So Long, Xiao Zhang

Xiao Zhang, who has been my housekeeper ever since I moved to Beijing in 1998 is leaving tomorrow.  She and her family will return to their village in Anhui Province. It’s a move they need to make in order to improve their 13 year old daugher’s chances of getting into university somewhere.  The Chinese education system is entirely test-based, and even though their daughter is attending school in Beijing, which has some of the best schools in the nation, continuing her education here would make it impossible to go to college someday.  It seems counter-intuitive, but here’s the catch:  a student can only take the college entrance exam in the province where they are legal residents.  Since she is not a legal resident of Beijing (her parents are migrant workers), she cannot take the entrance exam here.  At this point she’s just entering middle school, but she needs to go to middle school and high school in Anhui if she wants to pass the test there.  So the family is returning to Anhui to find a school for their daughter.  When Xiao Zhang came to Beijing, her daughter was only 3.  It’s been fun to watch her grow up.  And I’m sad to see them go.

Below is a photo of Xiao Zhang and her family, and the group of Americans in whose homes she worked.  Xiao Zhang is holding the bag of leftovers.  Her daughter is next to her, with her husband on the other side, and their son in the back.

So long, Xiao Zhang.  We’ll all miss you.