Dreams in the box


December 5, 2010, 11:53 pm Sunday night, Leilei was looking for some clothes at home and suddenly stopped her search. Leilei was born in the summer of 1983. From a small town in southern China, 9 years ago she was admitted into a very famous engineering university in Beijing, 5 years ago she started her master’s program and 3 years ago she started working. Currently, according to statistics Leilei’s income is in the top 12 percent of Beijing.

(family back home)

“How much money does your Leilei make?”

“Aiya… only about 10,000 yuan.”

“Wow, so much!”

Leilei works at Beijing 3.5 Huan, she takes bus plus subway to work, needs about 1 hour and 13 minutes and costs 2.4 yuan. Leilei often withdraws money after work at the company south gate, average time waiting in line for the ATM is 3.5 minutes. There is never any line for the next door China Bank ATM. “That one charges you 2 yuan processing fee.” Leilei rents a one bedroom apartment for 2500 yuan a month. The lease is up next month and the landlord said the rent will be increased to 3200 yuan.

“I can’t go any cheaper; the place across street is going for 3500. You take it or leave it.”

Leilei was unhappy about that. She wants to buy a house but according to today’s average home price in Beijing, her saving is still 570,000 yuan away from the down payment. Leilei broke up with her formal boyfriend for about 1 year and 5 months. On average her family arranges 1 to 2 dates for her per month, but she went to zero of them. Leilei notices that she dislikes going to parties and gatherings more and more. There are only 3 conversation topics at these parties, house, car and marriage. What hides behind these topics is income. But they would not discuss about income if they have not been drinking so much. But the purchase price of the homes and the monthly mortgage can be discussed. When that happens, Leilei sees a number on top of everyone’s head. Leilei hopes her monthly expense in the future will not be so high.

Leilei often thought she had many dreams when she was young, but she can never remember them. For example become a scientist, her current job is engineer so she thought that is not far from being a scientist. As for other dreams, she can no longer remember.

Xiao Xing is an engineer of statistics. He believes experiencing numbers is the most meaningful thing in life.

“Baidu has 124 conference rooms, I spent three month and reserved every room. There were 347 different dishes at the cafeteria in a year. On average I would taste the new dish after it appears for 1.3 days. There are total 64 restrooms in Baidu building, I have been to 98% of them, but I have not been to the restroom on the 7th floor for some special reason. You know the reason, but that is my goal…”

Brother Feng is a design engineer, his imagination is endless. Even though none of his design ever becomes actual product, it never stopped him.

“How can there be no innovation in life, take a look my new designs…”

Leilei thought they are extreme but have their own dreams, but she does not have one. Everyone tells her, buying a home, buying a car and finding a husband, that’s your dream. But she does not think so, Leilei is not happy.

December 5, 2010, Sunday night 11:53 pm, Xiao Xing was brushing his teeth and thinking about how to achieve from 98% to 100%; Brother Feng felt into asleep hugging a book about an American innovator. But Leilei suddenly stopped her search at home. The reason Leilei stopped was because she found a box, inside the box was a letter she wrote to herself in 1993. At that time Leilei was in 4th grade, just mastered the 4 basic rules of operations. At her birthday she calculated: she already spent 356 x 10 + 3 = 3653 days of her life. Leilei had many dreams. She thought that she was still too young. She thought when at 10,000 day of her life she should be able to make all of her dreams come true. So she wrote down all her dreams and put them into a box and “mailed” to herself at 10,000 days. Later this box was brought to Beijing when she came here for college but was buried deep in the suitcase.

She rushed to turn on her computer to calculate how many days of her life have passed. 9999 days.

“First, take care of the most troublesome thing…”

Even though there was only one day left, but it only took Leilei 1 second to make the decision to not giving up. Leilei quickly text messaged a boy she liked for long time, then she turned off her phone and went to sleep.

Become brave (check)

Wake up early in the morning (check)

Make good food for yourself (check)

Become a beautiful girl (check)

Become confident (check)

Receive a red flower (check)

Receive 100 letters from friends (check)

Be a teacher (check)

Don’t be a picky eater (check)

Beat boys (check)

Get autograph from an idol (check)

Do something that 100 million people can see (check)

Become a character in the playing cards (check)

Having a box of snoopy (check)

Do 100 set ups in one time (check)

Drink by myself (check)

Chat with animals (check)

On the 10,000th day she spent 23 hours and 45 minutes, Leilei checked off each dreams in the letter. Leilei suddenly remembered she forgot to bring her cell phone for the whole day.

Find the prince charming (check)

Find happiness (check)

Leilei was very happy, she spent 6 minutes and 30 seconds to calm herself down and checked to see if there is any dreams left unfinished.

“Find the meaning of life”

11:59 pm, Leilei sat in her bed. She closed her eyes to calm herself. If all her other wishes have come true, this one for sure can come true too.

Find the meaning of life (X)

12:00 am, 10,000 days of her life has passed, but Leilei was not sad. She saw every scene of today flashing in front of her eyes. Everything she went through today seems to be more than the past 9999 days.

Xiao Xing didn’t reach his goal of going into 100% of the restrooms in the Baidu building, but his eyes still burn with desire…

Brother Feng has never made one innovation into reality, but he already began a greater plan…

Our life is still long, we have much time to realize our dreams. The important thing is we haven’t forgotten our dreams.

    1. 570,000 kwai down payment? what kind of mansion is she gunning for? Is this the real price of homes in Beijing, or an exaggeration? Once you buy, do you own the land or can the government knock down your house to build a high rise condominium at will?

      Forgive my naivety if this is a reflection of reality, it seems outrageous.

      1. john perhaps youve never been to china but prices here are high and u do not own the land but u have the rights to use it based on a 70 or 50 year lease.

        and es that number is normal for down payment.

        the avg price right now for a house in beijing is 2.5-3 mill rmb wih a 40% down payment or 30% but its somwhere around this area.

        1. WOW! Thanks for answering, I had no idea. I’ve been to China a lot, but never tried to buy a house there! That is crazy! You can have a very nice house in America for the same price and you can own the land and the house! In America it is also (at the moment) 30% down payment required (or thereabouts).

          What is the type of house you can get for 3.5 million kwai? Is it big, like more than 2,000 square feet?

          1. I used to live in a small town in china, the average of the department is 6000yuan/squaremeter, it may be twice or even 3 timesexpensive in BJ.

          2. you must be from a small town as in a big city like beijing or shanghai, 3.5 million is only about half a million us, which buys little in new work or san fran. In chinas big cities it buys a condo in a nice building. A reasonable sized one but nothing spectacular by us standards.,

            1. In beijing between 3 & 4 north Ring, average price for old houses 2 years old (you will still need some refurbish) is 30.000 RMB

            2. San Francisco prices are notoriously high, as are prices for condo’s in New York City. But everywhere else in America, large second tier cities like Philadelphia, Dallas or Houston, half a million USD will get you a very nice or very large property, especially in the current market.

              I suspect that half a million USD is significantly farther out of reach for the average Chinese family than it is for an American one.

            3. Assuming that’s 20% down (which is typical)… you are talking about a $2.5 million property with tha t$500k down payment.

              $2.5 million in SF or NYC can buy you a very nice home. Maybe not a large, suburban type home… but very nice, even by Beijing standards.

              Chinese property prices in first-tier cities is completely, completely crazy. I personally refuse to buy any more properties in China at the top of this current bubble.

          3. it’s about 25,000 – 35,000 RMB per square metre in that area, so 3.5 million will get you about 100-140 sqm (1000-1500 square feet)

            (that’s typical for a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment, my one-bedroom apartment is 68 square meters and costs 2.2 million RMB, which is more than my parents’ 4-bedroom house in England)

          4. you also have to look at the district you are buying in especially if you are in a 1st tier city(beijing/shanghai) or even 2nd tier cities nowadays; in relation to the school district. i will give u an example of beijing since i am in beijing

            there is a neighborhood here called wudaokou which is located in the haidian district. haidian is the center of education in beijing most of the prestigious or tier 1 universities are here in beijing. now be more specific lets look at the premier living area of wudaokou in beijing. when i say premiere, its nothing spectacular but since its the most well known one…last year(fall season) a friend of mine who is chinese and a yuppy(parents own a mining operation, copper/tin) decided to buy a nice sized condo in this residential community 140-160 sq meters give or take. price? 5.5 million rmb

            my old apartment i was renting in this area before i decided to get the hell out of anything inside 4h ring road of beijing, was a company apartment building a long time ago(some of you know em as danwei) the thing was seriously built in the mid 80s at most early 1990s not exceeeding past 1995 this i am positive. the landlord emigrated to canada. but finally decided to sell it, hence i got kicked out of my apartment which was seriously nothing special at all. market price for that 65-70sq meter piece of normal, below normal was 2.8 million rmb, how fast did it sell. as soon as i left that place with my roommate, one motnh later it sold. (you have to remember 50-70 yr lease on the building, and that apartment was around 20 yrs old, with some medium renovation needed especially in the kitchen and bathroom area)

            funny story to the above. while i was still staying there real estate agents would come around to show potential buyers to the place. my roomie was reading a book and there i was sippin on tea looking regal and eating god knows what. some guy goes int he house with the agent and notices we are foreign and so he starts speaking to us,
            my roommate finally asked him: why you want to buy this place?
            Him: someday when i have kids i want him to be in an environment where there are good school district and many opportunities for him to go into good schools especially fine universities like beijing university, tsinghua university, etc etc…all located here in the wudaokou area.
            Roomie: how can a man like you be so succesful to afford a place in wudaokou area, it’s not cheap buying in this area.
            Him: i am a senior sales manager (and being a sales manager in china means heavy drinking to get that contract signed…lots of smokes, and probly catching some stds a long the way as u buy hookers for your clients…3rd one is optional but drinking is a definite must)
            Roomie (after pondering for awhile): I see you have a good job, you know with all your drinking and unhealthy habits what if it leads to a future baby in which it is “below normal”
            Him (interrupting): what do you mean by below normal?
            Roomie: have you ever seen the movie forrest gump, something in which a baby is mentally disabled or has mental illness wouldn’t this investment of yours into an expensive home be kind of a waste

            Needless to say he wasnt to happy and kind of had this fuck off face on him, and he spoke quickly with the agent and left. my roomie’s question was never answered.

  1. The Chinese have no originality or creativity – they had to rip off a popular French film to make this short video. How pity…

  2. Current regulation now requires 60% down payment if it is your second home. In Shanghai most houses are around 400 to 500k US. And no people are not stopping, they are lining up to buy property still. If you want a villa (or what people in US consider a house) then you are talking about 1million or more, and those are what get sold the most.

    It may not make sense but in China people still say, no one will marry you unless you have a house. That is why most people buy one, for their kid’s marriage. It’s not just because of investment, it is because people don’t want to live with their parents, and some how renting is out of the question?

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