The locomotive in the distant dark cried a muffled woo-woo. She listened and remembered sitting in one a few months ago. How hopeful and bright-eyed she was.
Momma, wait for my letter--she had said to her mother. I will save every penny I make and send them to you. You will be able to buy meat and new fabrics for the family. We will have a much better life after I get there. They say everything is better at the factory. Money, meals, and new dorms. Oh, I can't wait to get there.
She remembered eating dry bread on the train. Her mother saved all she could to make the flat bread for her trip. She couldn't afford to buy anything during the trip. They spent all they had to get her the train ticket.
Momma, they took my ID card the first day I got here. I couldn't go home without it.
They took most of my wages, too. They said it was for security's sake. I soon realized it was for their security, not mine. It was the way to make sure we would stay there forever.
There was plenty of work. Too much work. And we weren't allowed to say no. It seemed the back-orders never stopped flooding in. The kids in "The Beautiful Country" are so lucky. These gadgets we make day and night couldn't fill their demand. They must have so much money.
We didn't have time to rest on days at a time. Often we didn't have time to eat. I had to swallow my rice so fast, soon my stomach started to ache. They wouldn't let me go to the hospital. They would deduct my wages for missing work, they said. So I pushed the pain away and worked.
At night my dorm-mates could hear my pain even though I tried to hide it. The dorms were big rooms with curtain dividers between rows of beds. Ah May was my neighbor. She was worried for me, but there was little she could do to help. She smuggled rice mush for me when she could--it helped ease my pain a bit. My line supervisor was not happy with me. He said I worked too slow. That meant deduction on my wages.
I'm so tired, momma. I feel dizzy. I hadn't slept for two days now. The orders must be filled, so nobody could rest until they were done. I complained to the head of the union once, and I learned not to do it again. The company's manager reprimanded me in front of all my dorm-mates for complaining. I was so naive. I didn't know the union leader reported to him.
We have fifteen minutes for dinner, then we have to go back to work. I snuck up here because it's quiet and peaceful. I'm tired and dizzy, but I'm not hungry. Momma, I really don't want to go back to the factory. I don't know how much longer I could endure the dreadful place and endless work. I don't care if they take my wages. I just want to sleep.
She moved again but wavered and lost her balance. The last thing she saw was the concrete-covered ground rushing up to meet her.
The woman a thousand miles away heard the soft whistle of a train passing by the village. She wondered when her daughter would be home again. Her last letter was more than a month ago. Is she alright? The low and sad whistle made her eyes watery.
She didn't know her daughter had already started her journey home.
(To the twelve workers committed suicide at Foxconn. 'The Beautiful Country' in Chinese means U.S.A.)