In pursuit of home sweet home

Updated: 2013-09-06 16:23


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BEIJING - Li Zongmei is reluctant to call her shabby house "home."

The cracked walls let in the heat in summer and the cold in winter; the cement floor floods on rainy days; her grandson spends his life marooned on the couch - the only play space in the two-room house.

An outside kitchen is next to the house. They share a public toilet with hundreds of their neighbors.

"We cannot bear living here anymore, especially when I think of my six-year-old grandson. He does not deserve this," said 53-year-old Li.

Li's neighborhood used to be a dormitory area for Tiantun, a coal mine in Zaozhuang city in East China's Shandong province. Her husband inherited the house, built in 1951, from his father, who was a miner.

Li's husband was also a miner, and when the Tiantun mine was declared bankrupt in 2004, he had to find a job miles away, which he kept until his retirement last year.

From 1949, the city was a major coal supplier for eastern provinces and Shanghai, supplying nearly half of the region's coal, until a decade ago when the mine was no longer economically viable.

In contrast to the huge contribution the city made to the prosperity of the region, the miners there have largely been neglected.

Li's son and daughter-in-law moved out after giving birth to her grandson. Li, her husband, their 22-year-old daughter and the grandson still live in the house, baking in summer and shivering through the winter.

Her daughter, Wang Dandan, never invites friends to visit because she feels too embarrassed.

"We hope we can move out of here as soon as possible, and live in a bright apartment," said Li, adding that a nice apartment would also help her daughter marry.

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