this weekly (or as best as I could).
  9. The only reviews I’ve read about this novel is on SSB, and the only opinions I have of this novel is actually not too bad considering I’m four chapters in.
  10. With that said, even if I might actually end up hating this novel in the midst of “machine-powering through this”, I’ll still see it through to the end!