Amazing : 6-Year-Old AIDS Orphan A-Long Lives Alone
Guangxi 6-year-old AIDS orphan lives alone, eats rice and vegetables without oil or salt yet still eats with relish
In your childhood, what were you doing? Begging daddy to buy a toy, being pressed by mommy to learn a foreign language, taking the pocket change that grandma secretly gave you, sharing the bubblegum you just bought with your friends… When you couldn’t get what you wanted, did you sigh like a little adult: “It sucks being a child!” However, A-Long wouldn’t. By himself, he washes his laundry and makes his meals. Alone, he feeds the chickens and raises the dog. Alone, he studies and learns to read. Alone, he goes to sleep. A-Long never feels it sucks being himself, even though he is only 6-years-old this year.
A one person “home”
Niuchepin Village at the foot of Liuzhou City’s Malu Mountain is a village built on the mountain, the cement road beginning at the foot of the mountain and spreading upward, both sides lined with buildings. The further up the mountain you go, the narrower the road becomes, and the scale of the buildings too become smaller. Halfway up the mountain, all that is left is a dusty mud road, with weeds all around. At the end of the road are 3 casually built single story cement block cottages that don’t even have windows. November 2, accompanied by a staff worker of the village committee, this reporter saw the scene at the top [end of this road].
This here is 6-year-old A-Long’s home, a one person “home”.
Amongst them, one stand-alone small building, owing to having a “stove” made of several piled up cement block blocks and a ceramic bed pan installed as a “toilet” and thus its “facilities” were relatively complete, was A-long’s “bedroom”. For the other two connected buildings, dilapidated wooden doors symbolically them away, though there were no locks. As it is understood, A-Long once lived in one of those [two] buildings, but because his father passed away there, no one has gone near those two buildings since. A-Long himself has not entered them again, only often walking back and forth in front of the door. “Is it because you feel your dad is still inside sleeping?” A-Long did not reply, hesitating for a moment before running away.
In front of the small building is a very large open area. It is the main area A-Long spends most of his time normally, and the one thing that he does the most is embracing the dog he calls “Lao Hei” ["Old Black", maybe like "Blackie"], staring blankly at the road that leads to the outside world. After his father passed away, A-Long has yet to go down the mountain again.
Seeing an uncle and auntie [not related, often simply means an older man and woman] he recognizes from far away, A-Long appears very happy. The village committee’s staff worker takes out a box of cookies/crackers and bananas, very naturally places them in the room, and warns A-Long not to eat the cookies as a meal, this obviously not being the first time giving A-Long something. Hearing what uncle said, A-Long adorably nodded his head, and grinned.
Only one person to rely on
As it is understood, A-Long’s father was a villager of Niuchepin Village and his mother married into the village. Six years ago, A-Long’s parents built the house where they lived until they passed away, leaving A-Long to live there alone until this day.
At the time, why did A-Long’s parents suddenly move onto the mountain so far away from the village? The villagers all refuse to say why.
A villager who knows said that A-Long’s father had spent over ten years out of the village when he was young, and it is said that it was because he had gone to jail. When it comes to just released inmates, everyone will have some prejudices, “so maybe it was because of this that they did not have very good relations with everyone else.”
The only person who is close with A-Long is his 84-year-old grandmother. His grandmother often comes to see him, but it is not everyday that she comes. That afternoon, his grandmother happened to come by, and so A-Long did not have to feed the chickens, nor did he have to pick the vegetables himself, and could play a little more. His grandmother had planted two plots of vegetables in the open area beside the house, one plot of cabbage, one plot of leeks/chives. She says this is normally enough for A-Long to eat.
His grandmother lives in another of her son’s home, and it takes her about 15 minutes to walk here where A-Long lives. She normally comes in the afternoons, and cooks for A-Long before leaving. As for things like bathing and the laundry, A-Long says he knows how to do them himself, that he can wash [the laundry] clean, and as long as he stands on a stool when drying the laundry, he can reach the clothes drying line.
This reporter asked the grandmother if she was able to live here and raise A-Long until he is big? She hesitantly said that she herself is a little afraid of living here. Could she take A-Long to his uncle’s place to live? The grandmother did not answer, lowered her head, and sorted the cabbage she had just picked.
The village [committee's] staff workers are also people whom A-Long has had relatively more contact with, and he knows that these uncles and aunties really care about him. Every time they come to see him, they will bring good things to eat and new clothes. A while ago, the temperature had suddenly dropped very sharply, and one auntie came on consecutive nights to deliver quilts/blankets and winter clothing. Apart from this, there are many kind-hearted anonymous city residents who will also come visit A-Long, but almost no one has brought up the problem of raising A-Long. A-Long says often there are people who will give him money, but he doesn’t want to use [that money], saving it up instead. “What he needs is not only material help,” says one of the staff workers.
One person’s sadness
The “problem” that Ms. Liang refers to is not only because A-Long lacks the upbringing from two parents, but rather the more important reason that A-Long is an HIV carrier.
According to those in the know, before A-Long’s mother passed away last year, she was severely sick, her entire person becoming very gaunt and at the time everyone though she had contracted tuberculosis. Then not long after, A-Long’s father also had the same symptoms, a robust man very quickly becoming nothing more than a layer of skin. At this time, the rumors began in the village, that the two of them had contracted AIDS. This rumor was confirmed when A-Long’s father entered the hospital, and everyone also began to suspect A-Long. Despite all this, young A-Long did not understand, and he only knew that daddy had gotten the same sickness as mommy, and was soon going to die.
According to the village committee staff worker, before A-Long’s father passed away, he had become so weak that he could not get out of bed, much less take care of A-Long. At that time, A-Long did not yet know how to cook by himself, and could only depend on his neighbors to give him some food to eat. A-Long’s father passed away at noon one day in July, and at the time, apart from A-Long watching over him by his side, no one else knew. Only until dinner-time when neighbor Miss Liang did not see A-Long did she discover that her old friend had already been dead for a long time.
Based on the recollection of the staff worker on the scene at the time, after receiving the news, they immediately rushed here [to A-Long's home]. A-Long, who had been by his father’s side the entire time, came out upon hearing movement, and then calmly told him [the staff worker]: “Uncle, my daddy died, just like my mommy…” Little A-Long did not cry, his silence breaking everyone’s hearts.
Later, owning to some coordination issues, A-Long’s father’s remains were not sent to the funeral parlor until the second day. IN this time, A-Long continued to quietly stay by his father’s side, watching the remains the entire night. From that moment on, A-Long has never again talked about “daddy”.
As it is understood, there were people who wanted to adopt A-Long at the time, but then when everything was finally prepared, A-Long was examined and determined to be HIV-positive, which is to say that A-Long is an HIV carrier.
The kind-hearted people backed out, and the villagers became fearful.
A-Long doesn’t know what “AIDS” is, he only knows that his playmates now will not come near him; that he was about to enter first grade but has now been told to “stay home and await notice”; that when his hand was burned by hot water, the doctor did not dare treat the wound; even that his grandmother, the only person he could count on, also isn’t willing to live with him. The only one to be with him as always was Old Black.
Almost overnight, A-Long grew up a lot. Even though his family has met misfortune after misfortune, A-Long has not shed any tears. Only 6-years-old, he has learned how to cook and do the laundry, has learned how to do things according to the time of day, has learned how to read and write by himself, and has learned how to live on alone.
One person’s happiness
When facing strangers coming to visit, at first A-Long was a little shy, but as a child, he very quickly became excited, striking poses for this reporter’s camera. Excitedly, he even performed some “Chinese kungfu”. It is hard to believe that A-Long, so innocent and lively, is someone who has lost both parents, and an orphan that lives alone.
A-Long doesn’t actually believe that there is anything bad about living alone, because he has “Old Black”.
“Old Black” is a black-colored female mutt that A-Long has raised for many years. Ever since A-Long became aware, “Old Black” has been at his side, and remains to this day as A-Long’s closest companion. At night when A-Long goes to sleep, he never closes the door because “Old Black” sometimes will sleep with him in the house and sometimes sleeps at the door, guarding him. “Old Black” doesn’t like to bark and when facing strangers that suddenly appear she even somewhat shyly hides in the house. However, as long as A-Long calls “Old Black”, she will immediately run to his side, and affectionately run circles around him. A-Long holds up “Old Black’s two front legs, his head near her’s, and smiles and laughs happily. A human and a dog cannot talk with each other, but they also need not talk with each other.
A 6-year-old little boy should have many playmates with whom to get into trouble with, but A-Long doesn’t. This reporter asked A-Long what friends he normally plays with? He was quiet for a long time before quietly saying that there was a little kid surnamed Liang that occasionally will come and play with him, but that none of his previous schoolmates will play with him anymore. A-Long also doesn’t want to go out and play with the village children, because he is not familiar with them. Even though he says this, A-Long still stares at the road outside [his home], his expression sad.
The child surnamed Liang is Miss Liang’s relative. She told this reporter that it was her family who does not allow her to come play with A-Long, because they are afraid of “an accident happening”. “Other little children probably also are afraid of this”.
A one person dinner
When the sky turned dark, A-Long started to prepare dinner.
“You know how to cook by yourself?” A-Long nodded his head, and even raised his left hand to show this reporter. On his left hand between the thumb and index finger was a very large scab, shocking on such a small little hand. A-Long however was nonchalant, saying that he had accidentally burned himself a few days ago when cooking, but now it is almost healed.
“Did you go to the hospital to have it looked at?” A-Long did not respond. The staff worker that had accompanied this reporter helplessly related: “When he was injured, no one knew. It was only the day after that someone took him to the clinic after finding out, but they weren’t willing to tend to it, so all we could do was dab someMerbromin…”
At this time, A-Long was busy in the “kitchen”, putting rice in the aluminum pot, pouring in water. This reporter reminded him: “That’s too much water, right? You’ll be making rice porridge this way!” He didn’t make a sound, and placed the pot on the “stove”. The speed at which A-Long started a fire was amazing, snapping a few dry twigs and stuffing them under the pot, then lighting some waste paper and stuffing it in, and within a few seconds, the dry twigs were alight.
After over 10 minutes, the rice was almost done. A-Long opened the lid and threw in several cabbage hearts. The extra water earlier was just enough to cook the cabbage hearts. Very quickly, dinner was ready. Plain rice mixed with some cabbage hearts, no oil nor salt, much less any other condiments, yet A-Long bite after bite still ate with relish. He said that it was too much for one person to finish, that the leftovers are for “Old Black” to eat.
Even though there is no oil nor salt, for A-Long, being able to have dinner is already a very blessed thing. Recently, A-Long had just received 20kg of rice and 5kg of noodles from a kind-hearted person, which is enough for him to eat for some time. However, when he is out of food, he can only rely on neighbor Miss Liang’s family for support. Liang was A-Long’s father’s old friend, three years ago opening a cement brick site nearby, and the people A-Long sees the most are Miss Liang’s family.
“Ever since his daddy passed away, A-Long himself has not left this yard. There have been kind-hearted people who have come and given money, and we tell him to go out and buy some thing to eat, but he isn’t willing to go. Sometimes he will look around at our door/entrance, and we guess that he is out of food, so we will have him bring a bowl over, and fill a bowl of rice and vegetables, as well as give him a few apples that we normally buy,” Liang said.