When I finished my two-year high school education in later 1975, our class had been asked to go to the nearby farms to learn from farmers. As I felt some of my classmates had biased opinions against me during the preceding three years, I did not see any point by sticking with them. Therefore, I decided to return to my ancestor hometown for re-education, where an old two-bedroom farm house was still legally under my parents' names.
This turned out to be a good choice. In a new environment, with a familiar hometown dialect, I had been treated equally by farmers in my ancestor village, many of who were somehow related to my family many generations back. In fact, within a few months being there, I was asked by the local youth league secretary if I would like to join the youth league, which I had tried for two years during my high school to no avail. After 12 months, I became a model educated youth in my commune and attended the district meeting of model educated youth held at the district office.
Working in the farm was not too bad at all, but the hardest thing for me was that I had to do all other things after a day's exhausting work, which included cooking my own meals and growing my vegetable gardens. Luckily, during the later autumn and winter months, each village needed to send one or two farmers to a team from our commune working away from home to repair the dams and waterways. My village team leader suggested that I should go so that I needed not to do my own cooking. In the rainy days when we could not do much outside, some farmers would start playing erhu and singing folk songs as well as telling jokes, which I enjoyed enormously. And it was from there I learned for the first time of a traditional play called "Shibamo".
One of the jokes I could still remember was about a betting game between two young men. One man said to the other, if you could kiss the next lady passing by, I would give you a pack of cigarettes. The other man replied if you could do it, I would give it to you, too. So when a lady happened to come by, the first young man pretended to have some sands in his eyes, and walked toward the lady for help. The lady tried to blow the sands from this young man’s eyes, and this young man kissed the lady on the face and won the pack of cigarettes from the other young man.
Afterwards finishing dam work, I was sent to work in a commune farm with about 20 other educated youth like myself. Initially, we lived in the local villager's homes, while we made bricks and built a two-storey building ourselves, which I lived for the next one and half year. With so many young people staying in one place, there never was a boring moment. One of the favorite things we did for fun was taunting with girls passing by. We would jokingly ask the passing-by girls if they would like to have dinners here before going home. And if they said they had no time, we would suggest that a couple of tea together would be fine. Another time, several of us went to visit the host family of one educated youth and had lunch there. As we were young and had good appetite, we each had 7 or eight bowls of rice for that lunch. During the whole meal period, one of us was always on the way to fill the rice bowls, much like an eating competition was going on. Even we felt funny afterwards.
Still based on the commune farm, I was later assigned to work with a man of 60 yo as road-repairers, fixing the local highway. The job was tedious, but the interesting part was smoke-break. We would go to any nearby house to have a cup of tea, and chat with the house owners. One of the places we went very often was an old couple’s house. This old couple had no child of their own. Many years back, they tried to adopt two sons. But due to this old man’s edginess and poor emotional control, their two adopted sons all left them after a few years. They felt very sad (mingku), and now in their 70s, they still had to do everything themselves. When they were in a better mood, my old co-worker would joke with the lady that if you let me know your dilemma twenty years earlier, I might be able to lend you a hand. I did learn a lot of local histories and customs by talking with and listening to senior villagers this way.
Sometime during my second year in the countryside, I was recommended my commune to teach in one of local primary schools. Due partly to my faulty impression that teaching was a thankless profession involving lots of hard work and little rewards, I excused myself of this proposition by saying that my purpose of coming to the countryside was to be a student, and I was not qualified to be a teacher yet. When I looked back, the benefits of teaching obviously outweighed its drawbacks. At least I could have developed some better communicational skills, which would have many positive influences in my later career, and I could also have a better environment to prepare for my college entrance exam.
During planting and harvesting seasons, the educated youth in the commune farm would return to the villages where each of us belonged, and do our part in the field. Because of exhausting work, unbearable heat and lack of adequate rest, I suffered from a bout of explained illness around July/August 1977. I would frequently wake up during my sleep, and found myself wet with cold sweat. After seeing a local bare-foot doctor, I got a few bags of herbs, which helped me recover a bit. Luckily, the busy season was soon over, and I returned to the commune farm with other educated youth, where at least I did not have to prepare food and grow vegetables myself.
In later 1977, just before the open exam for colleges and universities, there was an opportunity for us educated youth in our commune to join a chinaware factory as an ordinary worker. I was recommended by our commune for this job, and went for required medical examination and political checkup. But in the end, I did not get the position, which eventually went to someone with good connections. This made me wanting to study harder for my college exam. Being a non-local high school graduate, I was not familiar with some contents of local school textbooks. And some math problems which I had not seen before were commonly taught in local schools. This was probably one of the reasons why I did not get into my preferred course, when my matriculation notice arrived. Considering my situation, I was afraid if I did not go to university in March 1978, I might get even sicker in the coming planting/harvest seasons. So I did not hesitate to take the opportunity.