A local legend's life recorded

Updated: 2012-01-01 09:54

(China Daily)

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SHANGHAI - He frequently traverses beautiful Hongze Lake on a diesel ship, but he rarely enjoys the scenery.

"The lake has great views, but working as I do, this is not what I concentrate on," says Qiu Bing, who has been an electricity meter recorder for more than 16 years.

The lake is in Hongze county, Jiangsu province, and 270 square meters of the area he covers for his job - including the three most remote villages of Laozishan township - comprises the lake.

Households in the lake area live far apart from each other, making Qiu's job time-consuming. Each month, it takes at least one week to finish all the electricity meter readings in the 867 households that Qiu is in charge of.

He usually sets off at dawn by diesel ship and returns home in the evening. Every time he has to drive 40 km and walk more than 20 km. He eats pancakes prepared by his wife.

Apart from reading electricity meters, Qiu is also responsible for fixing power outages in the area. All the villagers are fish farmers, so it is essential that power is maintained to keep the oxygen pumps and batch feeders working.

"Qiu Bing is a very nice guy. We can call him whenever we suffer a blackout and he is always willing to come and help us. We would feel insecure without him," villager Wang Guiyou says.

"I would feel guilty if I didn't help them because I know they must be in trouble," responds Qiu.

Qiu's wife, Song Changmei, sometimes complains that he prioritizes his job.

"Once, in the summer of 2003, when the water levels of Hongze Lake were high, Qiu Bing and I were mending the dam for our own fishing farm. But he left as soon as he received a call from one of the villagers," Song recalls.

When Qiu returned home, almost half of his stock was gone, a loss of more than 20,000 yuan ($3,133).

Since her husband often works long hours, Song has to take care of their two children, as well as the 26,000-square-meter fish farm.

"It's hard," she says. "But I also understand that his job is difficult." She says that when Qiu comes home after fixing a power outage, he is often soaked.

"Qiu Bing is honest and hard working. He is our role model," says Qian Jianguo, director of the administration of power supply in Laozishan township.

"He is paid less than 2,000 yuan each month, therefore, it can't be easy to have done the job so long with so little reward," Qian says.

In 1999, Qiu earned just 200 yuan a month. He did think then of quitting and breeding hairy crabs and fish farming instead. But he had second thoughts.

"I probably know the waterways better than anyone. it would be tough to replace me," Qiu says.