A SECOND LIFE FOR MEI LING LI


By TIMEA ESCOBAR OLLIVIER  JUNE 23, 2015

Mei Ling Li and her familly in front of the buffet of her restaurant

Mei Ling Li and her familly in front of the buffet of her restaurant

“I realize how lucky I’ve had in my life”

Mei Ling is a 25 year old immigrant originally from a modest village in southern China. Today she works in her restaurant, an Asian buffet in Madrid.

Mei Ling was born and raised in China with her four sisters and two parents in a house without running water or electricity. His father was a laborer and his mother a seamstress, allowing them to keep the family earning about $ 200 a month working 14 hours a day. He also had the good fortune to go to school and was among the best in class, she leaved school at 15. On leaving school Mei Ling helped at home, took care of her sisters and sometimes helped her mother in the sewing workshop when she was too tired. Despite the quiet life they had, Mei Ling wanted a better life, “I want to have my own room and not have to go to a well to drink.”

One day, his father suffered an accident at work and was fired. The situation of her familly was aggravating. Beeing 18 years, Mei Ling decided to leave home and go to look for work in Europe, as it was common thing in his province, and knew a family that was living in Madrid. Her parents had never left the village and were against, until the economic situation worsened, the family saw that  they didn’t have no choice. “I promised I would send them money every month and save for them to come.” They asked for some money to all residents and used their savings to pay for the trip, that was very long and tiring in bus as it came in. Upon arrival, he settled on the floor that had the family she knew in the outskirts of Madrid, and began working as a waitress in the restaurant where they working aswell. Quickly, the restaurant boss noticed that Mei Ling had potential. When the boss opened another restaurant, he appointed her as manager, earning enough to save money in addition to monthly send money to their parents. “Every month when I called my parents were very grateful for the efforts they made and they were very proud.”

After three years, Mei Ling could pay bus tickets to his parents and sisters and rent a small apartment on the outskirts. All family members except the youngest started working in the restaurant. They were happy to be finally reunited after three years of separation. “Being together maked us stronger.” And saving money, the family was able to open his own restaurant buffet with the family that helped Mei Ling. Today, the restaurant works well, and the youngest of the family goes to school. Mei Ling has her own room and bathroom “I am now happy with my family,” she smiles. I ask if she intends to return to China with the money she earned to make her business there, but she’s formal, not return, her life is here now, she has found a boyfriend, and friends. His parents think to return for their retirement,  because they have not been able to adapt just as well as their daughters.

This model of social promotion is common in Europe, most immigrants arrive young and save to send money to their parents or let them come, because they know that even if it’s hard and dangerous, the second life that offers immigration is not rejectable. Asians are the most who follow this familiar pattern, and you can check by the amount of Asian restaurants that are in all the cities of rich countries.

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