The most important annual Chinese holiday, the Spring Festival, is just around the corner and the country's railway and long-distance bus stations and airports are seeing crowds heading back to their hometowns. With a migrating population accounting for around 40 percent of the city's people, Shanghai has seen many packing up and leaving. But to ensure the city continues to function or to assist those in need, some out-of-towners give up the chance to visit their families back home and they will spend this holiday working in Shanghai.
Scrubbing up well
On the night of the Chinese New Year's Eve (this year it falls on February 9), fireworks and firecrackers can be heard all over the city. In setting off fireworks and firecrackers, people wish for good fortune, health and peace for the new year. But the busy night leaves behind city streets covered with red firecracker wrappers and stained with gunpowder.
"Fireworks and firecrackers set off on New Year's Eve and the fifth day of the Chinese lunar year (the day dedicated to the God of Wealth) can leave behind up to 10 tons of litter," said Qiao Shiyou, a street cleaner working in Yangpu district. Qiao and another 90 or so colleagues are in charge of an area covering 2.75 square kilometers in northwestern Yangpu district, where 100,000 residents live. Almost none of them can ask for leave during the Spring Festival.
Being able to go back home to spend the festival is impossible to imagine, these street cleaners say. "We must stay. Otherwise, who will help keep the city clean and beautiful?" another cleaner of the team, 50-something Yang Xueren, asks.
Most of the workers in this street cleaning team came from Jiangsu, Anhui, Shandong, Jiangxi and Gansu provinces. Some had been given a chance to visit their hometowns during the Western New Year's holiday a month ago and some will take a break on the Lantern Festival (the 15th day of the Chinese lunar year). During the Spring Festival, they will work in two shifts. Those on the early morning shift start to work on the streets at 4:30 am. They will have a half hour lunch break and return to their brooms and carts until 3:30 pm when the evening shift workers take over and sweep and tidy until 1:00 the next morning.
Although the schedules are demanding, the cleaners are happy. "We've been given gift packages so we don't have to do the New Year's shopping. A New Year's Eve dinner will be prepared for us. And there will be extra pay for working during the Spring Festival period. It's not bad," said cleaner Liu, who added that she had not celebrated the Spring Festival at her home in Anhui Province for the past 10 years.
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